Monday, December 31, 2012

#274 Terry Kennedy - San Diego Padres

Terry Kennedy seems to be looking right at the camera as he follows through on his 5th Topps card.  It's tough to tell who is waiting on deck, but I'll try to narrow it down.  It seems obvious that the batter is left handed and the Padres appear to be playing a day game at Shea Stadium.  San Diego visited New York twice in 1982. Kennedy played two of three games in a May series with righty Luis Salazar penciled in behind him so that rules out Salazar.  Kennedy and the Padres returned to Shea in July for a four game set.  Kennedy started three of the four games and pinch hit in a night game.  Ruling out the night game, left handed Broderick Perkins batted behind Kennedy in the three other games solving this short mystery.  Of course that only works if this is indeed Shea Stadium.
Player: Terry Kennedy was a first round pick of the Cardinals out of Florida State University in 1977 and tore up minor league pitching topping .300 and hitting with power across four levels of play in his first two years as a pro.  He went 5 for 29 in a September '78 call up and started the '79 season back at AAA.  Kennedy was then summoned to the big leagues when Ted Simmons missed a month with an injury.  The big left handed swinging Kennedy hit .284/.319/.404 in 116 plate appearances.  
Kennedy earned a spot on the 1980 opening day roster and made 38 starts behind the plate and 26 starts in left field as the Cards tried to get his bat in the lineup.  Although he showed adequate range and made no errors Kennedy would never play outfield again in his career.  He batted .254 and the power he displayed in the minors had yet to show up as he hit just four dingers in 248 at bats. 
In an 11 player deal that involved star veterans Rollie Fingers and Gene Tenace, Kennedy landed in San Diego and became their everyday catcher for the next six seasons.  He batted .301 in '81 and although he had gap power (24 doubles good for 6th in the strike shortened schedule) he wasn't pulling the ball much and hit just two homers.  His season earned him the first of four All-Star berths.  Although he came through at the plate his biggest weakness was throwing as he committed 20 errors in just 100 games behind the dish.   
The 1982 season would be a breakout year for Kennedy.  He batted .295/.328/.486 and he began to pull the ball with authority.  He launched a career best 21 home runs, hit 42 doubles, and drove in 97 runs.  He had a similar year in '83 batting .284 with 17 HR and 98 RBI and won a Silver Slugger award.  Defensively, no one confused him for Johnny Bench but he cut his errors down to 7 and 12 in '82 and '83. 

Just as Kennedy was getting recognized as a top catcher in the Senior Circuit, mentioned with the likes of Gary Carter and Tony Pena, his offense took a big drop. He hit just .240 with only 31 extra base hits in '84 but the Padres still won the NL Pennant. Kennedy hit .222 in the NLCS and .211 with a homer and double in the World Series loss to the Tigers. Kennedy was a durable receiver, rarely taking a day off averaging 146 games as a Padre. It's a good bet the heavy workload was taking a toll on the backstop. The next two year's Kennedy hit in the .260s with 10 and 12 homers but never quite regained the level he established in the '82/'83 seasons.
After the '86 season the Padres traded Kennedy and Mark Williamson to the Orioles for Storm Davis. Kennedy was able to knock 18 balls over the fence for the O's but his gap power was non-existent as he hit just 13 doubles. As the '88 season unfolded the veteran lost playing time to Mickey Tettleton and was reduced to a platoon role. He batted just .226 with three taters in 285 plate appearances. Kennedy was dealt to the Giants before the '89 season for Bob Melvin.
Kennedy shared time behind the plate with Kirt Manwaring in '89 but was the main receiver when the playoffs rolled around. Kennedy who hit .239 with 5 HR in the regular season didn't do much in the playoffs with just 5 hits in 28 at bats as the Giants eventually lost to the A's in the World Series. Kennedy again split catching duties, this time sharing starts with fellow veteran Gary Carter. Kennedy hit .277 with 22 doubles in 303 at bats and posted an OPS+ of 100 for the first time since leaving San Diego. By 1991 the Giants gave more playing time to youngsters Manwaring and uber-prospect Steve Decker. Kennedy last season resulted a .238/.283/.339 line in 184 trips to the plate. 

