Today the Orioles used the fourth overall pick in the first round of the MLB Draft to select Brian Matusz, a left-handed pitcher from the University of San Diego who just concluded a great junior season (12-2, 1.71 ERA). Though they're receiving praise from most corners of the baseball universe, and I like the pick myself, it's important that we don't get carried away here. We longtime O's fans have had our hearts broken before.
Jeffrey Hammonds was the first "can't miss" prospect that missed during my fanhood. In 1992, the Birds selected him fourth overall out of Stanford University, the same school that had given us that Mussina fellow a year earlier. Two picks after Hammonds' selection, the Yankees took some high school shortstop from Michigan, Derek something. But Hammonds was your classic five-tool player, someone who would contribute almost immediately. Plus, he had a great smile. See for yourself.
Early on, Jeffrey seemed to be all that was advertised. He was in Baltimore by midseason 1993, and was hitting .323 in early August, at which point he went on the DL with a herniated disk. But it would be the first of many injuries for the outfielder, who would surpass 100 games played in just one of his six seasons in orange and black. The Orioles finally gave up on Hammonds in 1998, swapping him for Cincinnati's own unrealized, injury-prone ex-prospect, third baseman Willie Greene. Jeffrey had one ridiculously good year in the rarified air of Colorado in 2000 but finally retired last year as a .272 career hitter, a journeyman who spent thirteen years tantalizing six teams with glimpses of what could have been, if the stars had only been aligned differently.