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Just recently, I dug up a long-forgotten issue of the 1996 Athlon Sports baseball issue from my cellar (or basement or whatever), which handicapped how the then-28 Major League Baseball clubs would fare that year. Here are some highlights from that issue:
The Team That Would Begin a Dynasty
- In 1996, there was a young hotshot who was hitting his way through the AAA International League named Derek Jeter, and Athlon thought "Jetes", the minors' top prospect at that time. Here's their two cents on the once and future Yankees captain:
Postscript: For 1996, they were partially right, as Jeter hit .314, but was successful in only two-thirds of his 21 stolen base attempts, and drove in more runs than he scored (104 to 78, respectively) to garner AL Rookie of the Year honors. Twelve years, eight All-Star appearances and four World Series titles later, Jeter has since grown to be the face of Yankees baseball.
But what did the future hold for the Yankees that championship year? Not very much good news...
Postscript: Somehow, Joe Torre, in his first year as manager, rallied the troops and made it the first of four World Championships in the 1990s and playoff appearances in every year of his tenure.
- The Yanks' archrivals, the Boston Red Sox, also had youth ready to spring into the Big Show. Nomar Garciaparra, according to Athlon, predicted that "Nomah" would arrive later than Jeter – in fact, they said late in the '96 season or the beginning of the following year.
Postscript: They called the low end of their prediction; Garciaparra made his MLB debut on August 31. While Nomar put up numbers almost as impressive as Jeter in '97, he couldn't bring a championship to Boston (and New England) and was eventually traded to the Chicago Cubs during the BoSox' championship season in 2004. Garciaparra, since married to Mia Hamm and a father, opened 2008 with the Los Angeles Dodgers with (how ironic!) Joe Torre at the helm.
- Carlos Delgado's pro prospects looked promising in '96, with Athlon saying that he would make the Toronto Blue Jays' Opening Day Roster. With his bat as his "strength", Delgado would go on to cop three Silver Slugger awards in a five-year span from 1999 to 2003.
Postscript: Delgado, unfortunately, has recently been weighted down with injuries, only barely cracking .300 twice in the last six years.
- Before he made a name for himself in the American League, Vladimir Guerrero was making hay in the Montreal Expos (RIP, 1969-2004) organization. The team's player personnel director billed Guerrero, quoting him, as "a legtimiate five-tool player."
Postscript: The Athlon folks were late in their prediction of Guerrero's arrival in the Bigs (saying late in the '97 campaign). But Vlad soon made waves, hitting .302 in his first full season in Montreal. Guerrero would later move south of the border to Los Angeles and cop an MVP in his first year with the Angels.
- Athlon's editors began their team-by-team breakdown with a summary of how the season would pan out:
- East: Baltimore Orioles, Yankees (wild card), Red Sox, Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers (Other than the top two, they got it right)
- Central: Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers (remember when the Brew Crew were in the Junior Circuit? Actually, the Royals fared better than the Twinkies in '96...)
- West: Seattle Mariners, California Angels, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics (Swing and a miss on this one; TEX, SEA, OAK, CAL)
- Manager of the Year: Davey Johnson, BAL (actually: a tie between Johnny Oates of the Rangers and the aforementioned Torre)
- Rookie of the Year: Derek Jeter (CALLED IT!)
East: Atlanta Braves, New York Mets (wild card), Florida Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, Expos (Les Montrealers finished better than expected in '96, finishing eight games behind the National League champs. As for the wild card, it actually went out west)
Back to 2008 now
See how great it is to relive the past (as opposed to living in it)?