38. Gregg Olson, RHP (1988-1993)
1989 American League Rookie of the Year
Gregg Olson had some damn good years as a closer for the Orioles. He had a wicked heater and a knee-bending curve. Olson was drafted by the Orioles out of Auburn with the fourth pick of the 1988 draft, and got his first taste of big league action that season, throwing ten games in relief with a 3.27 ERA.
The next season, he wound up the closer, and he was dominant, posting a 1.69 ERA with 27 saves and 90 strikeouts in 85 innings. Olson became the first relief pitcher to win the AL Rookie of the Year award, and suffered no sophomore jinx in 1990, with a 2.42 ERA and 37 saves.
Olson's worst year as an Oriole was still pretty good. In 1991, he had 31 saves and a 3.18 ERA. The next season, he was back in form, 2.05 ERA and 36 saves.
1993 was the pivotal year for Olson's career. He was having his best season to date (1.60 ERA, 29 saves) when he tore an elbow ligament in August. Come negotiation time, the O's decided to pass on Olson and go with free agent Lee Smith as their closer. Smith stayed one strike-shortened season and was pretty good. Olson, on the other hand, was never really the same.
Olson signed with the Braves, but the elbow was still in bad shape, and he threw just 14 2/3 innings in '94. The Indians signed him in March of 1995, then sold him to Kansas City. And that was only the beginning.
After finishing 1995 with the Royals, Olson signed with the Cardinals, had a bad spring, and was traded to Detroit. Detroit then traded him to Houston. After that season, he signed with the Twins, got released in May, and went back to Kansas City. Five teams in two years.
The expansion Diamondbacks signed him in 1998, and he wound up closing again. He wasn't what he used to be, but he turned in a commendable performance (3.01, 30 saves). The next year with Arizona, he saved 14 more games, then signed a two-year deal with the Dodgers, where he was again plagued by injury. Olson pitched his final game on June 22, 2001, and retired after his age 34 season.
Had Olson's arm not exploded on him at 26, who knows how good he could have been? He was putting up fantastic numbers. Closers flame out all the time, and it's quite possible that Olson simply would've become ineffective anyway. But there's also a decent chance, probably, that Olson could've become one of the great closers. He had the stuff. But there are no guarantees, obviously. As rookies, Olson and Huston Street match up pretty well. So watch out, Huston Street fans, because Gregg Olson happens.
1st, Saves (160)