MLB's 50 Most Stunning Career Implosions of All Time

Robert Knapel@@RobertKnapel_BRCorrespondent INovember 25, 2011

MLB's 50 Most Stunning Career Implosions of All Time

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    There have been a number of MLB players who have had promising careers in front of them, but have quickly seen their careers flame out. A number of these players reached the majors and then ran into issues that caused their careers to end.

    Some of the players were top minor leagues that were filled with promise. They had their careers end before they were even able to reach the major leagues. The list is also filled with a few one-hit wonders who looked like they could be stars but then quickly fell from grace.

Rick Ankiel

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    In the three years after he was drafted in 1997, Baseball America ranked Rick Ankiel as the 18th best, second best and best prospect in baseball. He was an outstanding pitcher and he finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting after he went 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA as a 20-year old in 2000.

    Then, the 2000 NLDS rolled around. Rick Ankiel was struggling with the pressure of starting Game 1, so Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had Daryl Kile talk to the media about Game 1 before he made the official announcement that Ankiel would start the game.

    From there, Ankiel's career as a pitcher began to unfold. In one inning, Ankiel walked four batters and threw five wild pitches. The five wild pitches in one inning tied an MLB record. The Cardinals won that game and would go on to win the series.

    Ankiel would get another chance to start in the playoffs. In the NLCS against the New York Mets, he threw five pitches past his catcher, although only two counted as wild pitches.

    He was pulled after just 20 pitches. Ankiel went back out to the mound in relief during Game 5 and things still did not work out. He only faced four batters but he walked two and threw two more wild pitches.

    The Cardinals gave Ankiel a chance in the majors in 2001 but he struggled again. He was eventually demoted all the way down to Rookie Ball. While he was no longer a major league caliber pitcher, Ankiel managed to work his way back up to the majors as an outfielder.

Dwight Gooden

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    Dwight "Doc" Gooden was lighting the world on fire during the early parts of his career. The problem is that this was not the only thing he was lighting up.

    Gooden won the National League Pitching Triple Crown in 1985 when he went 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA and 263 strikeouts as a 20-year old. He won the NL Cy Young with this performance. This was an outstanding way to follow up his Rookie of the Year award.

    He was able to pitch well up until the end of the 1992 season but he had to deal with a number of legal issues during that time period. Starting in 1993, Gooden's production quickly dropped off.

    From age 29 on, Gooden went 40-31 with a 4.99 ERA, which was a far cry from his earlier success.

Darryl Strawberry

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    The New York Mets had another young phenom in Darryl Strawberry. He won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1981 as a 21-year old.

    Strawberry was one of the best players in the game during the 1980s. He went to the All-Star Game in seven of his eight years with the Mets. Following the outstanding start to his career, Strawberry signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent.

    He continued his success in his first year in LA, but then his production dropped off rapidly. The Dodgers eventually released him and he struggled throughout the rest of his career.

    Strawberry hit 280 home runs by the time he was 29 years old and he was drawing comparisons to some of the best sluggers in the game's history. After this part of his career, Strawberry hit only 55 more home runs over eight seasons.

Chuck Knoblauch

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    Chuck Knoblauch was a solid defensive second baseman and he was an important part of the New York Yankees World Series teams in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

    However, Knoblauch developed a throwing problem. He came down with a case of the yips and was no longer able to accurately throw a ball to first base. This led to him seeing more playing time at DH and he was eventually converted into a left fielder.

    Knoblauch's career quickly went downhill and he struggles in the field were mirrored by his struggles at the plate. The former AL Rookie of the Year retired at age 34.

Brien Taylor

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    After Taylor's outstanding senior season at East Carteret High School, Scott Boras hyped up Taylor to be the best high school pitcher that he had ever seen. The New York Yankees bought into the hype and selected Taylor with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1991 MLB Draft.

    Taylor was considered to be the best prospect in the game and wowed scouts with his ability to blow his fastball by hitters. After a strong first professional season, he was considered to be the game's second-best prospect.

    Following the 1993 season, Taylor got involved in a fight and suffered a torn labrum and a dislocated left shoulder. This incident essentially ended Taylor's career as he was never able to reach the level of success that he had before it occurred.

    Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Steve Sax

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    Steve Sax was a solid offensive second baseman and he was able to hold his own in the field. He won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1982 and had continued success during the next nine years.

    The five-time All-Star developed a problem towards the end of his career. He was unable to make routine throws to first base starting in 1983.

    While he was still able to produce at the plate, Sax had 30 errors in 1983 and he struggled for the next few years. Sax was able to stay in the majors, but he was a defensively liability for years.

Steve Blass

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    Steve Blass had begun to develop into one of the best pitchers in the National League by the 1972 season. Blass went 19-8 with a 2.49 ERA and he finished second overall in the NL Cy Young voting.

    The next season did not go anywhere close to as well for Blass. He suddenly could not throw the ball over home plate. Blass walked 84 batters and hit 12 in 88.2 innings in 1973. He ended the year with a 9.81 ERA.

    Things did not get any better the following season. He spent almost all of 1974 in the minors and he walked 103 and threw 12 wild pitches in 61 innings. This gave Blass an insane 15.2 BB/9 rate and he had a 9.74 ERA.

    Now, any pitchers that suddenly lose their control are know to have come down with "Steve Blass Syndrome."

    Photo Credit: Best Sports Photos

Dontrelle Willis

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    Dontrelle Willis began his career on the right foot. He went 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA and he won the NL Rookie of the Year award. There was a lot of promise surrounding Willis' career.

    The next three years continued to add to the hype. Willis went 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA in 2005 and finished second in the NL Cy Young voting. He pitched well the following year but then began to struggle in 2007.

    The Florida Marlins traded Willis along with Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers. Things went even further downhill for Willis after the move. He suddenly lost all of his control and he was sent down to the minors before being called up in September. Willis ended the 2008 season with a 13.1 BB/9 rate.

    Things did not get much better for Willis in the following years. He has been up and down between the majors and minors. It does appear that Willis has worked out most of his control issues after his latest major league stint with the Cincinnati Reds.

Mackey Sasser

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    Yet another player who experienced throwing problems is Mackey Sasser. He had no problems catching pitches, he just had issues throwing them back to the pitcher.

    Sasser spent the early part of his career with the New York Mets as the backup to Gary Carter before he got a chance to be a starter. He played fairly well, but he had his issues throwing the ball back to the pitcher.

    After he was granted free agency, Sasser signed with the Seattle Mariners and began to struggle at the plate. He only played two more years after that season.

Lenny Dykstra

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    Lenny Dykstra was an important piece of the New York Mets' 1986 World Series run and he got even better once he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies.

    Dykstra continued to have success and was selected to three All-Star Games and won a Silver Slugger award.

    He ran into some injury issues later in his career and Dykstra was never the same player. He retired after a last failed comeback attempt.

Rafael Palmeiro

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    Rafael Palmeiro had an outstanding major league career, but he had been linked to steroids during the course of his time in the majors.

    Palmeiro was summoned to testify in front of Congress, waved his finger at the representatives and told them that he never took steroids. Just a few months after he testified, Palmeiro tested positive for steroids.

    Even though he had a strong season in 2005, no team wanted to have anything to do with Palmeiro. He ended his career after joining both the 500 home run and 3,000 hit clubs.

Mo Vaughn

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    During his time with the Boston Red Sox, Mo Vaughn was a feared power hitter. He went to three All-Star Games and won an AL MVP award.

    Vaughn then moved on to the Anaheim Angels. He continued to have success there but he missed all of the 2001 season and then was sent to the New York Mets in return for Kevin Appier.

    For his first season with the Mets, Vaughn demonstrated most of his power, but his batting average dropped. Vaughn struggled mightily the following season and he was forced to retire in 2003, with a year left on his deal, because of chronic knee problems.

Steve Chilcott

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    In major league baseball, it is almost always expected that the No. 1 overall pick will reach the major leagues. However, there have been players which this expectation has not become a reality.

    Steve Chilcott was selected with the first overall pick in the 1966 MLB Draft by the New York Mets. He was expected to be a decent major league catcher. However, that never came to fruition.

