Looking at old preview guides

(originally posted on Bill James Online forums)

I don’t know about other people here, but something I’ve always found fascinating is looking through old copies of those “Baseball Preview Guides” that come out at the start of every year. Whether it’s the old Sporting News Baseball Yearbook, or Street & Smith’s, or Athlon, etc, I find it very interesting to see what writer’s thought of players while they were still playing, year-to-year, and also to see whether anyone could ever imagine some of the feats that might happen that year (eg, did TSN have any inkling of what would happen in 1998?)

I have my own little collection of these (my brothers and I have buying every Sporting News yearbook since 1995, and every Athlon since 1999, and I’ve also purchased some other magazines from the 80s off of ebay), and I thought others might be as interested in me in how some of these writers saw things back before anyone knew what would actually happen. The most interesting section of some of these magazines is the minor leagues/college baseball sections, where they talk about all the different possible prospects of the years to come. Did they see the HOF capability of Wade Boggs or Tom Glavin? Were they ready to give a couple MVP trophies to Billy Ripken before he played a game in the bigs? It’s fun to read…

Here are a couple of snippets from the 1988 Street & Smith’s:

Atlanta: “This farm system is hurting almost as much as the parent club. At Richmond, southpaw Tom Glavine was 6-12, but his ERA was 3.35, the fourth-best in the league… “

Cubs: “Outfielder Rafael Palmiero figured to be the Cubs smash hit in ’97, but he spent half the year at Iowa (.299, 11 HR in 214 at-bats). Called up, his bat didn’t quiet down (.276, 14 HR in 221 ABs). His .543 slugging percentage showed he’s a legitimate big league hitter… Mark Grace (.333, 17, 101) led Pittsfield to the Eastern League pennant and won Double-A all star honors. The EL’s MVP and top-rated prospect – not a bad status for a 25th-round pick in the ’85 draft – struck out just 24 times in 453 at-bats. Comparisons with Wally Joyner have already been uttered.”

and last, for now
Houston: “Like [Gerald] Young, third basemen Ken Caminiti lost his rookie status. But hte switch hitter with the sterling glove was leading the SL in batting (.325, 15, 69) when he was called up, and batted .246 in 63 games for the Astros. He appears to have no weaknesses and must play every day in the bigs… Catcher Graig Biggio [sic], the Astros No. 1 draft pick in ’87, hit .375 with 49 RBIs and 31 SBs in 64 games at Asheville.”

I also liked this little bit in the article introducing the minor league section: “Which draft will be remember as the best draft of all? It’s easy to suggest the 1985 draft, which saw so many first-riounders make it to the major leagues so quickly. BJ Surhoff, Will Calrk, Bobby Witt, and Barry Larkin – 1,2,3,4 in that draft – were all in the majors by 1986 or early ’87. That was the draft, by the way, in which Gregg Jeffries was the No. 20 selection… The 1984 draft was terrific, too. Cory Snyder, Oddibe McDowell, Billy Swift, Scott Bankhead – US Olympians all… What about the ’81 draft? the first 10 players taken that June all played in the big leagues: Mike Moore, Joe Carter, Dick Schofield, Kevin McReynolds, Daryl Boston, and Ron Darling among them. Frank Viola was a second-rounder. Neal Heaton as well Tony Gwynn lasted until the third round…”

I’ll post some others as the urge strikes me.

Larry Granillo

About Larry Granillo

Larry Granillo has been writing Wezen Ball since 2008 and has dealt with such touchy topics as Charlie Brown's baseball stats and Ferris Bueller's day off. In 2010, he got the bright idea to time every home run trot in baseball; he has been missing ever since.