Forgotten Player of the Moment – CORY SNYDER
(by ED AGNER)
Eww, the mid-to-late-80’s. The mall hair. Ozzy was evil instead of doddering. Chuck D scared a nation instead of bored it. Jason Priestly had an acting career. The..uh…well, that whole era is pretty much a blur to me. I’m certain there’s more. But I really don’t care to rehash all that, thank you. Oh, so much trash. I know if I go too far back, I’ll see a name like Milli Vanilli and…Eek!
Speaking of Milli Vanilli, much like the ersatz pop stars, the world of baseball in the late-80’s was filled with overhyped young ‘uns who resembled ATHLETES but whom, in the end, couldn’t actually, you know, PLAY baseball. You, friend, should have had a chance to at least scan through MONEYBALL by now – if not, shame on you – thusly you should know how scouts would drink the bathwater of anyone possessing the ULTIMATE of ULTIMATES: The Five Tools O’ Doom. In the mid-to-late-80’s this was especially the case.
Run like the wind, field, hit, hit with power, cannon for an arm – the unbelievable total package that…was…well…mostly unbelievable. Sure, you had the precedents set by Mantle and Mays and…umm…well…umm…not many others. It’s a nigh on impossible thing to find, really. And as difficult as the five-tool studs are to find, the REAL problem with that period’s infatuation with the five tool studs is that baseball is a game that doesn’t really require as much in the way of magnificent athletic ability as it does actual know-how of the game. Sure, having all that athletic ability is great, but if you can’t put it all together in a complete baseball playing package and/or have no real experience playing the sport, you will fail and fail miserably.
By now one must cringe when one hears the term “five-tool player.” I know I do. For every, say, Sammy Sosa there were probably 10-20 Hensely Muelens’ or Junior Felix’s or Felix Jose’s or Sil Campusano’s, etc. – now that I think of it, you probably couldn’t have swung a dead cat around the Blue Jays minor league camp in the late-80’s without hitting a good dozen supposed five-tool studs.
Eventually the fad – and resulting failures – got so preposterous that even Peter Gammons finally quit orgasming all the time when he’d hear of a new five tool stud. But for a while there…Whooo Boy! And one of the poster boys for the five-tool studs was none other than maybe the only white guy in the last 30 years to posses the proverbial total package – Cory Snyder.
Snyder could, theoretically, do it all – hit, go deep, run, throw, play multiple positions even. He sure looked like a world class athlete and, upon occasion, played like one too. Shoot, he was considered by some to be the best overall player on the 1984 Olympic Gold Medal winning baseball team that featured some kids named Mark McGwire and Barry Larkin. The Cleveland Indians sure bought into it, picking young Mr. Snyder in the first round of the ’84 draft ahead of far too many other better players. Suckers.
Snyder zoomed – perhaps too quickly – through the Indians barren minor league system on pure physical ability alone. Strike zone judgment? Phah! Who needs it? Baseball smarts? Feh! That’s for saps with no skills. Snyder could go 0-5 with 4 K’s one day, the next hit a 450 foot bomb and throw a rocket from the right field fence straight to home on the fly. Obviously, those skills that more than qualified him for the mid-to-late 80’s Indians – even if he probably should have been learning a bit more in the minors.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, Snyder teased everyone enough with the odd flashes of greatness to deserve his major league meal money. In fact, you could argue that Snyder’s ’86-88 seasons were right about the level of five-tools stud contemporaries like Ruben Sierra. But then came ’89.
Come ’89 Snyder’s lack of experience and baseball smarts were seriously exposed by major league pitchers in car-wreck fashion. Since Snyder would hack at anything, he got curveballs in the dirt, sliders in the left-hand batters box and fastballs up in his eyes – and Snyder was not afraid to swing at them all. Still, people loved his skills and thought maybe, just maybe, he could come through. People are dumb.
Snyder went the rest of George H.W. Bush’s administration without facing a hittable fastball, not that he would have known it. If it moved, he hacked. If he hacked, he was bound to miss. And the man Indians fans once thought of as the second coming of Rocky Colavito soon became the white Raul Mondesi.
The Indians gave up on Snyder quickly after the ’90 season, killing off their mid-80’s rebuilding plan based around him in favor of the FINALLY successful early-90’s rebuilding plan. While the Indians began to right their ship, Snyder skipped around from place-to-place always able to find a sucker for his promise but never able to turn his promise into any semblance of success and by ’94 he was out of baseball for good.
One would think the rise and fall of Snyder would have been a lesson for the baseball powers that be, but if you read MONEYBALL or look at the Angels OF or the roster of the Reds in the Jim Bowden era or the entire Rangers minor league system, you know that’s not the case. Scouts still drool over THE FIVE TOOLS O’ DOOM and now and again you’ll still hear of Gammons calling the next Toe Nash or Cory Snyder or Alex Escobar the new Willie Mays – and you just know how THAT will turn out.
So my advice to you all is to feel free to shed a tear then when you hear of your favorite team drafting their next TOOLSY PLAYA WITH UPSIDE~! because it just is never pretty. Never. Ever.
On the bright side, I hear Snyder has become quite the exceptional slow-pitch softball player which is odd considering that Snyder couldn’t hit the slow curve to save his life when he was getting paid for it but…there ya go.
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