Flipside: Kennedy was the 6th overall pick in the '77 draft, not bad for a guy who didn't get drafted out of high school. According to this interview, he grew seven inches between his junior and senior year and didn't play very well and drew no attention from the scouts.

Oddball: Terry's dad Bob put together a 16 year career despite an 80 OPS+ and -4.4 WAR.

History: Kennedy had back to back 4+ WAR seasons with the Padres but was probably overworked which hastened his decline. He finished his career with a .264/.314/.386 line with 113 HR in 14 seasons. He played on two pennant winners and was a four time All Star.
Kennedy has been a coach and manager in the minors since ending his playing days.  He was dismissed as the Tucson Padres manager in September.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

#273 Mark Belanger - Los Angeles Dodgers

Mark Belanger doesn't look right in a Dodger uniform.  This is his 17th and final Topps card and the only one of him not as an Oriole.  Give Topps credit for picturing Belanger in the field since that is where he earned his paycheck.
He looks much older in the inset than 38 years old.  Well at least this 37.9 year old blogger thinks so!
Player: Rarely does the "good field / no hit" tag fit an 18 year major league veteran, but it definitely applies to Mark Belanger.  Actually calling him a terrific fielder would be a more accurate description.  He was the premier defender of his time at shortstop, winning eight gold gloves between 1969 and 1978.  Signed by the Orioles in '62, Belanger had brief looks at the big league level in '65 and '66, mainly as a pinch runner.  In '67 he made the team, backing up both SS Luis Aparicio and 2B Davey Johnson.  He got into 69 games but did little with the bat, hitting just .174.
The Orioles traded Aparicio in the offseason opening the door for Belanger.  His first year as a full-timer he hit .208/.272/.248.  Although '68 is known as the year of the pitcher, a little more offense was expected from a non-pitcher.  Belanger hit .287 the next year which would turn out to be a career high.  He also hit a surprising home run in a Game 1 victory over the Twins in the ALCS. 

Belanger's offense swooned again in 1970 as he hit .218 with just 12 extra base hits in 527 plate appearances. He rebounded to a .266/.365/.320 with his OBP marking a career high in '71. His glovework along with thirdbaseman Brooks Robinson gave the Orioles a wall on the leftside of the infield and helped them to three straight pennants and a World Series victory in 1970.
When Belanger struggled with the bat in '72 he lost some playing time to Bobby Grich. He batted .186 in 313 trips to the plate but remained the O's shortstop as Grich displaced Davey Johnson the following year. Belanger hit .226, .225, .226 over the '73-'75 seasons with a career high 5 HR in '74. The Orioles lost to the A's in the ALCS in '73 and '74 with Belanger managing just two hits in 25 at bats.
In 1976 Belanger had his best all around season and earned his only All-Star appearance. He batted .270/.336/.326 with career highs in doubles (22), steals (27) and OPS+ (100). His decent year with the bat helped him to a career best 6.2 WAR. There was no mistaking Belanger for an offensive juggernaut though as his value was in his defensive prowess. Beginning in '73 he registered between 20 and 36 Total Zone fielding runs above average through the '78 season. To put that into perspective there have been 44 shortstop seasons with a 20 or better Total Zone runs and Belanger has seven of them!
Belanger fell back to more familiar territory the next few years as he batted .206 then .213. After a .115 batting average in April of '79, Belanger lost his starting job to Kiko Garcia. He would bat under .170 two of the next three years and started just two games in the Orioles '79 playoff run. In September of '81 Belanger criticized longtime skipper Earl Weaver's managerial skills and he was released in November. He signed with the Dodgers and was used mainly as a late inning defensive sub. He batted just 50 times in 54 games and retired following the season.


Flipside: Since you probably can't read this tiny font anyway, perhaps we should just skip his batting numbers and talk defense. He led AL shortstops in fielding percentage four times and range factor three times. He topped the AL in defensive WAR every year from '73 through '78.

Oddball: Six times in Septmeber of '75, Earl Weaver wrote in outfielder Royle Stillman's name at the top of the lineup in the SS position. All these games were on the road, and after Stillman led off he would be replaced in the field by Belanger. Stillman went 3 for 7 in this role but it seems Weaver abandoned the experiment afterwards.

