From The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, 2000:
Still, I suspect that it might be at least theoretically possible to predict Sandberg's emergence, given the right information. Sax was . . . well, he was a cutup. He had a cheeky, class-clown personality, a smart guy and a smooth talker, but perhaps with a little more humor than was helpful. Guys like that rarely become superstars . . . Mickey Mantle did; I'm sure others have. Not many.
Superstars are fiery talents like Cobb, Hornsby, Ted Williams, and Jackie Robinson, quiet guys like Musial, Brett, Aaron, Ripken, and Wagner (as a player), smoldering personalities like Reggie, Barry Bonds, DiMaggio, Cap Anson, and Al Simmons, and sharp cookies like Eddie Collins, Joe Morgan, and Tris Speaker. What unites these groups is that they all seek attention and "validation" by their success on the baseball field. What separates Sax is that he sometimes sought attention by charm, wit, and personality, as opposed to accomplishments. This would be unusual for a superstar.
Personalities are such complex things that it is difficult to generalize, and there are some sports superstars who are narcissists (Reggie, O.J., Steve Garvey, Pete Rose, Jim Brown, Dizzy Dean, Hollywood Henderson), and who seek attention from everybody all the time. Sax wasn't like that; he wasn't an obsessed guy who had to be the center of attention all the time.
Ryne Sandberg's personality was in the mold of the Musial/Aaron/Mel Ott/Willie McCovey/Charlie Gehringer type guys. You can never know everything, of course; you can never make predictions with 100% accuracy. But if you had known enough about Sax and Sandberg as 22-year-old men, I suspect that you could have made a pretty good guess about where their careers were headed.
Tags: Bill James, baseball, Moneyball