In 1997, a 23-year old came out of nowhere and in no time became one of the hottest hitter in the American League. His name was Jose Cruz Jr. and he was an outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, who was not only out-hitting & out-hustling the best player in baseball (and his teammate), Ken Griffey Jr, he was doing it with ease. The “Kid”, Griffey Jr. was also on a tear that year and would eventually be named the league’s M.V.P after crushing 56 home runs. Unfortunately, just 49 games into his career, Jose Cruz Jr. was sent packing to the Toronto Blue Jays. At the time of the trade, Cruz Jr. had 12 home runs and 34 R.B.I and would eventually finish the season with 26/68, good enough for second place in the Rookie of the Year voting but it was clear his momentum was stolen.
Why would a team trade a young guy being called the “Next Griffey”, who showed more potential than anyone in the league at the time? Did Cruz Jr.’s Gold Glove-like plays and impressive power numbers worry Ken Griffey Jr.? The world may never know. Today, the “Kid” is days away from his 600th career home run, two seasons away from his 2,000th R.B.I, and has an outside shot at 3,000 hits. Meanwhile, Jose Cruz Jr. is platooning in Houston with the Astros, getting an at-bat per game and hitting below the Mendoza Line. What gives? Jose Cruz Jr. did reach the 30-30 mark in 2001 but since then has been released by two teams and the way things are going is probably at the end of his career, which is a damn shame.
I always wonder what could have been had he been kept with the Mariners. Would he have fulfilled his promise of being the next Home Run Legend or did Seattle see something us fans didn’t? The world may never truly know.