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  • In the End, was John Jaha a Disappointment?

    Matt Breen

    The 1990s were a wasteland for the Milwaukee Brewers franchise (thanks, Sal Bando). It began a run of 14 straight years without a winning record. But that doesn't mean all was lost. Fans would be teased by the occasional winning streak, and the flashes of greatness. One of the primary figures on the club during this time was slugging 1B John Jaha, a late bloomer who's successes were matched (if not equaled) by his injuries.

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    John Jaha was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1966. He was a 14th round pick by the Crew out of high school in 1984. He split his time between third and first in the minors, but settled in at the latter position by the time he reached the majors. Early in his pro career, Jaha struggled to escape the lower rungs of the minors. He put up solid, but unspectacular numbers, in part because he missed significant time after injuring his Achilles, an injury that would bother him the rest of his career. However, after a big 1989 in A-ball, he was on a steady track to Milwaukee.

    The big first baseman displayed excellent all around hitting skills - hitting for average, power and taking a lot of walks. He put up massive numbers at AA-El Paso and at AAA-Denver (both notorious hitters havens), and in 1992 he got his first trip to Milwaukee. The next season, at age 27, he was club's starting first baseman.

    Jaha hit double digit HRs for the next five seasons, including 34 in 1996, and twice hit .300 or better. Unfortunately, he was hurt as often as he was healthy; he had nine stints on the DL during his major league career. He only made it into more than 88 games twice during his seven years with the Brewers. His 1996 season was his high water mark. In addition to 34 home runs, he drove in 118 runs, hit .300 and had an OPS of .941.

    But injuries and less-than-stellar conditioning took their toll on Jaha, and his time in Milwaukee ended following the 1998 season after he hit only 7 HRs and a mere .208. He was 32.

    Jaha signed with the Oakland A's the next season, and for one season, caught lightning in a bottle as he slugged 35 HRs and produced a .970 OPS while making the All-Star team. But Jaha's nemesis, injuries, would catch up to him. He was only in 35 games over the next two years. He retired after the 2001 season at age 35.

    In his seven years in Milwaukee, Jaha hit 105 HRs and produce an OPS of .824. He was a part of a some good hitting (but poor pitching) teams during his Brewer years, and produce some memorable moments during some bad seasons.

    Jaha was, ultimately, a disappointment for Milwaukee. While he had some nice (even excellent) seasons, his inability to stay healthy made him more of a tease than a star. In addition to the Achilles injury, he tore his groin, and had his shoulder surgically repaired.

    Another thing to mention are the steroid accusations against Jaha. He spent time with Oakland and played with admitted steroid users at the time (the Giambis). His out-of-the-blue all-star season in 1999 has made people speculate that he was a PED user. However, nothing has ever been brought forth more than accusations, and Jaha has never said anything on the subject.

    After retiring, Jaha moved back to his home state of Oregon, and remains involved in baseball by running a sports and recreation facility. His son played college baseball at Oregon.

    Jaha was added to the Brewer Wall of Honor in 2014, and he was inducted in the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 2020.

    Please share your memories of former Brewer slugger John Jaha.

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    For a 14th-round pick, John Jaha was not a disappointment.

    For a team like the Brewers, finding talent in the later rounds of the draft is vital.

    In a way, I wish the draft was closer to 30 or 40 rounds still.

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    I watched a lot of 90's baseball and never thought of Jaha as a disappointment, more of an over achiever. He didn't make the majors until his late 20's and never had huge expectations. Would have been nice if he stayed healthy but out of his control. By the time he left for Oakland he was 33 and out of the Brewers plans.

    I would consider his teammate Dave Nilsson more of a disappointment, expected more of him and when he finally reached his talent level he left the Brewers at 29.

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    My recollection is that Jaha was hurt all the time. Then, much like Cal Eldred,   immediately after going to a new team he stayed healthy and was terrific, until injuries got  him again. 

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