Driving to the store on Monday, I heard Jeff Joyce and Cliff Floyd on MLB Radio talking about one-hit wonders. Seems like a fun topic for the dead of winter, so let's go division by division throughout the week and throw out some names, rekindle some memories, and remember those brief, shining lights. I'm thinking of guys who had one memorable season, more so than one big moment or game. Preferably, it would be somebody who wasn't injured, like a Mark Fidrych.
OK, here are my suggestions for the AL East ... discuss your own below.
The first guy I thought of was Wayne Garland, who parlayed a 20-7, 2.67 season in 1976 into one of the first big free agent deals, signing a 10-year, $2.3 million deal with the Indians. Not $2.3 million per season; $2.3 million total. That was monster cash back in 1977. Garland has said he told his agent, Jerry Kaptstein, "Jerry, I'm not worth it." Anyway, Garland had pitched out of the bullpen for a couple years before joining the rotation in '76, completing 14 of the 25 games he started. He went 13-19 with a 3.60 ERA his first year with Cleveland and then tore his rotator cuff.
Here's another one: Larry Sheets. He had been a useful role player in 1985 and 1986, hitting .267 with 35 home runs. Then came the rabbit ball year of 1987 and Sheets -- 27 years old -- hit .316 with 31 homers and 94 RBIs in 508 plate appearances. He'd hit just 27 more homers the rest of his career.
Sam Horn was such a famous one-hit wonder that his 46-game outburst in 1987 spawned a cult following (The Sons of Sam Horn website was named in his honor) and a stint as a Red Sox postgame TV analyst. As a rookie, Horn hit .278/.356/.589 with 14 home runs in just 158 at-bats, leading to predictions of 40 or 50 home runs the following season. Instead, he only hit two more home runs in his Red Sox career.
Yankees fans of a certain age will nominate Kevin Maas, sort of their version of Sam Horn. In 1990, Maas hit 21 home runs in 254 at-bats and Yankees proclaimed him the next Don Mattingly. Or at least the next Dan Pasqua. But Maas was a 25-year-old rookie without much athleticism and the league caught up to him the next year. He'd hit .223 over the next three seasons.
Another one: In 1974, the Yankees purchased Elliott Maddox, a journeyman outfielder, from the Rangers. He hit .303 with three home runs and 45 RBIs, but posted a .396 OBP and must have played a mean center field, because he finished eighth in the AL MVP vote. Despite the modest numbers, the MVP vote may have been legitimate: Maddox grades out as a 5.1-win player. He was, however, a .261 career hitter with several teams and '74 was the only year he received 500 plate appearances.
The Rays had more zero-hit wonders in their early years than one-hit wonders, but here's one from their first season in 1998: Rolando Arrojo went 14-12 with a 3.56 ERA, pretty good numbers for an expansion team in the steroids era. He was a 29-year-old rookie who had signed out of Cuba and finished second to Ben Grieve in the Rookie of the Year vote. Potential one-hit wonder on the horizon: Fernando Rodney.
Mark Eichhorn's 1986 season doesn't quite count since he did have an 11-year career, but it was one of the all-time great relief seasons. He went 14-6 with a 1.72 ERA in 157 innings -- worth 7.1 WAR, which Baseball-Reference rates as the eighth-most valuable pitching season in Blue Jays history. Eichhorn was good again the following season, however, pitching in 89 games and throwing 127.2 innings with a 3.17 ERA. So let's go with Adam Lind, whose big 2009 season is now looking like dust in the wind with the past three seasons. He hit .305 with 35 bombs that year and while he's continued to hit some home runs, his poor OBPs and lack of defensive value has led to a three-year combined WAR of -1.5.