Imagine having the weight of the sports world on your shoulders as a professional athlete. Being in the spotlight has its upsides and downsides. It is even more difficult however when people think everything of you. Cleveland Indian Joe Charboneau was touted as the next superstar of the 1980s. But it all went wrong in the process, and it’s sad.
Before reaching the Majors, Charboneau was destroying minor league pitching. In 1979 playing for double-A, he batted .352, had an on-base plus slugging of 1.019 and hit 21 home runs. By this time, he was baseball’s top prospect. Cleveland fans were excited too. The team was mediocre with average ballplayers. Joe Charboneau could be a fan favorite and someone who could represent as the face of the team. He was also known as an “out there” individual, getting into the habit of dying his hair.
In 1980, Joe made his first big league appearance. He played well too, batting .289 with 23 home runs and 87 runs batted in. He led the team in two of those three categories. As a result, Charboneau won the Rookie of the Year award. He even had a nickname that suited him well, Super Joe Charboneau, and quickly became that fan-favorite figure in Cleveland. A musician even wrote a song about him titled “Go Joe Charboneau”. Expectations going into the next season were plentiful and this is when everything started to unravel.
It seemed like anything and everything went wrong in 1981 for Joe. He injured his back in Spring Training, which proved later on very impactful on his career. The back pain affected his offensive performance, hitting only .208 by the time of the 1981 players’ strike. After that, the team shipped him to the minors. He continued to struggle and not before long, he was out of the majors by the time he was 28. Charboneau holds a record nobody wants. He has the least amount of career games played for a Rookie of The Year winner at 201. He wasn’t out of baseball entirely, coaching a few semi-pro teams, yet never appeared in the Majors again.
Sophomore slumps are common amongst athletes. In 2017, Cody Bellinger won the Rookie of the Year award. The following year, his offense took a sharp decline. Joe Charboneau endured the absolute worst baseball sophomore slump of all time. It was partly due to bad luck with injuries, and an ill-timed player’s strike.