BE.com's 2004 AL Rookie of the Year Pick: Bobby Crosby
Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
In 1998, the Baltimore Orioles had a shortstop by the name of Cal Ripken, Jr. who was at the tail end of a Hall of Fame career. Ripken earned $6.4 million dollars in 1998, which amounted to a small price to pay for the most popular player in America whose mere presence filled the stands day in and day out. He played every game for the Orioles that season until late in September, when he decided to take a day off for the first time in 16 years. It was the end of an era.
On the left coast in 1998, the Oakland Athletics had a young Dominican shortstop by the name of Miguel Tejada. In his first full season in the majors, at the age of 22, Tejada struggled, hitting only .233 with 11 HR and 45 RBI in 105 games. He also showed no patience at the plate, walking only 28 times while striking out 86 times. But Oakland paid only $172,000 for Tejada that year, a bargain for a team strapped for cash in a strong AL West. Oakland finished in last place that year, but that Tejada kid showed promise. It was the beginning of an era.
In the off-season of 2002, Oakland General Manager Billy Beane called off negotiations for a contract extension with Tejada, now a star at shortstop and one time MVP winner. Knowing that Tejada would not be affordable for the still cash strapped A's, Beane didn't even waste time trying to sign Tejada, and in the 2003 off season, the kid signed with the Orioles. It was the end of an era. But not really.
Tejada got the big bucks to be sure. In 2004, he made $5 million in the first year of contract which only gets more lucrative with each progressive year. Tejada had an MVP caliber year with the Orioles, becoming the first Orioles shortstop to play every game since the Ripken days. He also led the league in RBI with 150, and collecting 200 hits for the second time in his career.
But in Oakland, it was less the end of era as much as a restarting of the cycle. In Tejada's absence, the A's turned to Bobby Crosby, this year's BaseballEvolution.com pick for AL Rookie of the Year. Crosby did not disappoint, hitting 22 home runs in 151 games, playing solid defense, and scoring 70 runs for a team which finished in the bottom half of the AL in runs scored. Crosby's production was solid for a rookie. Even more solid for a rookie shortstop, and more solid still given that he was paid a meager $300,500 for the effort.
Though Crosby is slightly older than Tejada was in Tejada's rookie year, he is also slightly better. His average is marginally higher, while his OBP and SLG are both higher than Tejada's were as a rookie. He is also showing a power stroke earlier on that Tejada did.
If Tejada's career path is any indication, Crosby should be putting up big numbers for the A's for the next several years, and it should only be 4 or 5 years before Crosby gets to the all important point in any Oakland star's life when, because of all that he has done for the team, the team can no longer afford him.