Chris Sabo trips over an animated chalice.
Why we like him: In 1990, every baseball fan in America was convinced that Chris Sabo was the next superstar third baseman. After all he had just won Rookie of the Year honors in 1988, and why shouldn't he have? He batted .270 and cranked out 11 homers and 44 RBI in 137 games. Mark Grace probably should have won it instead (.296-7-57 in 134 games), and Ron Gant (.259-19-60 as well as 46 foul balls yanked at a right angle to the third base line) needed to be in the conversation at least. When the 1990 World Series rolled around, Sabo dominated batting a cool .563 with a pretty much ridiculous 1.000 slugging percentage as his Reds swept the defending champion Oakland Athletics as they failed to show up for a single game due to their relentless search for syringes in the Bay Area.
This is when I recall thinking Chris "Spuds" Sabo was a can't miss superduperstar third baseman. In my humble opinion, and I was a nine-year old kid, Sabo was somewhat robbed of World Series MVP honors by Jose Rijo. The moral of the story: if your four-letter name ended in O, 1990 was your year.
The Greek God of Goggles was a can't-miss star in the making. The only problem, and it was a pretty big problem, was that in 1991, the pinnacle of his rise to stardom when he batted a career best .301 and swatted 26 homers, Sabo was 29. Half his career was spent slaving away, I assume, in the minors trying to find the right pair of glasses that would stay on his squinty, bull terrier face before settling in with a pair of prescription racquetball goggles so he could be a flash in the pan that I liked to emulate in my front yard.
Spuds never managed to regain his form from the 1990 and 1991 seasons. The Reds let him walk as a free agent after the 1993 season where he was snapped up by the Baltimore Orioles, signing a 1-year contract for $2 million. He showed his gratitude to the O's by busting his butt in 68 games in the 1994 season and batting .256. Sabo spent the 1995 bouncing around from Chicago (AL) to St. Louis like a Plinko disk before coming back to Cincy in 1996, presumably to finish his career with the Wee Red Machine. He was 34.
Spuds finished his career with a .268 average and 116 home runs, and he can even boast about having the NL's best fielding percentage in 1988 and 1990 if old players even do that, but he will undoubtedly go down in the baseball record books as the greatest goggled superstar third basement that wasn't quite.
Ladies and gentlemen, Chris Sabo, Ballplayer.