We have recently been revisiting the No. 1 overall picks from each decade. Having already taken a look at 2010-19, 2000-09, the 1990s and the 1980s, let’s turn our attention to the ’70s. As you’ll see below, when it comes to top overall selections, it was a disappointing decade…
1970 – Mike Ivie, C, Padres:
- There were only two eventual All-Stars from the opening round of the ’70 draft, and Ivie wasn’t one of them (those honors went to Darrell Porter and Bucky Dent). But that’s not to say Ivie didn’t have his moments. He was a 27-home run hitter with the Giants in 1979, and ended up slashing a decent .269/.324/.421 (108 wRC+) with 81 homers and 7.5 fWAR in a combined 2,962 plate appearances with the Pads, Giants, Astros and Tigers from 1971-83. While Ivie was drafted as a catcher, he saw almost no action there in the bigs, instead getting the majority of his reps at first base.
1971 – Danny Goodwin, C, White Sox:
- George Brett (29th) and Mike Schmidt (30th) are among the luminaries from this draft class. But the White Sox went with Goodwin, whom they failed to sign because he chose to play college baseball instead. They weren’t the last team to make the mistake of taking him at No. 1. More on that later.
1972 – Dave Roberts, 3B, Padres:
- No, not the current Dodgers manager, who also happens to be an ex-Padres player and skipper. Aside from pitcher, the Dave Roberts who went No. 1 played every position on the diamond during his career from 1972-82, but he never provided the Padres, Rangers, Astros or Phillies much value as a hitter. Roberts batted .239/.286/.357 (81 wRC+) with 0.6 fWAR in 2,189 trips to the plate.
1973 – David Clyde, LHP, Rangers:
- Clyde garnered tons of hype coming out of high school, but injuries played a role in what became a letdown of an MLB career. He appeared with the Rangers in five different seasons and only managed a 4.63 ERA with 4.93 K/9 against 3.89 BB/9 over 416 1/3 innings. Clyde went two picks before Robin Yount and three ahead of Dave Winfield. Yount and Winfield are now in the Hall of Fame.
1974 – Bill Almon, SS, Padres:
- The Padres had three of the first five No. 1 overall picks of the ’70s, but none of them turned out particularly well. Almon had a long career – he played with San Diego, the White Sox, Oakland, Pittsburgh, the Mets, Philadelphia and Montreal from 1974-88 – but hit a meek .254/.305/.343 (82 wRC+) with 2.5 fWAR in 3,659 PA. The Padres chose Almon four picks before the Braves hit a home run (398 of them, to be exact) with Dale Murphy at No. 5.
1975 – Danny Goodwin, C, Angels:
- You have to be a pretty good prospect to go No. 1 twice in a half-decade, but Goodwin never made a mark in the majors. The former catcher spent just about all of his time in the field as a first baseman and hit .236/.301/.373 (84 wRC+) with minus-1.2 fWAR across 707 PA among the Angels, Twins and Athletics. If it’s any consolation for the Angels, not one of that year’s other 23 first-rounders ever made an All-Star team.
1976 – Floyd Bannister, LHP, Astros:
- Bannister enjoyed a nice career with the Astros, Mariners, White Sox, Royals, Angels and Rangers from 1977-92, during which he combined for a 4.06 ERA and 30.8 fWAR in 2,388 innings. He was a one-time All-Star during that run; notably, he’s the father of Brian Bannister, who also pitched in the majors. Brian’s now the director of pitching for the Giants.
1977 – Harold Baines, OF, White Sox:
- Baines is the lone Hall of Famer in this group, though there has been plenty of debate over whether he should actually be in Cooperstown. Regardless, you can’t deny Baines put up a far better career than most who have set foot on an MLB diamond. As a member of several teams (mostly the White Sox) from 1980-2001, Baines batted .289/.356/.465 (119 wRC+) with 389 homers and 38.4 fWAR in just under 11,100 PA.
1978 – Bob Horner, 3B/1B, Braves:
- Horner had an odd career, but it was a pretty solid one. After posting a line of .278/.339/.508 (127 wRC+), hitting 215 homers and recording 19.4 fWAR in Atlanta from 1978-86, he left to play in Japan in ’87. Horner was tremendous that year with the Yakult Swallows, but he returned stateside the next season to join the Cardinals. Horner struggled then, though, and it proved to be his last season. Years later, he was a key figure in a fight against MLB owners’ collusion.
1979 – Al Chambers, OF, Mariners:
- The last No. 1 selection of the decade didn’t live up to the pick at all. Chambers totaled a meager 141 PA in the majors, all with the Mariners from 1983-85, and hit .208/.326/.292 (77 wRC+) with two HRs and minus-0.5 fWAR.
Love Harold Baines.
Now answer the question. Why were so many number ones in the 1970s busts? Poor player scouting?
Jimmy Johnson’s Ghost
Simple answer….. Cocaine
I doubt it was poor player scouting. I’d say it was more players looking better than they were based on inferior competition. Back then they didn’t have All Star teams that played against the best competition or the Cape Cod League or anything else. They just had to watch high school prospects compete against random high school kids and hope that the dominance they had against future factory workers would hold up against the best competition in the world. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
That sounds like poor scouting.
Cape Cod League is over 100 years old.
I’d guess it’s outdated scouting and lack of analytical data. Analytics weren’t used at all until the mid 80’s Each decade it seems that teams were better at predicting future success. Still far from perfect, but even the early picks in the last decade have a really high success rate. As our scouting and analytical models get better, I’d assume that teams would become even more accurate.
I have mixed emotions with Baines. Happy for him he received an honor a very small percentage of players received, but his numbers are obviously debatable and I don’t think it’s fair for Harold to have angst and criticism surrounding his career when he was just a downright solid player for a 20 year stretch. Not his fault the baseball hall of fame committee might be the worst in pro sports (most controversy anyways).
Anyways, article just goes to show how crazy the amateur process is in baseball compared to other sports. Doesn’t matter if you’re the #1 pick or the last pick, your road to the show is relatively the same and it’s just so interesting to see how many #1 picks don’t even make a sound in the big leagues
Solid comment. I loved watching Baines when I was a kid, and an aberration from the veterans’ committee changes none of that.
Good take. What an odd cross to bear, an achievement that should garner fanfare and congratulations was met with mild shock, confusion and criticism. Surely it’s not the magnitude of burden that, say, Bill Buckner had to live with, but Baines’ induction was met with the scrutiny of a contested wedding.
How is Baines in the hall ahead of Fred McGriff?
He retired 3 years before him. Fred will get in eventually
If Harold had just 134 more hits (which is not that many over a 21 year career) then most would have no issue with him being in the hall of fame. Baseball is all about its arbitrary milestones. I love these arbitrary milestones too but lets call them what they are
Baines would likely have had 3000 hits were it not for the 1981 and 1994 strikes. That took out the equivalent of an entire season for him. He was averaging around 175 hits a season back then. McGriff would have also easily surpassed 500 homers as well. He only needed 7 and 1994 was his prime. He would have easily hit 7 in 2 months.
I do have to take issue with one thing. They are not arbitrary milestones, they are actual historical milestones. Unless you want to get technical, in which case “arbitrary milestones” is a redundant phrase anyway. In my opinion, it only really gets arbitrary when ESPN or some other talking head starts talking about someone being the first with 45 doubles and 92 walks before July 13th in an even numbered year. THAT is arbitrary. But 500 homers and 3000 hits and 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts have been milestones long enough to no longer really be considered arbitrary.
They’re gonna have to bring that 300 wins down to 250 or so because modern pitchers just aren’t racking up those numbers. Just look at Felix Hernandez. Came in at 19 and everybody thought that guy would win 300. Now it would be a miracle for him to hit 200.
That had more to do with the team he played on than the era he’s pitching in.
Several pitchers in the past had the bad luck of being stuck playing for horrible teams. Especially the Marlins and Royals.
With Baines in the Hall, how good does the case for Johnny Damon look?
The argument that Player A should be in the Hall because he was better than Player B who IS in the Hall, by itself is a pretty weak argument. Especially if your Player B is someone like Baines whose HOF worthiness is, at best, debatable.
The Baines debate is similar to the outcry when Billy Williams went in. I remember one sports writer balking and saying it’s the Hall of Fame, NOT the “Hall of the Very Good”. How about Jamie Moyer with 269 wins? He pitched into his 40’s with a high school fastball. He was amazing to watch. Sort of a left handed Maddux. Does he belong in the HOF or in the “Hall of the Very Good?”
Just for fun I checked a few others pics
#2 picks in the 70’s – just 2 cracked 20 WAR – Lloyd Moseby, and Bill Gullickson. John Stearns was close at 19.7
#3 saw Paul Molitor in ’77, Robin Yount in ’73, and a very solid ML’er in Lonnie Smith (38 WAR) in ’74.
#4 Dave Winfield ’73, Darrell Porter 40 WAR in ’70, Mike Morgan ’78 26 WAR.
#5 had Dale Murphy in ’74, and no others who cracked 2 WAR.
Baines was 38.7 bWAR as an FYI – so basically he was as valuable as Lonnie Smith who I can’t imagine ever getting put into the HOF.
Appreciate the additional information.
1970’s was before my time.
A lot of these players were already in the league when I started paying attention to the sport in the late 80’s as a child.