    Chilcott's career imploded right from the start as he struggled at the plate in the minors in his first season. He picked things up for the next year, but Chilcott was never a major-league caliber player.

    Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

David Clyde

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    The Texas Rangers were given the No. 1 overall pick in the 1973 MLB Draft and they spent it on high school phenom David Clyde.

    Rangers owner Bob Short was looking to find a way to boost attendance in Arlington and he decided to send Clyde right to the majors for two starts.

    Clyde pitched well in his first start and won the game. After pitching well in his following start, Short decided to keep Clyde in the majors. He finished the year with 4-8 record and a 5.01 ERA.

    The Rangers kept Clyde in the majors for most of the 1974 season before he was sent down to the minors. He then spent the next three years, with the exception of one start, in the minors.

    Clyde reached the majors once again in 1978 with the Texas Rangers. He appeared in the majors for one more season and was out of baseball by the time that he was 28 years old.

    Rushing Clyde ruined his development and caused his career to implode before it could really even start.

Andy Marte

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    Andy Marte was ranked as a top 40 prospect for four consecutive years by Baseball America. Rankings like that come with high expectations.

    Marte got his first chance in the majors when he was 21 years old. He struggled in the 24 games that he appeared in. Marte would get a taste of the majors a few more times, but he was never able to have consistent success.

    It was almost as if Marte hit a wall every time he was called up to the majors.

Adam Dunn

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    This entry on the list is one that could change if Adam Dunn has a good season in 2012. At this point, Dunn seems to have lost his swing and the Chicago White Sox could be in for a long year.

    Dunn has never been a player who has consistently hit for a great average, so seeing his batting average drop by 101 points is a huge concern. He hit a measly .159 with 11 home runs in 2011 and began to lose playing time as a result.

Von McDaniel

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    Just like David Clyde, Von McDaniel made his major league debut almost immediately after he was signed. McDaniel had just celebrated his high school graduation a few days before he made his major league debut and pitched a two-hit shutout.

    He finished the season with a 7-5 record and a 3.22 ERA. The next season, there was a flaw in McDaniel's pitching mechanics. He lost the ability to throw strikes. McDaniel gave up five walks in two innings at the beginning of the 1958 season and he was sent to the minors.

    After it was apparent that he would not be back in the majors as a pitcher, McDaniel was converted to a third baseman. He had a few good seasons in the minors, but he never returned to the major leagues.

Joe Cowley

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    Joe Cowley might be one of the most unknown pitchers to have ever thrown a no-hitter. Cowley looked like he had a promising career after he went 32-19 with a 3.49 ERA while he was between the ages of 25 and 27.

    He threw his no-hitter for his last win of the 1986 season. Cowley then lost two more games that season and failed to win a game in 1987 after he suffered from control problems. He is the only player whose last career win was a no-hitter.

    Cowley could not resolve his control issues, he was walking more than a batter per inning, and his career ended after the 1987 season.

Mark Wohlers

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    For a period of three years, Mark Wohlers was one of the best closers in the National League. The Atlanta Braves always thought their leads were safe when Wohlers was on the mound during this period.

    Then, the flamethrower was seemingly shell-shocked after he gave up a game-tying three-run home run to Jim Leyritz in Game 6 of the 1996 World Series.

    Wohlers was suddenly unable to deliver pitches in the strike zone. He struggled mightily in 1997 and lost his closer's role after posting a 10.18 ERA and 14.6 BB/9 rate.

    He spent most of 1998 in the minors as well and he finally overcame his problems. However, Wohlers was never the same pitcher that he was before he had Steve Blass disease.

Mike Ivie

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    Mike Ivie was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1970 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres. After an impressive performance in the minors, Ivie was called up to the big leagues.

    Ivie was able to put together a few solid years in the majors and then had a very impressive season in 1979 when he hit 27 home runs and drove in 89. Things then began to fall apart for Ivie.

    He would only play three more seasons in the majors and his production level could not match what he had been able to accomplish earlier in his career.

    Photo Credit: Baseball Almanac

Tony Conigliaro

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    Tony Conigliaro had a very promising start to his career. He became the American League home run champion when he was only 20 years old. He continued to be one of the most feared hitters in the league until he was hit in the face by a pitch.

