On June 6th, Major League Baseball held its annual amateur draft. This event is the culmination of months of pouring over scouting reports, watching film and even traveling to random Podunk high schools and colleges to watch prospective draft choices throw and hit baseballs. Then Bud Selig’s decrepit, rotting corpse announces every team’s draft choice live on the MLB Network.
Like just about every other one, 2011′s draft contained a lot of the offspring of former major leaguers. Among them were the sons of Steve Garvey, Charlie O’Brien (2 of them!), Pudge Rodriguez and super agent (and #1 fan of Satan) Scott Boras, to name a few. Even Wayne Gretzky’s son was drafted! The Great One’s son plays baseball? Talk about daddy issues! Anyway, the Yankees, my favorite team, drafted the kid pictured above. He is 17 year old Dante Bichette Jr., the son of… you guessed it… Dante Bichette, a former major leaguer known mostly for for his time on the Rockies, where he was a four time all-star and helped the 1995 Rockies win the National League Wild Card.
Baseball fans have known about Bichette, Jr. since his team played in the 2005 Little League World Series (Sr. was in attendance, of course). What kind of player will Jr. be? With his genes, is it safe to say the Yankees will have an all-star on their hands in a few years? I’m sure the Yankees hope they do, considering they took him with their first pick (51st overall). As we’ll find out in this post, however, major league pedigree doesn’t necessarily guarantee major league success. Our crack research team (me), has put together a list of the five most disappointing 2nd generation major leaguers of our era. The fathers had HOF (or near HOF) talent, but the sons simply came up short of expectations.
5. Eduardo Pérez
It was a little hard to put Eddie on this list, because he actually had a lengthy Major League career. The problem is, that his career wasn’t very impressive. Eduardo’s dad was the one and only Hall of Famer Tony Pérez, who made his bones as a middle of the order bat for the Big Red Machine in the 1970s. Those legendary Cincinnati Reds teams won four National League Pennants and two World Series. Tony consistently hit around .300 and even knocked 40 home runs one of those seasons. His 2,732 hits, 379 HR and 7 all-star appearances made him a legend in Cincinnati, and there was reason to believe his son could have a similar career.
Eduardo was originally a first round draft pick (17th overall) for the then California Angels and rose pretty quickly through their system. At age 23 (1993), he made his Angels debut and did well in a limited role. The following season he again started in the minors, but struggled mightily when he was called up. By 1996, he was traded to the Reds. His father’s old team. I guess the Reds were hoping he would be inspired by his father’s legacy and get his career back on track. They gave him a chance to do that in 1997 and he responded somewhat, hitting .253 with 16 HR. After that, the wheels fell off for Eddie and he was released in 1998, never really coming close to fulfilling his genetic potential. Eddie bounced around the big leagues for another 8 seasons, mostly as a right-handed pinch hitter or platoon player, before calling it quits. He finished as a .247 hitter with 79 career homers. Pretty terrible when compared to his HOF papa.
4. Tony Gwynn, Jr.
Tony Gwynn, Jr. is the son of another Hall of Famer, Tony Gwynn, Sr (duh, hello). Senior was probably the best hitter of the 80s and 90s. His career .338 batting average is good for 18th all-time, he had 3,141 carer hits and he almost hit .400 in the strike-shortened 1994 season (.394). In San Diego, he was known simply as “Mr. Padre,” after spending his entire brilliant career playing for his home town team. Simply put, Tony Gwynn is a San Diego legend.
Like his uncle Chris (major leaguer in the 80s and 90s), Tony Gwynn, Jr. didn’t quite swim in the talented end of the gene pool. Junior was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2nd round of the 2003 draft, and was in the majors by age 23. After a few uninspired seasons, he was traded to (you guessed it) the San Diego Padres. Maybe it was the pressure of almost literally having to fill his father’s shoes, or maybe Gwynn, Jr. just was never that good, but he was terrible for the padres. He spent two uninspiring seasons on the Padres and was released after the 2010 season. He is currently playing terribly for the LA Dodgers. His career numbers, so far, sit at a .241 batting average, .628 OPS (pretty sure Tony Gwynn’s mother could put that number up) and five home runs in six seasons. This year, he’s hitting .220. It won’t be long before he joins his dad on the couch at home, but with less trophies to look at.
3. Tim Raines, Jr.
In the 1980s, Tim “Rock” Raines stole bases like he snorted cocaine: early and often. Despite rumors that he slid head first on stolen bases because he didn’t want to break the vials of cocaine he carried in his back pocket, Raines was an absolute beast on the diamond. In the 80s, Raines was a 7 time all-star, hit .304 and stole 578 bases. 578! After that, his drug habit and some injuries caught up with him, and he became more of a part time player. He was still very good though, helping the Yankees to two World Series Championships in the late 1990s.
Maybe Tim Raines, Jr. should have also done a little coke. “Little Rock” was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 6th round of the 1998 draft. A few years later, in 2001, he was called up to make his major league debut. With the call-up, the Raines family became the second ever father and son team to play together in the same game for the same major league team (Tim Sr. had signed with the Orioles that year specifically to get the chance to play with his son). Unfortunately for the younger Raines, that was pretty much the highlight of his career. He last tasted Major League stew in 2004, and retired last season. His final numbers were pretty terrible: .213, 0HR, 7 RBI and a .544 OPS in 75 games, all for the Orioles. On the bright side, this frees him up to do a ton of cocaine with his dad. The father and son team lives on!