You know how the Orioles play John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" every 7th inning? You can thank Mark Belanger and his wife for that. In the mid 70's the O's were moving away from the old organ music and trying to find a few pop songs to rile fans and the Belangers suggested the song to the Orioles PR Director.

History: Belanger had quite a career, winning a World Series ring in 1970 and eight gold gloves. Heavily weighted by his stellar defense, Belanger finished his career with 37.6 WAR in his 18 year career. If a .200 batting average is referred to as the Mendoza line, perhaps .225 should be the Belanger line. He hit .228 lifetime and batted .225 or .226 three years straight.
Belanger had a big impact in labor negotiations as he represented the Orioles for years and later as an official for the MLBPA. He passed away in 1998 from lung cancer.

1983 Topps Blog can be found on Twitter @989baseball

Thursday, December 27, 2012

#272 Frank Tanana - Texas Rangers

This card displays southpaw Frank Tanana at about the midpoint of his long career as this is the 10th of his 20 Topps cards.  The inset pic looks very similar to the action photo and at first glance it appears that Topps used a shot from a few frames earlier.  Upon closer review Tanana is wearing the Rangers powder blue jersey in the inset and home whites in the action picture.
Player: Like recent post Dennis Eckersley, Frank Tanana's career can be neatly divided into two distinct parts.  Tanana wasn't converted to a bullpen specialist, but rather had to significantly alter his pitching style when he injured his high powered arm in 1977.  Before we divide his career between flamethrower and junkballer status, let's back up to his rookie year of 1973 with the Angels.  After a year and a half of seasoning in the minors, Tanana was called up to California where he made four starts.  The 20 year-old did well with a shutout among two complete games while striking out 22 in 26 innings.
The former first round pick paired with Angels ace Nolan Ryan to give the Halos a fearsome duo that was the envy of the American League.  Tanana could bring the heat close to 100 mph and in 35 starts in '74 he posted a 3.11 ERA in 269 frames.  The next two years he K'd over 260 batters, posted ERA's of 2.63 and 2.44, and finished in the top five in Cy Young voting both years. 
Tanana was dominating AL batters in '77 when he first started having trouble with his golden arm.  His ERA was below two for the first half of the year and he was soaking up the innings like a sponge thrown into a bathtub.  In one stretch he went the distance in 14 straight games.  By the second week of September a sore triceps put him on the shelf.  His stat line for the year showed a 2.54 ERA and seven shutouts, both best in the AL.
Tanana rebounded and had a solid year in '78 despite losing a lot of zip on his previously potent fastball.  With his strikeout rate cut nearly in half he got by with good control and changing speeds.  He had eight wins before May was over and in total won 18 games with a 3.65 ERA.  Shoulder tendinitis caused a rocky first half to the '79 and eventually caused him to sit out for 11 weeks during the '79 season.  He came back in September, rejoined the rotation, lowered his ERA under four, and helped the Angels win the AL West.  Tanana went five innings in a no-decision start against the Orioles in the ALCS.
With his fastball long gone, Tanana adapted but was never the same.  He was merely average in 1980 winning 11 with a 4.15 ERA.  He was traded to the Red Sox in the Joe Rudi trade after the season.  The lefty didn't pitch terribly (97 ERA+) for Boston but little offensive support led to him winning just four of his 23 starts in the strike shortened season. 
Tanana signed with the Rangers as a free-agent prior to the '82 season but another season of low run support combined with a mediocre 4.15 ERA factored into an AL high 18 losses.  Tanana found himself in the bullpen as the '83 season commenced but after allowing just four runs in 23 innings he was back into the rotation by June.   Although his fastball was a tame 80 mph, he was an effective starter for the Rangers the next year and a half as he kept his ERA under 3.30 while he continued to throw various curveballs about 70% of the time. 
When Tanana started off the '85 season by allowing 53 runs in his first 13 starts he was traded to the Tigers for a minor leaguer.  I remember thinking Tanana was pushing 40 when the Tigers acquired him, and although his style was similar to a present day Jamie Moyer, Tanana was only 31 years old.  Now back in his hometown, he pitched better for the Tigers as his 3.34 ERA indicates.
Tanana's ERA would hover around four the next three years and he was at his best late in the '87 season.  As the Tigers overtook the Blue Jays in the last week of the season, Tanana was riding a hot streak having allowed just one run in his last 15 innings.  He was given the starting nod in game 162 with the Tigers clutching a one game lead.  Tanana delivered a six-hit shutout to seal the AL East crown.  His usual fine control evaded him in the postseason as he walked four and plunked three Twins as he lost Game 4
Tanana sandwiched a rotten '90 season with two decent years (3.58, 5.31, 3.77 ERAs).  He won 13 games in '92 marking the seventh time in his eight years in Detroit that he won double digits.  It would be his last year in Motown though as he left for the Mets as a free agent.  He ate a lot of innings but wasn't anything spectacular in New York.  A September trade to the crosstown Yankees put him in the thick of another divisional chase.  Despite three quality starts, he was 0-2 in pinstripes bringing his record for the year to 7-17.  His ERA+ of 93 showed he wasn't nearly as bad as his win-loss mark indicated but at age 40 the lefthander decided to retire. 
Flipside: Tanana' whiffed just 87 in 194 frames in '82.  His  K-rate of 4.0/9 innings would proved to be a career low.  As he refined his curveball and evolved as a junkballer his rate returned to a more respectable 4.5 - 6.0 for the rest of his career.

