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Chad Hutchinson: Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

Chad Hutchinson. Oh, what could have been!

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Alex Trautwig

With today being Super Bowl Sunday, I decided to write a post on a Cardinals' player with a football connection. The obvious choice would have been Brian Jordan who played safety for the Atlanta Falcons from 1989-1991. However, I was born in 1990, so I don't remember much of his 1992-1998 Cardinals' playing career.

Instead, I have chosen to write about former Cardinals' pitcher, Chad Hutchinson. Why? Because even though I am away at school right now, I could tell you the exact location of his rookie card in my room. When I pulled the card from a pack, I remember having this "good feeling" that he was going to be something special. Yeah, well that feeling was obviously squashed pretty quickly. But still, for whatever reason, there will always be a place for Hutchinson in my baseball "heart" despite the fact that his major league statistics are just plain sad:

2001: 4.0 innings pitched, 24.75 ERA, nine hits allowed, six walks, and just two strikeouts.

Let's rewind to the brighter days for Hutchinson. I found this pre-draft scouting report on him—done by the late Mike Sgobba back in 1995 while he worked for the Chicago White Sox. In the report, he classified Hutchinson as an "imposing sight on the mound" and stated that he "needs plenty of mechanical help but could be a front line starter or closer." He projected his fastball to be a 60 on the 20-80 evaluation scale. For perspective, Gordon Lakey projected Roger Clemens' fastball to be a 6 (equivalent to Hutchinson's just on a 2-8 scale instead). Sgobba ended his scouting report by saying Hutchinson "won't be around when we draft."

Turns out, he was available after all, but the White Sox passed on him at #25 because they knew he was "looking for BIG BUCKS." The Braves, one slot later at #26, drafted Hutchinson and offered him the "big bucks"—a $1.5 million signing bonus. Despite being the 26th pick, this was the second highest offer in the entire first round that year and was nearly a quarter of a million dollars higher than the deal Kerry Wood signed with the Cubs as the fourth overall pick. Hutchinson declined this generous offer (note: he was the only player in the first round not to sign that year) because he had the opportunity to play both baseball (pitcher) and football (quarterback) at Stanford University.

Well, in 1998, Hutchinson was wooed away from Stanford by the Cardinals after drafting him in the second round. They gave him a $2.3 million signing bonus—the fourth highest bonus ever handed out by the Cardinals and just $700,000 less than what the Cardinals gave their first round pick, J.D. Drew, that year. I sure hope Hutchinson thanked Scott Boras for that deal.

Hutchinson, as a somewhat polished college athlete, rocketed through the Cardinals' farm system and was named the Cardinals #2 prospect by Baseball America in 2000—just two years after being drafted. However, because of the emergence of Bud Smith and some guy named Albert Pujols, Hutchinson dropped to the Cardinals #3 prospect in 2001. After a rough major league debut at Coors Field (stat line is bolded above) that year, he was sent back down to Triple-A for the rest of the season where he struggled mightily. After such a rough 2001 campaign, he fell all the way to the #10 prospect in 2002, but this didn't really matter. He never made the trip to Spring Training that year.

From an article written by David Wilhelm on Baseball America:

Hutchinson, after struggling last season at Triple-A Memphis, decided Jan. 26 to turn his back on baseball, signing a seven-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys, one of about 20 NFL teams that had expressed interest in him.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Hutchinson, 24, was awarded a $3.1 million signing bonus. He will receive $5 million over the first three years of the deal, which are guaranteed.

"We do have some disappointment," said John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ director of baseball operations. "At least from what he told us, he had no intentions of trying out for football.

"We do wish him well. We wish he was coming to (spring-training) camp with us. But that won’t happen."

"We thought he was right on the edge of breaking through and having a successful major league career," Mozeliak said. "He had size, a great arm and he even had an outstanding out pitch. That slider was a devastating pitch."

Thus, Hutchinson moved on from baseball. Considering he had around a 1:1 K:BB ratio in the minors, it was probably a good idea. Looking at his contracts, he basically made a little over $1 million per big league inning while with the Cardinals. That's a pretty sweet gig. Sign me up! That rookie card I thought would be valuable some day is going for a measly $1.99 on ebay. His football career sure didn't add any value to it because he ended up playing in just 15 NFL games (10 for the Cowboys and 5 for the Bears). He threw 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was sacked 57 times and lost 12 fumbles. I'm not a football statistics aficionado by any means, but those don't look like very good numbers.

In an SFgate article from 2006, it appears Hutchinson went back to Stanford to get his degree after his short careers in the MLB and NFL. The article (which I consider a pretty good read if you have the time) ended with a quote from Hutchinson: "There's something out there that's going to fit my personality and strengths even more (than sports). I may find it in the business world. Maybe politics. I gotta do [politics]. That's my calling." I failed to find any articles on his career in politics. Considering he made over $10 million from two professional sports and the fact that he married Todd Walker's sister, I would hope he is doing okay for himself.