What a perfect baseball name. Especially in Texas.
Hank Joe Blalock was drafted by the Rangers in the 3rd round of the 1999 June Amateur MLB draft. The slugger from California was touted as a third baseman who had all the makings of a perennial All-Star.
Blalock was living up to the hype during his stint in the Rangers’ farm system. During the 2001 season with Port Charlotte, his splits were .380/.437/.557.
After his promotion to AAA Oklahoma City in 2002, the third baseman continued to prove himself. He hit at a .307/.363/.457 clip.
Blalock joined Alex Rodriguez on the left side of the infield for the 2003 season. It was his first full season in the big leagues and he didn’t disappoint. He slashed .300/.350/.522 with 29 home runs and 90 RBI.
Blalock was stellar in the field, too. The new big leaguer ranked first in defensive WAR (3.0) that season. His performance at the plate and in the field was good enough to earn him an All-Star nod.
Perhaps the most telling story on the curious case of Hank Blalock is this interesting note. Since 2000, there have only been seven players who have logged a season of at least .300 BA, 20 HR, and a WAR of 5.o within their first two full seasons.
That list includes Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout, Jose Abreu, Corey Seager, Jeff McNeil, and Hank Blalock.
Blalock went on to be an All-Star during his 2004 campaign as well. After that season, his career went into a steady decline. Seemingly derailed by injury and a natural decline in his ability to perform at the highest level.
So, why is it that after a career of mediocrity, Blalock holds a soft spot in the baseball heart of Texas fans?
Hank Blalock sticks in most Ranger fans minds from the early aughts. His first two seasons of greatness with the club instilled lots of promise that he would be an MVP and one of the AL’s best players for years to come. His best finish in the MVP race was 18th in 2004.
Additionally, he was a mainstay in the lineup when the Rangers were bad, but fun to watch. This was the era of A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, and Michael Young.
Perhaps first impressions mean everything and after those first two seasons, he earned himself enough credit with the fans for people to sit around and wonder, “Whatever happened to Hank Blalock? I loved that guy.”
Stats and references from https://www.baseball-reference.com/
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