Oddball: In a 4-2 win over the Rangers on 6/21/75 Tanana had 17 K's through 8 innings but failed to fan a batter in the ninth inning.

Tanana was an AL pitcher for all but one year in his career and reached base just 11 times in his time with the Mets.  Yet Tanana has taught at least two NFL quarterbacks how to slide safely.  Tanana instructed his neighbor Jim Zorn how to slide early in his NFL career.  Later when Zorn was mentoring Charlie Batch, Tanana showed him how to end a scramble safely.

History:  Tanana tends to get overlooked as many discredit the latter part of his career.  He had an incredible peak posting 22.3  WAR over the '75-'77 seasons and was still a decent back of the rotation starter after his arm maladies, ending his career with a total of 52.6 WAR.  He put up some impressive career stats including 240 wins, 616 games started (18th all-time), 2,773 strikeouts (21st all-time). 
Tanana never won a World Series but will always be remembered for helping the Tigers win the AL East in '87. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

#271 Ed Romero - Milwaukee Brewers

Ed Romero appears here on his third Topps card in a posed shot in Tiger Stadium.  A cursory glance through the cards profiled thus far shows this is the third Brewer to have a posed shot in Detroit.  The camera man on the West Coast was on the ball though as we’ve seen four Brewers in action in Anaheim.    Romero's face seems to be playing host to a trio of thick black caterpillars.
Player: Ed Romero signed with the Brewers as a 17 year-old free agent in 1975 and was still a teenager when he made his MLB debut in '77.  The young Puerto Rican started nine games in place of injured SS Robin Yount and held his own batting .280 in 25 at bats before returning to double-A for the rest of the year.  Romero had to wait until June 1980 before he got another chance in Milwaukee.  This time he stuck around in a utility role and showed plus range but made 11 errors in 104 chances at SS.  He batted .260 and slugged his first homer in the last game of the year.
Romero served a similar reserve role for the Brew Crew over the next few seasons.  After batting just .197 in '81 he improved to .255 in '82 and .317 in '83, all the while batting less than 170 times each year.  He appeared briefly in the '81 LDS with one hit in two at bats against the Yankees.  Although the Brewers made it to the World Series the next year, Romero had to cheer from the bench the entire time.
The following year would prove to be Romero's most active season as the Brewers struggled to fill the void left when Paul Molitor went down with a season ending elbow injury in April.  Romero started 40 games at thirdbase and 39 games at shortstop and batted .252/.307/.292 in 397 plate appearances.  His rate stats were similar in '85 but he didn't play as often and was shutout of the HR column after hitting exactly one five years in a row.
After the '85 season Milwaukee traded Romero to Boston for reliever Mark Clear.  Clear saved 16 games and earned 2.5 WAR in '86 for the Brewers and could have been another arm at the Red Sox disposal in the postseason.  Romero filled in around the infield while batting .210/.270/.283 in 233 at bats and posting -0.9 WAR.  He was 0-3 in the postseason and was mainly used as a pinch runner and defensive sub after starting SS Spike Owen was lifted for a pinch hitter.  He hit a little better in '87 with a .272 average but was rarely used afterwards.  He played in just 31 games in '88 and was released in August of '89 after batting just 113 times.   
Romero finished out the '89 season with a handful of games with the Braves and the Brewers.  He played for the Tigers in 1990 and was released in July after batting .229 in 80 trips to the plate.  He played one more year in the minors before hanging up his cleats. 