2. Tony Peña, Jr
We’re getting down to the end of this countdown, which is unfortunate for you readers. Tony Peña is not just the current bench coach for the New York Yankees. He also spent 18 seasons as a big league catcher for the Pirates, Cardinals, Red Sox, Indians, White Sox and Astros. Although he was eventually known most for his defense, Tony was one of the better hitting catchers in the 1980s. He ended his career with 1,687 hits, four Gold Glove Awards and five all-star selections. Peña was also known for sometimes crouching with one leg fully extended to the side, and also for his cannon arm.
Tony Peña Jr., however, is not known for any of these things. He was signed as an international free agent in 1999 by the Atlanta Braves, but was eventually traded to the Kansas City Royals (where his father had previously managed) in 2007. In 2008 he was given the starting job and did pretty well, hitting .270. His promise as a “glove first” shortstop fell a little short though, as he made 23 errors. Despite that, Young Tony entered 2008 as the starting shortstop for the Royals. To say that he fell flat on his face would be an understatement. Before eventually losing his job and getting sent to the minors, Tony Jr. hit .169 in 95 games. He managed only 5 extra-base hits too. More of the same (although in less playing time) followed in 2009, and the Royals gave up on Tony. Unlike the other members of this list, Peña still has a chance to make something of himself… as a pitcher. What? That’s right, Tony is currently pitching for the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox, in a final attempt to resurrect his major league career. He’s actually doing pretty well, too! Maybe we’ll see him back one day and he can earn his way off this list. For now, he’s a giant bust.
1. Pete Rose, Jr.
And now… the biggest 2nd generation bust of the last 30 years…. Pete Rose, Jr. But first, let’s find out a little more about his daddy, Pete Rose. What else can you say about “Charlie Hustle” (other than the fact that his name isn’t Charlie, or even Charles)? He is arguably the best hitter of all time. In his 24 seasons for the Reds, Phillies and Expos, Rose did it all. He is the all-time hits leader with 4,256. He won 3 batting titles, was a 17 time all-star, won the 1963 rookie of the year, and even the 1973 National League MVP Award. The only reason Rose isn’t in the hall of fame is because he bet on baseball games, and because Commissioner A. Bartlet Giamatti (father of actor Paul) passed away in 1989. Rumor has it Giammati was set re-instate Rose, but died only a few months before he could do it. Alas, Pete is now just the best player ever to be excluded from the HOF.
That brings us to Peter Edward Rose, Jr. In this case, the apple not only fell far from the tree. It sat on the ground for months, rotted, and was eaten by a raccoon, who then got sick from it and died. Junior was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 12th round of the 1988 draft, and was eventually traded twice, and then released twice before landing on his father’s old team in 1996. Again, a case of a team hoping that paternal legend would inspire the son to raise his level of play. A funny thing happened on the way to that though. Rose Jr. went from a slappy “punch and judy” type hitter to a legitimate power hitter. Rose was 27 at the time, the age when most players begin to enter their prime, so this wouldn’t normally raise too many eyebrows. The fact that it was 1997, the heart of the steroids era in Major League Baseball, makes you go hmm… Anyway this surge of power (natural or anabolically enhanced) finally earned Jr. his ticket to the bigs. Did he burst onto the scene and shine brightly in Cincy? Negative, Ghost Rider. Eleven games and two singles later, Pete Rose, Jr.’s big league career ended.
In 2006, Rose was convicted of distribution of the “date-rape” drug GBL. Now, don’t jump to conclusions… When injected, GBL is a known performance enhancer and sedative (although, I guess he could have been a rapist too). Rose’s conviction came from events that happened in the late 1990s. Say, isn’t that when he suddenly became a power– oh…right. So, even though Rose and Rose, Jr. didn’t have the same type of major league career, at least they both served time in Federal Prison! Maybe the apple fell a little closer to the tree than we thought!
What We Learned:
What exactly did we learn here? We learned that for every Bobby and Barry Bonds, there’s probably a couple of Pete and Pete Roses. Like anywhere else in life, just because the father is good at it, doesn’t mean the son will be. My dad, for example, has rebuilt every room in my house. I, on the other hand, write about sports on the internet. You can’t always bank on genetics when it comes to making a great professional anything, especially an athlete. Furthermore, playing for the team your father starred for does not help struggling 2nd generation major leaguers to prosper. Playing for your dad’s former team can often lead to increased pressure from fans, front office and even from within the athlete himself. It’s tough to fill Hall of Fame cleats. Players are better off finding their own shoes in their own time-frame. So, what does this mean for Dante Bichette, Jr.? I’m not sure, but at least he didn’t get drafted by the Rockies.
Bichette image courtesy of: http://www.myyesnetwork.com
Perez image courtesy of: http://bleacherreport.com
Gwynn image courtesy of: http://static.sdnn.com
Raines image courtesy of: http://baseballmexico.blogspot.com
Peña image courtesy of: http://mlb.mlb.com