Murphy even has two MVPs to his name and the highest Baines ever placed was 9th in voting. If you look at the first rounds in this decade you’ll find about a dozen guys who had similar or better careers that will never make the Hall. Heck, Chet Lemon has a career 55 WAR, just showing how absurd it is that Baines made it into the Hall.
Playing devil’s advocate…
MVP like Cy Young and Gold Glove voting was horrible in the 1980s
Don’t look at any of those things….
Baseball Reference isn’t the only place that calculates a player’s value.
Do we allow Baseball Reference to decide who is HoF worthy based on their WAR stat.
This idea that Dale Murphy is way better than Harold Baines..
Don’t know about that.
I wouldn’t be surprise if the Veterans Committee brings in Murphy as well.
I just think Baines had more people speaking on his behalf.
MVP like Cy Young and Gold Glove voting was horrible in the 1980s
Don’t look at any of those things….
No offense, but that’s so subjective it’s silly. You can say that about any decade.
I believe Baines got in because of Tony LaRussa. I like Baines, met him and he was a great guy, but he is in no way, shape or form a HOFer. Someone above pointed out Jamie Moyer and his 269 wins. Just because you play for a long time and can stack your numbers doesnt’ mean you’re worthy. Baines was never a dominant player, and on top of that was a DH too.
Not saying BR should decide who is in and who is not, but if someone has 30 some odd WAR by their measure and guys with 60 need to fight to get in then how the heck is Baines in? Murphy vs Baines – no question who had a higher peak as Murphy led in OPS once, Slg twice, RBI’s twice, HR twice, runs once. 7 time all-star, 2 time MVP. 398 HR, viewed by most during his prime as a future HOF’er. Baines? Once led in Slg%. 3 times cracked 100 in RBI’s (never led), Peak of 29 HR, 403 OBP, 541 Slg 313 BA – all nice figures if done in a season might get you some MVP consideration but that was his absoute best. 6 All-Star Games (more than I though), 4 times got MVP votes but never higher than 9th. 384 HR lifetime – if you are a pure DH that is low production with your one skill.
I have serious trouble seeing Baines as a HOF’er. Murphy has a peak argument at least. No serious baseball analyst would put Baines in the HOF before a few hundred other players.
Baines was a better player than Chet Lemon. He just gets punished on WAR for being a full time DH before it was cool to be a full time DH.
The thing that hurts Baines in conversation is he played mostly DH and never won a title but he was a helluva ballplayer and was a good outfielder before injuries. I remember when he was traded to Texas (my team), he was so popular in Chicago that they retired his number immediately. He was only halfway through his career!
Baines was the 1st elite DH. If modern day (minimum position / mostly) DH’s are going to get in the HOF Baines DEFINITELY “belongs” in the HOF. Another way to look at it, until inter league games became everyday occurrences, no mostly AL pitcher’s should be elected because they NEVER hit. All they did was pitch.
Baines was no more an elite DH than I was an elite ballplayer (I wasn’t). His 144 OPS+ peak was 1 point better than Cliff Johnson had at 36 as a DH for Toronto. Jim Rice was a full-time DH in 1977 with a 147 OPS+ and was used as a DH a lot over his entire career (probably should’ve been DH more often). Frank Thomas was playing late in Baines career and was a DH. To make Baines the first elite DH you really, really, really have to stretch.
Lonnie and Dale should be in the hall and Baines should not.
Lonnie Smith should be in the HOF? Please delete your account from this forum.
I don’t believe I’ve ever heard someone suggest that Lonnie Smith belonged in the HOF. Interesting take
Lloyd Moseby – love the Shaker!
He was a good player. A shame the Jays screwed around with him and Bell in ’88. His career ended far too soon.
Most value the Astros received from Bannister was trading him for Craig Reynolds.
Reynolds returned home to Houston and gave them 10 years of decent shortstop play.
Craig Reynolds sure was the ol’ reliable for the ‘Stros back then, I remember that he was called upon when Dickie Thon got hit in the eye
In the description for ‘71 it says they weren’t the first team to pick Goodwin first overall but it should say they weren’t the last
That would be redundant and unnecessary.
I don’t think you are understanding what Ryjo34jones is saying. The article is incorrectly stating that another team had drafted Goodwin #1 overall BEFORE the White Sox in 1971
How about a series now on the best picks from each draft?
I can dig it
People forget Horner went straight from college to the MLB. I think he’s the last position player to do so and Mike Leake is the last pitcher.
Horner most definitely was not the last position player to go directly to the majors after being drafted. In fact, that same year the Blue Jays drafted high school catcher Brian Milner in the seventh round and he went directly to the bigs for his pro debut. However, he was sent down after just two games and never made it back.
In 1985, Montreal drafted Pete Incaviglia with the No. 8 pick in the first round. After he refused to play in the minors, the Expos wound up trading him to Texas in November. His pro debut came with the Rangers on Opening Day 1986.