Flipside: All four of Romero's highlights came in a ten day span.  That doesn't even include Romero's RBI single on June 11 that broke a 6-6 tie to give the Brewers the lead and eventual win over the Tigers.  His Win Probability Added of .304 is more than the other four games combined.

Oddball:  Utility infielders get no love.  Romero played twelve years in the majors and wore nine different uniform numbers.  The poor guy must have been bullied into surrendering his number often. 

History:  Romero was a replacement level infielder, well at -5.6 career WAR, even worse than replacement level. His defense doesn't look all that great when looked at with Total Zone (-50) and his lifetime 67 OPS+ is proof enough he was no slugger.  Even though he's listed at a slender 150 lbs on the back of his card, he was no rabbit either.  He had just one triple in his career and was 9/19 in steal attempts.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

#270 Dennis Eckersley - Boston Red Sox

Dennis Eckersley's 8th Topps shows a great action shot of Eck in his follow through.  I love the red and blue borders for the Red Sox as well as the Green Monster in the background.

Player: Dennis Eckersley had an extraordinary career that spanned 27 professional seasons.  It all began with the Indians drafting the 17 year-old in 1972.  After three seasons in the minor leagues he made the big league roster in '75.  He initially joined the team as a bullpen arm despite having exclusively started in the minors.  After 14.1 innings without allowing an earned run, he joined the rotation on May 25 and threw a three-hit shutout in his hometown of Oakland against the A's.  He didn't allow an "earnie" until his 29th inning which is quite a way to start a career.  He won 13 games with a 2.60 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 186 innings.
Eck was the Indians opening day starter in '76 and had a decent follow up to his rookie campaign.  Despite a slump that saw him spend most of July in the pen he still won 13 games, K'd 200 in 199 frames and limited batters to a .214 batting average.  In '77 Eckersley threw an 11 inning three-hit shutout on April 30, a no-hitter on May 30 , and a one-hitter on August 12.  Pitching for a fifth place Cleveland team he won just 14 games, but made his first All-Star team.  The major breakthrough for the young hurler was a result of his improved control as he cut his walk rate from 4.3 and 3.4 walks / 9 innings his first two years to 2.0. 