    After missing a year, no one would have faulted Conigliaro if he could not repeat his previous performance. He would go on to hit 36 home runs just two years after he was hurt.

    However, Conigliaro would not be able to keep up his success. There was permanent damage to his eye and he was forced to retire early. The reason that he is on this list is because no one could have seen his downfall coming after his phenomenal 1971 season.

    Photo Credit: Boston's Pastime

Herb Score

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    Herb Score dazzled hitters during his first two years in the major leagues. He won the AL Rookie of the Year award and he looked like he was becoming an ace. He struck out a then-rookie record 245 hitters.

    Then, Score got hit in the face with a comebacker.

    He missed the rest of the 1958 season, but he regained his vision and was back on the mound the next year. However, Score was not the same.

    Score altered his throwing motion and many believed it was because of a fear of getting hit again. He said that the change came about because of a tendon injury that he had suffered in his pitching arm.

    While Score could never come close to his early success, he is still considered by some to be one of the best left-handed pitchers of all time.

    Photo Credit: Cleveland

Pete Reiser

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    Pete Reiser was one of the top players in baseball in the early 1940s. He had a combination of power and speed that was practically unmatched during this time period.

    The one major problem that Reiser had was that he was injury prone. Almost every time that he suffered an injury, Reiser would be back.

    After going to the Army, Reiser suffered a shoulder injury while playing for the Army's baseball team. He was never the same player once he got back to the states.

Mark Fidrych

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    Mark "The Bird" Fidrych was nothing short of a star after his outstanding rookie season. He went 19-9 and led the American League with a 2.34 ERA on his way to the AL Rookie of the Year award and a second-place finish in the Cy Young voting.

    Fidrych hurt his knee in Spring Training the following year but once he returned to the majors he picked up right where he left off. However, he would complain that his arm would occasionally just "go dead."

    Over the next three seasons, he suffered through his arm injury and he eventually spent years in the minors in an attempt to get back to the majors. It would not be until 1985, eight years after he was first hurt, that Fidrych was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff.

Steve Busby

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    Steve Busby made five starts in the majors as a 22-year-old and was outstanding. It looked like this would be a sign of things to come for Busby.

    He would go 56-41 with a 3.54 ERA during his first three full seasons in the majors. Busby threw two no-hitters and was selected to play in two All-Star Games.

    Then, Busby began having control problems. His walk rate ballooned from 2.8 BB/9 to 6.2 BB/9 in 1976.

    Busby was eventually diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff and underwent surgery. He returned from the injury, but he was never the same pitcher.

    Photo Credit: Royals Report

Dave Engle

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    Dave Engle was a decent offensive catcher. He finished fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting during his first year in the majors and he selected to be an All-Star in his fourth season.

    However, Engle was only a starting catcher for a few seasons because he developed an issue throwing the ball back to the pitcher. The problem stemmed from an incident in batting practice when one of his throws broke his pitcher's nose.

    Engle would lob the ball back to the pitcher in games and he once had a runner steal a base on his throw back to the pitcher. Once Engle stopped playing catcher, his bat was not good enough for him to be an everyday player.

Jason Bay

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    The New York Mets thought they were getting an All-Star caliber player when they signed Jason Bay before the 2010 season. Instead, the Mets now view Bay's contract as a huge albatross.

    Bay was an All-Star who had been able to hit 30+ home runs and drive in more than 100 runners a year.

    In two seasons and 218 games for the Mets, Bay has hit 18 home runs and driven in 104 while batting .251. These numbers are all worse that what Bay was able to produce in 2009 with the Boston Red Sox in just 151 games. 

Oliver Perez

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    Oliver Perez was outstanding in his first year with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a 22-year-old. He had a 2.98 ERA and led the National League with a 11.0 K/9 rate. Perez then began to struggle with his control the next season and was sent down to the minors.

    After some more struggles, Perez was traded to the New York Mets. In his first full year with the Mets, Perez was able to regain his level of previous success and began to look like the budding star he once was.

