Are you kidding, Scott? The Johto starters rocked. o.o The problems were that the writers didn't do anything with them, aside from Chikorita/Bayleef.
Yeah, I'll give you Chikorita/Bayleef. It has more personality than Turtwig, which doesn't really have one to speak of. I always did think Ash's Chikorita was the cutest thing ever.
Cyndaquil and Totodile never really had personality to me. Corphish was what Totodile was probably intended to be like, so the writers got it right the second time. Noctowl, like Ash's other birds, didn't have much personality either.
Honestly, if Ash's Johto team was Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Charizard, Heracross and Phanpy...it would have been a hell of a lot more enjoyable season than it turned out.
Totodile should have went to Misty, and Brock could have captured Cyndaquil to replace Vulpix. Ash didn't need those Johto starters at all and now they're completely useless compared to his other teams. No wonder why the writers abandoned them.