The Indians traded their young star before the start of the '78 season to the Red Sox. Whether you believe the Indians traded him because they knew teammate Rick Manning stole Eck's wife or not, the trade seemed strange. Measured by WAR Eckersley had his two best years as a starter in Boston with 7.0 and 6.9 seasons. He had identical 2.99 ERAs both years winning 20 games in '78 and 17 in '79. He struggled with back problems the next two years as reflected by his ERA which jumped over four in both '80 and '81. He continued to battle back problems and spasms in his right bicep but rebounded somewhat with a 13 win, 3.73 ERA season in '82.
The 1983 season was a disaster with Eckersley allowing 223 hits and 27 homers in 176 innings. When things failed to improve in '84 he was traded to the Cubs for Bill Buckner on 5/25. He pitched much better for the Cubs with an ERA just a shade over three the rest of the year which helped the Cubs win the NL East. He was roughed up in his first postseason action, allowing five runs in a loss against the Padres in the NLCS. Shoulder tendonitis limited him to 25 starts in '85 but he was effective when healthy with a 3.08 ERA (128 ERA+). Eckersley's battle with alcoholism began to wear on him as did his weakened shoulder and he had a disappointing year in '86. Although healthy enough to start 32 games he won just six with a 4.57 ERA (88 ERA+).
Eckersley sought treatment for his alcoholism in the offseason, dedicated himself to physical fitness, and got a fresh start when he was traded to the A's on the verge of the '87 season. At first used in middle relief with a couple of spot starts, Eckersley was given some save opportunities and did well. With Jay Howell experiencing shoulder troubles of his own, the A's gave Eckerlsey a shot and he responded with 16 saves and a 3.03 ERA in 115 innings.
A's pitching coach Dave Duncan thought Eckersley was best off used in one or two inning save situations and that's exactly how the A's began to use him. The career changing move paid off in '88 as he saved 45 games, with a 0.867 WHIP in 72 innings. Of course Eckerlsey is well remembered for surrenduring the game ending home run to Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the World Series that year. The event led to Eck coining the term "walk-off".
From '88 through the '92 season Eckersley was the preeminent closer in baseball. Starting with the '89 season he posted ERA's of 1.56, 0.61, 2.96, and 1.91. Prefer WHIP? His marks in that category 0.607, 0.614, 0.908, 0.913! He saved 175 games in that span including 51 in '92 culminating in dual Cy Young / MVP honors. Eck wasn't overpowering but had superb control, able to nip the corner with his 90 mph fastball seemingly at will. His command so great that he issued just six unintentional walks in 131 innings in the '89-'90 seasons.
Eck redeemed himself in '89 postseason allowing just one run in 7.1 innings in the as the A's won the World Series. The next year he pitched well in the playoffs until allowing the game winning run against the Reds in a pivotal loss that gave Cincinnate a 2-0 edge in the Fall Classic. He continued his up and down postseason performance with a blown save in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays in '92. This put the A's down 3-1 when Toronto eventually won in extra innings.
Eckersley remained the A's closer three more years but began to decline in '93 as his ERA ballooned to 4.16 and stayed north of four in '94 and '95. Eckersley was traded to the Cardinals after the '95 season joining former A's skipper Tony LaRussa and pitching guru Dave Duncan who were now in St. Louis. They squeezed some more quality innings from the aging hurler who was now on the wrong side of 40. He posted respectable ERA's and saved 59 games in two years for the Redbirds. Eckersley threw seven scoreless innings in the '96 playoffs but the Cards were eliminated by the Braves in the NLCS.
The 43 year-old Eckersley signed with the Red Sox for the '98 season and was used as a situational reliever. Usually a stat reserved for lefty specialists, Eck appeared in 50 games but logged just 39 innings. He had the same great control but his pitches had lost their zip and he allowed 46 hits including six homers. Eckerlsey called it a career in December when the Red Sox didn't offer him a contract.


Player: The April 10whitewashing was on Opening Day, I bet some of the Oriole fans out there remember that game with disdain.


Oddball: Eckersley has his own app. With the Eck App you can customize a photo to add his familiar shaggy hair and 'stache to the image of your choice. You can also play Eck Trivia and learn Eck-speak which revolves around his unique vocabulary.

if that isn't enough, there is also a quiz on Sporcle to test your knoweldge of Eck's catch phrases.


History: If you created a Dennis Eckerlsey character for a book no one would believe it, because it would be too far fetched. Here's a guy who posted over 1,100 innings before he was 25 and never missed significant time with injury. Sure he had a few seasons as a starter with some missed starts but he was otherwise durable. He wasn't a full-time closer until he was 32, yet when he retired with 390 saves he was 3rd on the all-time list. He was the first to have both a 20 win and 50 save season, a feat since matched by John Smoltz. His career is so unique that his closest comparable player per similarity score is list at just 722: Lindy McDaniel.

Eck won a World Series in '89, was a six time All Star, won a Cy Young and an MVP and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.

A great source for this post was this SI article.  
You can follow me on Twitter @989baseball.  By the way my user name is not a tribute to the video game put out by 989 sports. It's my area code and  I realized it about a month after I created the my account.  Oh well.

Friday, December 14, 2012

#269 Ron Oester - Cincinnati Reds

Ron Oester's 5th Topps card is unique in that it shows the switch-hitting Red wearing batting gloves. Oester was known for eschewing protection, preferring to bat bare handed according to his Wikipedia page and others. In fact it's the only image I can find of Oester wearing gloves.