    The Mets signed Perez to a huge deal before the 2009 season and then things began to fall apart. Perez once again struggled with his control and had issues with the Mets. He was eventually cut by the team to end his tumultuous tenure with the team.

Mark Prior

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    Mark Prior took the baseball world by storm during his first two seasons in the majors. He was able to dominate opposing hitters and had a very high strikeout rate.

    During his second season in the majors, Prior finished third in the National League MVP voting. Chicago Cubs' manager Dusty Baker had no problem letting Prior throw 120 pitches a start.

    This has been blamed for ruining Prior's career. Prior suffered through a myriad of injures that eventually derailed his once-promising career.

Joe Charboneau

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    Joe Charboneau batted .289 with 23 home runs and had 87 RBI during his first season in the majors leagues. This was enough to win him the American League Rookie of the Year award.

    Charboneau suffered through a few injuries the following season and found himself in the minor leagues. He played just two more seasons in the majors after his rookie year and he didn't bat higher than .214.

    Photo Credit: Full Count Pitch

Wayne Garland

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    In his first full year as a starter, Wayne Garland was outstanding. He went 20-7 with a 2.67 ERA. Garland finished the year seventh in the AL Cy Young voting.

    He was able to become a part of the free-agent class following that season and he signed a 10-year, $2.3 million deal with the Cleveland Indians.

    Garland had a a decent year in his first season with the Indians when he had a 3.60 ERA. The rest of his career did not go as well, as his ERA went as high as 7.89. He was waived just five years into his deal.

    Photo Credit: The Cleveland Fan

Bob Hamelin

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    Bob Hamelin played the first season of his career during the strike-shortened season in 1994. He played in 101 games that year and slugged 24 home runs while batting .282. This was enough for him to win the AL Rookie of the Year award.

    The next season, Hamelin struggled and failed to hit over the Mendoza line. He performed a bit better the next season, but he struggled through the season.

    Hamelin once again had a good year in 1997. He batted .270 and hit 18 home runs and it looked like he was back on the right track. This was not the case, as Hamelin struggled once again the next season. Injuries were partly responsible for Hamelin's decline. 

Warren Morris

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    Warren Morris went from a non-roster invitee at Spring Training to finishing third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1999. The Pittsburgh Pirates thought they had found their second baseman for years to come.

    However, Morris' success was short-lived. The following year his power dropped off and his batting average fell.

    He continued to struggle in 2001 and the Pirates cut him before the 2002 season. Morris went from a promising young player to a journeyman infielder within a matter of years. 

Jerome Walton

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    Jerome Walton is yet another Rookie of the Year who saw his career precipitously drop off after his first year in the major leagues.

    Walton was able to steal bases and hit for a .292 average during his first year in the big leagues. He also had a 30-game hitting streak.

    Following that season, Walton struggled during the rest of his time with the Chicago Cubs. After he left the team, he was no longer a starter other than one year with the Cincinnati Reds. He had success with them, but he once again became a utility man.

Angel Berroa

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    Entering the 2002 season, Angel Berroa was considered to be the 15th-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America. He did not justify this ranking with a good season that year, but he reached the majors in 2003.

    Once there, Berroa was able to produce. He demonstrated the 20/20 potential that scouts believed that he had, and Berroa won the American League Rookie of the Year award.

    Berroa's production dropped off a bit the next two seasons, but he was still good enough to be a major league regular. He did struggle in the field and that eventually caused him to lose his starting job, and he was traded.

Charlie Kerfeld

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    Charlie Kerfeld surprised many people with his success during the 1986 season, but he was a big reason why the Houston Astros were able to reach the NLCS against the New York Mets.

    He went 11-2 with a 2.59 ERA that season. Kerfeld gained even more popularity after he gave this interview following the 1986 NLDS.

    As quickly as Kerfeld appeared on the scene, he disappeared. He struggled to begin the year and was sent down to the majors.

    Kerfeld suffered through injuries. He would not reappear in the majors until 1990, and that was his last year in the majors. 

    Photo Credit: Baseball Birthdays

Marcus Giles

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    There were already expectations for Marcus Giles because of his older brother Brian's success in the major leagues. Marcus was able to live up to these expectations early in his career.

