Today we take a look at EASILY the most successful #1 overall draft pick of the 1970's, Harold Baines, who was picked first in the 1977 draft by the Chicago White Sox.
First, take a look at the card I designed for him:
It's not often a ball club can say they were perfectly happy with their pick, even though a Hall of Famer went just two slots after him. Paul Molitor was picked by the Milwaukee Brewers at the #3 slot that year, with pitcher Bill Gullickson going second, being selected by the Montreal Expos.
Not a bad 1-2-3 roster right there. All three were productive future Major Leaguers.
But needless to say Baines and Molitor were top-notch, with Molitor eventually making the Hall of Fame, with Baines being one of those players who gets support from various baseball minds as well.
Harold Baines was up in the Majors somewhat quickly, making his debut in 1980 at the age of 21, and by 1982 was a full-fledged star in the game, hitting 25 homers and driving in 100+ runs for the first time in his career.
Over the next 18 years he was a model of consistency, racking up the hits, homers and runs batted in with a workman's pace that gave him final career numbers of: 2866 hits, 384 home runs and 1628 R.B.I.'s.
Surprisingly, when I went to brush up on his career stats this morning I saw he only scored 1299 runs in his career. Definitely a sign of the lack of support he had throughout his big league days, but still a surprisingly low total for someone with just under 10000 at-bats.
A great example of Baines staying power as a productive star in the game is the 1999 season, which he split with the Orioles and Indians. At the age of 40 all Baines did was hit 25 home runs and drive in 103 batters while hitting .312! Now THAT is one of the all-time better 40+ year old seasons in Major League history, yet easily overlooked, just like much of Baines entire career.
All told Baines suited up for 22 seasons for the White Sox, Rangers, A's, Orioles and Indians, appearing in six all-star games and winning a Silver Slugger award in 1989.
The main reason his Hall of Fame support just wasn't there was because he did play the majority of his career as a designated hitter, and we all know how BBWA voters feel about "career" DH's.
Nevertheless, Baines is far and away the most successful future Major Leaguer among all #1 overall picks in the 1970's, and many CAN still make the argument that he deserves a spot in Cooperstown.
Next up, the overall #1 pick from 1978, Bob Horner, who came into the big leagues with a "bang", but fizzled out somewhat quickly.