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Charlie Hayes and J.P. Crawford - a cautionary tale

Mike Schmidt. Charlie Hayes. Jimmy Rollins. J.P. Crawford. Don't expect another Jimmy Rollins, folks.

J.P. Crawford in the Futures game in 2014.
J.P. Crawford in the Futures game in 2014.
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Rollins is a singular figure in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies.  No player has ever had a greater career at shortstop for the team. It is likely that no other player in our lifetimes will ever play shortstop as well for the Phillies for as long as Jimmy Rollins.  He cannot be replaced, but someone must play shortstop.

J.P. Crawford is an engaging young man with a world of potential. He's a quiet Twitter follow, but I suspect that will pick up a bit. He's a first round pick with a lot of talent. The Phillies have had dozens of first round picks, but only one Jimmy Rollins (who was not one of them). The odds are strongly against J.P. Crawford being another Jimmy Rollins. The odds are strongly against him being half of what Jimmy Rollins was.  Crawford hasn't played any AA ball yet. Because of the huge numbers of flame outs, the average career WAR expected from a middling first-round pick appears to be less than the WAR Rollins generated in his MVP campaign in 2007.

Charlie Hayes was a middling MLB player. He was a 4th round pick of the Giants, but they also had Matt Williams, who was about to explode on the National League.  The Phillies, in need of a third baseman following the abrupt end of Mike Schmidt's inner circle Hall of Fame career, acquired Hayes from the Giants during the 1989 season.  Hayes had some good years as a decent fielder and a sometimes capable bat.  As a young player with the Phillies from 1989 - 1991, he struggled with his bat, and with the bloom off his still-young rose, he was traded to the Yankees.

Hayes proceeded to have the four best years of his career, not surprisingly during his ages 27 - 30 seasons. He put up 9.4 fWAR in four years, bouncing from the Yankees to the Rockies in the expansion draft, and then via free agency to a second tour lasting one season with the Phillies.  He continued playing for a number of years, but he had good, productive seasons for teams after the Phillies gave up on him.

The Hayes years with the Phillies and his peak were during my "dying time" for baseball. The Phillies were awful, and I was in college and experiencing the glories of, well, college. Baseball awakened for me again in 1993, because '93 Phillies.

Part of the Hayes legend is that he struggled because of the expectations he had following Mike Schmidt.  To the extent that this may or may not have been true, it certainly would have been unfair. No third baseman in MLB history has been Mike Schmidt other than Mike Schmidt.  Expecting two Mike Schmidts in a row is insane.

The parallels here are plain. Legendary player retires. There is a young player in the wings with lots of potential, though Crawford is much less certain to be an MLB player than Hayes was at the time.

Do not expect Crawford to be Jimmy Rollins. He's never going to slug over .500. He will not steal as many bases with as high a percentage as Rollins. He will never hit 20 triples in a season. Crawford could be a good player, but he is not going to be Jimmy Rollins.

Let J.P. Crawford be J.P. Crawford. Maybe he won't make it. Maybe he will.  Let him do it on his own terms, though. Don't expect him to be something he isn't and can't be. Be fair to him.