    In 2003, Giles hit .316 with 21 home runs and 14 stolen bases. He was selected to represent that National League in the All-Star Game.

    Giles had three more years in which he was a solid regular. Once he become a free agent, he signed with the San Diego Padres.

    He struggled there and he did not live up to what was expected of him. That was the last season that Giles played in the majors.

Scott Kazmir

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    New York Mets fans were absolutely devastated when the team traded away top prospect Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. Kazmir looked like he was going to develop into an ace.

    And he did. Kazmir was a stud during his first four full seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays and he was selected to two All-Star Games.

    Things began to slowly go downhill for Kazmir after the 2008 season. He struggled and was traded to the Los Angeles Angels the following year. He looked like he resolved his issues after the deal but then struggled again in 2010.

    Kazmir's strikeout rate dropped and his walk rate rose. In 2011, he struggled mightily in the majors as well as the minors. The Angels decided to cut their losses and released him.

Pete Schourek

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    Pete Schourek spent the beginning of his career switching off as both a starter and reliever for the New York Mets. He was then selected on waivers by the Cincinnati Reds.

    Schourek then found success as a starter with the Reds. He went 18-7 with a 3.22 ERA and finished second in the NL Cy Young voting.

    He was pitching for the Reds on Opening Day in 1996 when he witnessed the death of umpire John McSherry. This incident left Schourek visibly shaken and impacted his pitching.

    He struggled on the mound and then he eventually suffered a number of injuries that ended his career.

John Rocker

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    John Rocker was one of the better closers in baseball during his time with the Atlanta Braves. However, a multitude of personal issues got him in trouble.

    Rocker was also found to have used steroids which could have explained both some of his success as well as his outbursts. The Braves eventually had enough with him and traded him to the Cleveland Indians.

    From this point, Rocker's career quickly went downhill and he was out of the major leagues by the time he was 28 years old. He tried to come back and played with the Long Island Ducks in 2005, but no major league teams were interested in him.

Dale Sveum

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    In 1987, Dale Sveum had begun to develop into a legitimate power threat. It was just his second season in the majors and he was able to hit 25 home runs and drive in 95 runners.

    The next season, Sveum struggled a bit at the plate and then was involved in a collision with teammate Darryl Hamilton. He suffered a career-threatening broken leg. Sveum missed the rest of the season and all of the 1989 season.

    When he returned, it was clear that the injury had affected Sveum's play. He managed to bounce around the league until 1999, but he never really was able to produce for any of the teams that he played for.

Ruben Rivera

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    Baseball America considered Ruben Rivera to be a Top 10 prospect three times when he was in the minors and he was also listed in the top 75 two more times. Rivera was hyped up by the New York media.

    He was never able to produce when he was with the Yankees. Rivera began to put things together with the San Diego Padres, but he was unable to hit for a good average.

    Rivera was able to demonstrate his 20/20 potential, but it was not enough to keep him in the Padres' lineup. The over-hyped outfielder only stayed in the major leagues until he was 29 years old.

Bo Jackson

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    Who knows what Bo Jackson's baseball career would have been like if he did not get hurt playing football? He was already dominant early in his career and he was getting even better.

    Jackson was showing off his 30/30 potential as a member of the Kansas City Royals.

    Then, while playing in a playoff game for the Los Angeles Raiders in 1990, he was tackled an injured his hip. The Royals released him but he signed with the Chicago White Sox.

    Jackson had a mediocre year in Chicago and then missed all of the 1992 season because he needed surgery. When he returned in 1993, Jackson hit a home run in his first at-bat.

    However, it was clear that he was not the same player he was before he was hurt. Jackson was one of the greatest athletes of his generation, but his career in baseball ended too early.

Joaquin Andujar

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    For part of his career, Joaquin Andujar was one of the better pitchers in the National League. He was selected for four All-Star Games and finished in the top 10 of the Cy Young voting three times in four years.

    After he was implicated in the Pittsburgh Drug Trials, the St. Louis Cardinals traded Andujar to the Oakland Athletics. He was able to pitch well in his first year with the A's.

