Friday, August 3, 2012

#203 Mike Morgan - New York Yankees

Mike Morgan appears here on his first solo card.  He shared a prospect card with two other Oakland A's in the 1980 set.  The 22 year-old Morgan looks quite young here in pinstripes.  He was traded to the Blue Jays in December of '82 so this card was outdated by the time it hit the shelves.

Player: Rushed to the majors just days after he graduated from high school, Mike Morgan went on to have an unusual career that spanned four decades. Morgan, who was drafted fourth overall in '78, pitched in parts of two seasons for the A’s. Clearly not ready for major league action (6.12 ERA in 89.2 innings), he took refuge in the minors for the ’80 and ’81 seasons. During his stay in the minors he was dealt straight up to the Yankees for infielder Fred Stanley.

The Yankees kept him with the big league team all year in ’82 and he made 23 starts and also pitched in long relief. He struggled with the Yankees (91 ERA+ in 150 innings) especially putting batters away, walking (67) nearly as many he struck out (71). After the season he was included in the Dale Murray– Fred McGriff trade which landed him in Toronto. After 45 unimpressive innings with the Jays in ’83 he spent all of ’84 and most of ’85 in the minors.
Seattle picked him up in the Rule V draft and he spent the ’86-’87 seasons as a mainstay in the Mariners rotation. Unfortunately the Mariners were not that good and Morgan received little support. He compiled a 23-34 record with ERAs in the mid 4’s. He showed glimpses of greatness with three shutouts and was durable with 17 complete games over the two seasons.
Morgan was dealt to the Orioles in ’88 but a 5.43 ERA in 71 innings was a step backwards for the righthander. Traded again to the Dodgers, Morgan had his most consistent success in LA. Over the ’89-’91 seasons he won 33 games, logged 600 innings, posted a nifty 3.06 ERA, and led the NL with 4 shutouts in 1990.
Morgan left the Dodgers for the Cubs as a free agent following the 1991 season. His first year in the Windy City was superb as he posted a 2.55 in 240 innings to go with a career best 5.2 WAR and 16 wins. His ERA jumped to 4.03 in ’93 and skyrocketed over six in ’94. After a good start to the ’95 season, the Cubs traded Morgan to the Cardinals where he would perform moderately well in 17 starts.
The veteran hurler then bounced around to Cincinnati, Minnesota, back to Chicago, Texas, and settled in Arizona in 2000. The nomadic Morgan pitched well enough to get traded often to a pitching needy team that was looking to add depth to their rotation or pen. The results were up and down, and at his best he was usually just above league average. At age 38 he finally got a taste of the postseason, pitching 1.1 innings of scoreless relief as the Cubs bowed out in the ’98 NLCS.
Pitching for his 12th franchise (at the time a record) Morgan won a World Series in 2001 with the D-backs. He provided 4.2 innings of scoreless relief against the Yankees as he allowed just one baserunner in three games. Morgan now pushing 43 years of age at the end of the 2002 season, retired with a career 141-186 record, 4.23 ERA (97 ERA+), and 2,772 innings pitched over 22 seasons of major league action that spanned 25 years. His career list of transactions can be found here.

Flipside:  Despite walking 49 against 42 strikeouts in AAA, the A's still recalled Morgan in '79 and he fared even worse against seasoned hitters.  In 77 innings he walked 50 and struckout just 17.

Oddball:  Morgan's debut in '78 was just five days after he was drafted.  According to this article, A's catcher Jim Essian sternly warned Morgan before his June 11 debut to throw whatever pitch he indicated.  The raw Morgan responded that he only had a fastball.  Somehow the fresh faced 18 year-old pitched a complete game but lost 3-0.
Yes, that's right, five days after he was drafted he pitched a complete game, faced 39 batters, gave up ten hits, and didn't strike anyone out.  I couldn't find an actual pitch count but a an estimator puts it at 139.  After getting thrashed in his next two starts the A's sent him down to AAA. 

History:  Clearly rushed to the majors because A's owner Charlie Finley needed an attendance boost, Morgan became the ultimate survivor.  Despite his journeyman status, he pitched a scoreless inning in the '91 All-Star game and won a World Series ring.

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