Player: Ron Oester played 13 years in the major leagues, all with the Reds.  Taken in the 9th round in the '74 draft by his hometown team, the 18 year-old high schooler had to be quite thrilled.  Oester was a shortstop in the minors and played that position in his first two years with the Reds which consisted of a pair of six game auditions in both '78 and '79.

Oester made the Reds 25 man roster in 1980 but was blocked by veteran Dave Concepcion at shortstop and thus shared second base with Junior Kennedy.  He posted a .277/.336/.363 line in 335 trips to the plate and made a big enough splash to earn a 4th place finish in NL Rookie of the Year voting. 

He became the Reds everyday starter at the keystone position in ’81 and posted what would turn out to be a career best 109 OPS+.  He was steady but unspectacular as he held the Reds secondbase job through the 1987 season.  He didn’t have much power as his career high was 11 HR in ’83 nor was he a blazer on the base paths as he never stole as many as ten bags.  He best average as a regular was in ’85 when he flirted with .300 and finished at .295.       

In July of ’87 Oester tore his ACL and missed the rest of the year, and did not return until the following July.  He batted .280 in 150 at bats during his abbreviated ’88 campaign as he shared time with Jeff Treadway.  Oester won his job back in ’89 but was hitting just .190 when a midseason injury took him out of commission for 5 weeks.  When he came back, he platooned with fellow switch-hitter Luis Quinones.  Oester had always been more potent from the left side and he batted .294 in the second half.

Oester was a bench player in 1990, batting .299 and helping the Reds in their championship season.  Although he was hitless in 12 pinch at bats during the regular season, he was 2 for 4 in the pinch in the playoffs. Early in the year, Oester decided it would be his last season when he lost his starting job to Mariano Duncan.  Winning a World Series ring was a great way to go out and Oester kept his word and retired.

Flipside:  The remark about Oester’s birthday is reminiscent of comments that Topps used a lot in the 50’s and 60’s.  It seems a bit hokey but I suppose it’s cool to have a big game on your birthday.  Besides it’s not easy finding tremendous highlights for a guy like Oester.  It wasn’t like he was going to hit 3 homers in a game or go 6 for 6.

Oddball: Oester, born and bred in Cincy, has had a tumultuous relationship with his team since retiring as a player. Like a lot of ex-players he got right into coaching and as former manager Jack McKeon’s third base coach, he was considered to be the favorite to take over the reigns of the Reds in 2000. When he initally turned down what he considered an insulting offer from Reds GM Jim Bowden, the Reds quickly signed Bob Boone. Oester thought he was still negotiating when Boone’s hiring was announced. He called Bowden a liar and said he was “one of the worst people in the world.” Oester somehow retained his job on the new coaching staff, but after a poor year by the Reds and a midseason scuffle with fellow coach Tim Foli, he was canned after the season.
Oester rejoined the Reds organization in ’04 when new GM Dan O’Brien hired him as the minor league operations director. But he did not last long and got the pink slip before the season was over. Frustrated after he was axed by the team for the second time in three years, he said “I guess I didn't kiss enough (butt).”

History:  Oester was a decent player and finished his career with a .265/.323/.356 line and 8.8 WAR.  He was the type of player that gets overlooked because he wasn’t spectacular at anything, but he was a hardnosed consistent player.  After burning bridges in Cincinnati, Oester now works in the minors for the White Sox organization.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

