Brian "Bo" Robinson had one of the most dominant offensive seasons in Appleton Baseball history. If you look at the numbers from his 1999 season with the Timber Rattlers now, they don't seem real: a .329 batting average with 50 doubles and 103 RBI. Plus, according to a July 7, 1999 Post-Crescent article, he had reached base in 42 consecutive games. If my math is correct, that streak reached 44. He only hit 13 homers during the year and added three triples, but did that really matter?
To put that season in the metrics of the current day: His OPS (On Base + Slugging Percentage) was .965. In his 2003 season with the Beloit Snappers -- and this is strictly for comparison's sake -- Prince Fielder had an OPS of .935. Robinson's BABIP (Batting Average Balls in Play) in 1999 was .360. According to that link, the typical BABIP is .290.
He entered the 1999 season as a second year professional out of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Robinson had been picked in the 28th round of the 1998 draft and played 60 games for Everett in the Northwest League. Robinson had an okay first year as a pro with a .270 average, four homers, and 27 RBI in 60 games.
In the article mentioned above, it is noted that Robinson did not make the All-Star Game in 1999 and was a bit upset that he did not get moved up in the Seattle organization at the start of the second half. "I can't say (not getting voted in) didn't bother me," he said. "I thought I had a good enough year to make it. But, I got to go home and rest. Those three days off might have been better for me, anyway."
"In the second half, I cam back with the idea that I wanted to prove them wrong."
He would go on to be named Seattle's Minor League Player of the Year for 1999.
After helping the Rattlers reach the MWL Championship series -- and setting the still standing MWL record for doubles in a season -- Robinson was promoted to the Lancaster JetHawks for 2000. He did not have a monster season (.313-10-97) but that still earned him a promotion to San Antonio, Seattle's AA affiliate, for the 2001 season. In that season with the Missions, Robinson saw his numbers go to (.293-13-74). His doubles dropped each year after leaving the Timber Rattlers -- from 50 to 33 to 23. All the while, his games played stayed pretty constant -- from 138 to 136 to 133.
The 2002 season was Robinson's last year in the Mariner system. He was sent back to San Antonio for the 2002 season and in 116 games he was .245-3-41 with 20 doubles. Seattle let him go on October 24, 2002.
The question is why? What happened?
It looks like -- that despite his offensive outburst with the Rattlers -- Robinson was never highly thought of as a prospect. At a subscriber only link at BaseballAmerica.com, the 2000 Top Prospect list for the Mariners doesn't mention Robinson. The other infielders out of the 15 players mentioned on that list are: (#2) Carlos Guillen,(#6) Antonio Perez, (#10) Willie Bloomquist, and (#11) Peanut Williams. He is not mentioned in the Top 30 Prospects in the Seattle system as put together by Baseball America's Prospect Handbook in either the 2001 or 2002 editions.
The prospect tag may have missed him for two reasons: Age and draft position. Another reason that I'll throw out there is that picking prospects is an inexact science. Just because a player is considered a top prospect does not mean that he will have a hall of fame career. Heck, it doesn't even guarantee that he will make it to the major leagues.
Looking back at Robinson's career, he spent 1999 and 2000 as a third baseman. In 2001, he split time between third base and first base. Then, in 2002, he was at first base with the Missions. Was he blocked on his climb up the ladder?
The 2001 Mariners won 116 games with David Bell as their everyday third baseman. In 2002, Jeff Cirillo was the everyday third baseman and John Olerud was the everyday first baseman. Cirillo had been picked up in a big trade with the Colorado Rockies that sent former Timber Rattlers Denny Stark and Brian Fuentes along with Jose Paniagua away from Seattle. Cirillo was signed through the 2005 season and had a club option for 2006. Olerud was coming off two very productive seasons with the M's, but he was only signed through the 2002 season. He would test the free agent waters after the 2002 season, but in December of '02 Olerud signed another contract with Seattle that would be good through the 2004 season.
The Tacoma Rainiers, Seattle's AAA affiliate, had Todd Betts as their regular first baseman and Jason Grabowski as their regular third baseman during the 2001 season. In 2002, three players -- Nate Rolison, Juan Thomas, and Ron Wright -- split the majority of the time at first base for the Rainiers.
I think that a table might be in order for the following point:
The point is: Yes, Robinson was blocked at the major league level and -- rightly or wrongly -- at the minor league level.
From San Antonio, Robinson went on to sign with the New York Yankees in November of 2003 and played for Trenton before getting two games at AAA with Columbus. Then, the Yankees let him go. Robinson signed with Tampa for Spring Training in 2004, but did not break camp with the Devil Rays. So, he went the independent league route and played 123 games with Nashua in the Atlantic League.
St. Louis signed the former Rattler after the 2004 season and he would appear in 12 games -- mostly at first base -- with the Springfield Cardinals during the 2009 season. I'm pretty sure he was blocked at the major league level by the current Cardinals first baseman.
Robinson's last appearance in a professional game was on April 26, 2005. He pinch hit for Jordan Pals in the seventh inning of a game at Tulsa, Oklahoma. Robinson grounded into a force out and reached on a fielder's choice.
A quick search for Brian "Bo" Robinson to see what he is doing now finds this entry at On Deck Skill Development Academy in Pineville, North Carolina. He is listed as a roving instructor for all the teams at On Deck and also as the head coach of the 2011 On Deck O's.
And Bo Robinson is one of ours.
OFF-SEASON MEHRING MONDAYS: