I recently came across a tweet made by an old teammate of mine. He was lamenting the fact that the “College Football Playoff rankings [is] just one big recency bias.”
I can’t say I disagree with him. The playoff would currently include a two-loss Auburn team over three one-loss teams in Alabama, Georgia, and Miami. I get Alabama and Georgia, because head-to-head matchups is a thing, but Miami? Had Miami’s loss come in September and Auburn’s two-losses had come in December, would the rankings look the same?
So now, let’s talk about Bo Jackson as he turns 55 years old this week. I am a 23-year old Royals fan. I grew up watching Carlos Beltran and David DeJesus. Still, to this day, Mike Sweeney is my all-time favorite baseball player. I never watched George Brett. I don’t remember watching Kevin Appier (as a Royal, at least). And I certainly never saw Bo Jackson play.
As a Royals fan who grew up watching heaping piles of trash for baseball games, I will not deny that there is a recency bias in me that may not be there in fans that watched Bo play. I grew up hearing about Jackson’s first homer. My dad told me stories about Bo’s All-Star Game performance in 1989. Heck, I had a Bo Jackson All-Star Game MVP plaque in my room.
I was a Royals fan. So naturally, Bo Jackson was one of the guys I loved to ask about as a kid. But I never saw him play. And the Royals got good again. Non-existent memories of Bo were replaced with real memories of Alex’s Gordon World Series home runs and Eric Hosmer mad dashes. I found my amateur baseball analysis evolve, shifting from nostalgia to objective search. When the time comes, I will fight for Jarrod Dyson’s enshrinement into the Royals Hall of Fame. Yes, the guy with 12 career home runs and a .677 OPS who was never a full-time player. The younger me that defended Jose Guillen would consider that heresy. The recency bias is real, and I wanted to acknowledge that before I asked this question.
How good was Bo Jackson?
I was recently filling out the fan vote for the 50 greatest players in Royals history. I had to keep some pretty good players off my list. Bo Jackson and his career 6.5 fWAR with the Royals was not left off my list. Despite the transcendent trash that was put on the field in the 2000’s, the Royals have a fairly rich history. Their Hall of Fame has some really good players. It has long been debated whether or not Bo should be in. I have always been of the opinion that he should be.
But every time I look at his numbers from my own lens, the lens of someone who never saw him play and never saw his supernatural talent, I see a player that had a brief run as a legit power threat but that was never a great baseball player.
Consider these numbers. According to wOBA, Jackson ranks 23rd in Royals history, right behind Mark Quinn. According to OPS, Jackson ranks 19th in Royals history, right behind Johnny Damon. Similar to Salvador Perez on the offensive side of things, Bo was hampered a bit by a lack of on-base skills, with his .308 career mark in Kansas City tying him for 64th in Royals history with Jose Guillen.
Bo Jackson wasn’t a great baseball player. At least, he wasn’t yet.
I am not writing a hit piece on Bo. My childhood is chalked full of fond memories like watching his lead-off home run in the 1989 All-Star Game. It’s just intriguing to me. Bo is this sort of mythical figure in Kansas City and I hadn’t ever really questioned it until the Royals were good again and you had guys like Gordon and Cain brushing by Jackson’s career fWAR with Kansas City in single seasons.
Perhaps the Bo effect is similar to the Tyreek Hill effect. Even if Tyreek never turns into the player people think he can be, I will be telling my kids about how he was the fastest player I ever saw.
Perhaps that is what is happening. Regardless, I think recency bias has a powerful effect. And as the core that brought a title back to Kansas City begins to age and retire, they will likely begin being enshrined in the Royals Hall of Fame at a rapid rate. So if Bo wants to get in, it may have to happen very soon.
P.S. Leave your favorite Bo Jackson memories in the comment section. Maybe one of the reasons why I wrote this is because I have the same two or three highlights in my head. Reform my corrupted millennial mind.
Should Bo Jackson be in the Royals Hall of Fame?
This poll is closed