#268 Storm Davis - Baltimore Orioles

Rookie card alert! At one time Storm Davis was considered to be Jim Palmer's replacement as Baltimore staff ace. As such, Davis and this card was a big deal in 1983 or at least I thought so. He was likely only 20 when this picture was taken and his youthfulness is evident in the pictures below, especially the action shot.
Player: Storm Davis was taken by in the 7th round by the Orioles out of high school in 1979. Three years later he was called to Baltimore and toed the mound for the first time in late April. O's manager Earl Weaver used Davis in relief for 21 games and as a spot starter 8 times. Davis logged 100 innings, with a 3.49 ERA (116 ERA+) and closed out the year with a one run, six hit, complete game win over the Brewers.
After five relief appearances in April, Davis was in the rotation for the rest of the '83 season. Backed with a good offense, the team won 21 of his 29 starts with Davis credited with 13 victories. He doubled his inning output to 200 and posted a 3.59 ERA. He started game 4 of the ALCS against the White Sox and threw six shutout innings but did not receive a decision as neither team scored until the O's plated 3 in the top of the tenth and took the series. He also got the nod for Game 4 of the World Series and despite allowing three runs in five innings, he got the W. Baltimore eliminated the Philadelphia the next day and Davis was a World Champ at age 21.
Davis would have his finest year as a pro in '84. He began the year as the fifth starter but was a workhorse for the Birds as he hurled 225 innings including four straight complete games in July/August. His ERA was a crisp 3.15 (125 ERA+) and he allowed just 7 gopher balls, including a 113 inning homerless stretch. Despite his sparkling performance the O's offense scored over a run less for Davis than they had the year before, but he still won 14. He regressed in '85 to a 4.53 ERA and although he was more effective the following year, injuries limited him the just 25 starts.

The Orioles traded the young fireballer to the Padres after the '86 season was over for backstop Terry Kennedy and pitcher Mark Williamson. In San Diego, Davis was hit hard (6.18 ERA, 62 innings) but after he was dealt to Oakland, he pitched much better with a 3.26 ERA in 5 starts. Although he led the AL with 16 wild pitches in '88 as he was learning the forkball, he also won 16 games based on a decent 3.70 ERA and the potent A's offense. Davis was no longer pitching deep into games and completed just one of his 33 starts. He was ripped by the Dodgers in the World Series taking the loss in games 2 and 5.
Davis again completed just one start in '89 but won 19 games despite a 4.36 ERA (85 ERA+) and 1.506 WHIP. In the ALCS, Davis started and lost game 3 against the Blue Jays and was hoping to get off his three game postseason losing streak when he was named game 4 starter in the World Series versus the Giants. When the Loma Prieta earthquake hit prior to game 3 and delayed the series ten days, A's manager Tony LaRussa juggled his starters and had game 1 and 2 starters Dave Stewart and Mike Moore repeat as game 3 and 4 starters. The A's won the Series in four games and although Davis won his second championship, he was bitter about being passed over.
Anxious to go to a team that appreciated him as more than a back end of the rotation starter, Davis found his suitor in Kansas City. They lured him in with a 3-year/$6 million deal, which doesn't sound like a lot today, but in 1990 it made quite a splash. The issue was Davis' poor rate stats and lack of endurance, which seemed of little interest to the Royals. Defending the signing, KC pitching coach Frank Funk made the dubious statement "We don't want pitchers with good ERA's, we want pitchers with wins." Hoping for a repeat of his 19 win season the year before, his new team was severely disappointed. Davis had neither a surplus of wins nor a low ERA with as he won just 10 over the next two years with ERA's of 4.74 and 4.96.

The Royals dispatched Davis to his old stomping grounds in Baltimore in return for catcher Bob Melvin after the '91 season. Davis pitched in middle relief for the Orioles and did a fair job with 4 saves and a 3.43 ERA in 89 innings. Apparently he patched things up with A's manager LaRussa, because he signed with the A's as a free agent in '93. He struggled with injuries and was released after 45 runs in 63 innings in Oakland. Davis was picked up by Detroit where he spent the next year and a half pitching out of the pen. Although he was pretty good for the Tigers with ERA's of 3.06 and 3.56, he found little interest when the '95 season commenced. He pitched just five inning in the minors for the Reds and called it a career.
Stuff: Fastball low 90s, curve, forkball

Flipside: You think there will be any 19 year-olds throwing 187 innings any time soon like Davis did in '81?
Oddball: Glenn Davis is often cited as Storm's adopted brother. With the same last name I always assumed Glenn took the Davis name when he was adopted. Well it turns out Davis is Glenn's birth nameparents in high school but was never formally adopted.
History: Davis won 113 games in his career with a 4.02 ERA. He earned 15.1 WAR and won two World Series rings. Davis is now a minor league pitching coach.