Given annually to the best newcomer in the MLB, the Rookie of the Year Award was first handed out nationally in 1947 to Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson. Robinson, as we should all know, did more than break onto the baseball scene as an impressive freshman. He also broke the color barrier as one of the most important athletes and people in history. In 1987, the award was renamed the Jackie Robinson Award although we still call it the Rookie of the Year for directness and to honor classic 1990s baseball movies co-starring Gary Busey.
Specifically on the field, not all Rookie of the Year recipients were as impactful as Robinson. While it has signaled the beginning of Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Tom Seaver, and many other MLB legends, the award has sometimes been handed out to players who never did get back to that level of superiority.
The same way we can make honor roll during our first year of high school, some MLB players see a sharp decline as their career progress.
This is not a rating based on what players did in their rookie year. This is about what they did afterwards and how incredibly disappointing their careers turned out after winning the award. These are the 10 worst Rookie of the Year Award winners in MLB history.
10 Ron Kittle
The 1983 AL Rookie of the Year went to 25-year-old Ron Kittle who wore a Chicago White Sox uniform that season and for most of his career. An outfielder and future standard DH, Kittle had a fine debut season highlighted by 35 home runs and 100 RBIs. Unfortunately for Kittle things would never be this good, as even with a league leading 150 strikeouts that year, his career went downhill.
9 9, Angel Berroa
Shortstop Angel Berroa received a small taste of MLB baseball in 2001 and 2002 before his official rookie season in 2003. He had what turned out to be his only noteworthy season, hitting 17 home runs with 73 RBIs, 92 runs scored, and pumping out a slash line of .287/.338/.451. He remained serviceable for two more seasons with the Kansas City Royals, only to fall off the face of the earth by 2006.
8 Butch Metzger
Relief pitcher Butch Metzger won the 1976 NL Rookie of the Year for the San Diego Padres offering them a league leading 62 games finished in 123.1 innings of work. He was 11-4 with a 2.92 ERA during an era when saves weren’t really a statistic anybody paid much attention to. He looked to have a lot of promise, but the times did not benefit Metzger, who today would have probably gotten another shot after one really bad season out of the bullpen.
7 Mark Fidrych
Everybody’s heard about “The Bird.” I’m talking about Mark Fidrych, who in 1976 won the AL Rookie of the Year and finished second in the Cy Young Award voting. Fidrych had one of the greatest rookie campaigns ever, going 19-9 with a league leading 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games.
6 Geovany Soto
Catcher Geovony Soto looked to have a promising career ahead of him when he won the 2008 Rookie of the Year as a member of the Chicago Cubs at the age of 25. Soto had a very impressive slash line of .285/.364/.504 along with 23 home runs and 86 RBIs. Considering he did this as a catcher for the Cubs during those bonus day games, we shouldn’t take his performance lightly.
5 Harry Byrd
Back in 1952 when the Athletics were still in Philadelphia, rookie pitcher Harry Byrd was named the Rookie of the Year with a record of 15-15 and 3.31 ERA. Byrd worked as a starter and a reliever in what was generally a pretty weak season for rookies. Let’s not take this away from him because it was still a solid season.
4 4, Bobby Crosby
Here we have another rookie for the Athletics, this time when they were in Oakland, who didn’t even have an impressive Rookie of the Year season but still won the award. Bobby Crosby was not so much a disappointment as much as he just got worse over the years. Crosby’s 2004 Rookie of the Year winning season included a slash line of .239/.319/.426 with 22 home runs and 64 RBIs.
3 Jerome Walton
The Chicago Cubs had the NL Rookie of the Year on their 1989 roster and his name was Jerome Walton. As a 23-year-old newcomer, Walton hit .293 with 24 stolen bases in a rather light rookie class. His batting average dropped the next season by 30 points and continued to do so throughout his career.
2 Pat Listach
What happened to Pat Listach? The 1991 Rookie of the Year winner and former Milwaukee Brewers’ shortstop slashed .290/.352/.349 in his debut season. He hit only 1 home run, but did steal 54 bases and had 168 hits. Listach looked like a light-hitting leadoff man who could use his speed to stay in the MLB.
1 Joe Charboneau
Who is the worst player to ever win the Rookie of the Year award? It’s outfielder Joe Charboneau! After a great rookie season in 1980 for the Cleveland Indians, his MLB success was so short-lived that he only ended up playing in 201 games for his entire career.
During his rookie campaign, Charboneau slashed .289/.358/.488 with 23 home runs and 87 RBIs. Injuries soon took their toll, along with overall poor play. He only got into 48 games the next season while hitting .210. The following year, he played in only 22 games and hit .214. That was it for Charboneau at the major league level, as his career was over before it seemed to even begin. He would play two more seasons in the minor leagues before making his final appearance in 2000 at the age of 45 for the Canton Crocodiles in the Independent League, where he picked up a single in his lone at-bat. Not the place he intended to end his career, but at least he can say he’s hitting 1.000 somewhere.
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