In 1989, Toronto drafted Washington State junior John Olerud in the third round. He intended to return to college for his senior season, only changing his mind when the Blue Jays gave him a big bonus and agreed to have him go directly to the majors. He made his debut that September, and in his 17-year career he played just three games in the minors: in Triple-A on a rehab assignment in 2005 – his final season.
Lastly, as lowtalker1 mentioned, Xavier Nady made his brief pro debut in the majors in 2000 after San Diego drafted him in the second round that summer. Nady got one pinch-hit AB in the second-to-last game of the season, and didn’t return to the Padres until ’03.
Six pitchers were drafted after Horner and skipped the minors before making their MLB debut:
Mike Morgan (Athletics, No. 4 overall, 1978); Tim Conroy (Athletics, No. 20, 1978); Jim Abbott (Angels, No. 8 overall, 1989), Darren Dreiftort (Dodgers, No. 2 overall, 1993), Ariel Prieto (Athletics, No. 5 overall, 1995) and Leake (Reds, No. 8 overall, 2010).
This does not include Chan Ho Park, who debuted with the Dodgers in 1994 without any minor league work after signing as an amateur free agent in January while he was a college sophomore in South Korea.
giants number 1 fan
Ivie hit the first home run I saw at a big league game, my second game, a PH Grand Slam against the Dodgers, one of the most iconic HRs in Giants history.
Almon once had 41 errors in a season at shortstop. That could make him arguably the worst modern defensive SS. He was moved to third the next year and replaced at short by the best modern defensive SS, Ozzie Smith.
I mean, you can’t go by just errors when judging a fielder. Marcus Seimen made 35 errors in 2015. Jose Valentin made 36 in 2000 and 37 in 97. Jose Offerman made 42 in 1992.
I’d say, going purely off of errors, Seimen’s season is worse than Almon’s. Position players simply field better now than 50 years ago, so committing a similar amount of errors is pretty telling. Players now have better gloves, better fields, and better training and they just don’t make as many errors as before.
The league fielding % in 2019 was 984, in 1977 (when Almon made 41 errors) it was 977. 7% is a huge number considering the amount of plays in an MLB season.
Almon wasn’t even the worst valued SS in the league in 77. Alan Bannister was worth -29 runs below average, Almon was only -5. There was 60 players below Almon that season.
wild bill tetley
Scorekeepers scored proper errors 50 years ago. Semien’s probably booted over 40 balls but thanks to today’s coddled ballplayer there are generous “hits” handed out nearly every night.
Ouch with that last Mariners pick
At least they made up for it 10 years later
wild bill tetley
After a 6 year layoff, Ivie has a career year in 1989. That is suspect.
Yeah, that’s a definite typo. His 27-HR season was in 1979.
Harold Baines belongs in the hall of good. Terrible decision putting him in the HoF.
Ya they seriously need to rework that veterans committee process. There’s something wrong when the criteria for getting in the hall of fame is being in the old boys club.
Bob Welch was a better 1st round pick in that draft and yet Baines is in the Hall. what a travesty.
Dave Roberts! The Astros signed him to a 5 year
1.3 million dollar contract
before the 1981 season
and the GM at the time
(can’t remember his name)
said “we have our utility player position settled for 5 years.”
The baseball media, fans and other teams gasped a collective
WTF? At least the ones that weren’t rolling on the floor laughing. Of course he lasted all of one year in Houston and was then traded to the Phillies.
This article brings back such memories. Thanks Connor!
Bob Horner was John Kruk before John Krurk.
Outside of both being a little pudgy, Bob Horner was nothing like John Kruk and vice versa.
As far as Baines induction into Cooperstown goes, good for him. He was a very good hitter and a class act. His peak wasnt as great as say Don Mattingly or Fred McGriff but the man is still remembered very fondly by those who saw him play.
What concerns me about his induction is that now they are most likely going to overcorrect the voting rules which will make it far more difficult for guys like Dick Allen and Fred McGriff to get in amd that is very unfortunate.
I forgot that Harold Baines is in the Hall. Probably because he’s not even close to good enough.
I commented before reading replies. You guys actually convinced me that I should celebrate Baines. He was chosen by the veterans committee. He had a very long and consistent career. I do respect the talent to be one of the top 5 best players on his team for 20 years. Solidly above average is meaningful when spread over time. While it should take nothing away from his achievement, several deserve it in before Baines: Murphy, Kent, McGriff, even Dwight Evans.
wild bill tetley
I’ll add Dave Parker to your list.
Yes, and Will Clark’s numbers were pretty amazing too, especially his sabermatrix.
Id rather face Baines over McGriff any day (if I was a pitcher). Nuff said!