    Injuries plagued Andujar the following season and he was limited to just 13 starts. He struggled when he was on the mound.

    The next year, he went back to his original team, the Houston Astros and pitched out of their bullpen while making some spot starts. He struggled once again and was out of the MLB after he could not make a team the next season.

    Photo Credit: I-70 Baseball

Barry Zito

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    Barry Zito was outstanding during his time with the Oakland Athletics. He pitched with the team for six years and went 102-63 with a 3.55 ERA. Zito led the AL in starts four times and was selected for three All-Star Games. He also won a Cy Young Award after going 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA in 2002.

    As a result of his success, the San Francisco Giants decided to give Zito a $126 million deal once he became a free agent.

    Once he crossed the bay, Zito became a different pitcher. Zito struggled right from the get-go and he never turned things around. During his time in San Francisco, Zito has gone 43-61 with a 4.55 ERA. The Giants even sent him down to the minors in 2011 to try to help him turn things around.

Denny McLain

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    There was a precedent for Detroit Tigers' pitchers winning both the AL Cy Young and the AL MVP award in the same season before Justin Verlander accomplished this feat in 2011. Denny McLain was able to do it in 1968.

    McLain won 31 games that season and had a 1.96 ERA. He is the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season. McLain followed up his outstanding 1968 campaign with another great year. In 1969, McLain won 24 games, had a 2.80 ERA and picked up another AL Cy Young.

    His career began to decline after this success. McLain was allegedly involved with gamblers and he eventually suffered from arm problems later in his career. These two issues both led to McLain leaving the majors before he even turned 30-years old.

Vida Blue

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    From his first full season in the majors, it was clear that Vida Blue had the talent to be one of the top pitchers in baseball. He was only 21 years old when he went 24-8 with a 1.92 ERA and won both the AL Cy Young and the AL MVP award.

    Blue was able to stay one of the best pitchers in the American League and was selected to seven All-Star Games.

    Beginning in 1983, things began to unravel for Blue. He struggled on the mound and he admitted to purchasing cocaine during the season. Blue then missed the 1984 season and struggled once he returned in 1985.

Eric Gagne

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    Between 2002 and 2004, the Los Angeles Dodgers knew that they would win any game that they entered the ninth inning with a lead. They had Eric Gagne, the game's best closer on the mound.

    During this time frame, Gagne converted an MLB-record 84 consecutive save opportunities. He won the Cy Young in 2003 when he saved 55 games and finished in the top ten of the voting in each of the two other years.

    Gagne did not pitch much in 2005 or 2006 because he underwent surgeries. When he returned in 2007, he had success as the Texas Rangers' closer. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox and began to struggle.

    The following year, Gagne was named in the Mitchell Report for HGH use. He struggled for the Milwaukee Brewers that season and it was the last year that he spent in the majors.

Brady Anderson

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    More surprising that Brady Anderson's demise might be his rise to prominence. He was a good player with 20 home run power and the ability to swipe 35 to 40 bases in a year.

    Then, in 1996, Anderson went off. He hit 50 home runs, more than twice his previous career high and had 110 RBI. The following season, Anderson fell back to earth and hit 18 homers.

    Anderson's career went up and down for a few seasons after that and he eventually began to struggle in 2001. There are still discussions about Anderson's 1996 season and if he was enhanced in anyway during it.

Ben Grieve

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    Baseball America considered Ben Grieve to be a top 40 prospect for four different years that he was in the minor leagues. Heading into the 1998 season, he was considered to be the best prospect in baseball.

    Grieve lived up to the hype by winning the AL Rookie of the Year award that season for Oakland. He was an All-Star and he slugged 18 home runs, had 89 RBI and batted .288.

    The next few seasons, Grieve improved and had 28- and 27-home run campaigns. He was then traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

    Grieve saw his slugging percentage and home run numbers drop off during his time in Tampa Bay but did put together two decent seasons with the Devil Rays. During his third season with the team, he struggled mightily.

    In an interview, Grieve admitted that basketball was his first love, but that he was better at baseball. It was possible that this mindset hurt his play.

    Over the next two seasons, Grieve's play declined and he played his last major league game when he was just 29 years old.


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