Saturday, December 8, 2012

#265 Joel Youngblood - Montreal Expos

The Montreal Expos had a great hat / logo design and it's a shame they are no longer around. Joel Youngblood wears it well here on his 7th Topps card. Some random thoughts... He looks a bit robotic in his right-handed follow through. I wonder what the guy with the red collar in the bottom lefthand corner doing. Is he a cameraman on break?

Player: Joel Youngblood spent six years in the Cincinnati organization before he finally cracked the "Big Red Machine" in 1976. Despite being on the team all year, Youngblood played less than 70 innings in the field but showed his versatility playing six different positions. Most of his at bats came as a pinch hitter which resulted in a sub-.200 average in 59 plate appearances. At the end of spring training in '77 the Reds traded the former 2nd round pick to the Cardinals for Bill Caudill.

With only 27 at bats in mid-June, Youngblood seemed headed for another season of riding the pine when he was traded to the Mets for Mike Phillips. With the acquisition of Youngblood, Mets manager Joe Torre retired as a player to fit the utility man on the roster and focused solely on managing. Youngblood got the break he needed and saw action at secondbase, outfield, and thirdbase and batted .253 in 182 at bats. He continued in a super utility role in '78 and batted .252 in 266 at bats and discovered the long ball for the first time with the first 7 homers of his career. 

Youngblood was an everyday player in '79 and played mainly the corner outfield spots. He hit .275/.346/.436 with 16 HR, 18 stolen bases, and 4.2 WAR. Although his power numbers dropped in '80 he was still productive batting .276 while playing rightfield and centerfield. As the '81 season unfolded Youngblood found himself unsure of his role on the team. He started the year on the bench but a hot start with the bat and a slumping Mookie Wilson ensured him at bats. Youngblood stayed hot despite back spasms and a knee injury and was batting .359 when the strike cut into the season. Despite his irregular playing time, he was the Mets lone All-Star when the game was played at the strikes conclusion.

The 1982 season saw Youngblood change teams on August 4th and he famously played for the Mets in the afternoon and the Expos in a night game, getting hits in both contests. Even when he played a lot in New York his role was always uncertain and he had long hoped for a change of scenery. Although he got that with his trade to the Expos, he neither played well or often after the deal. On the year he hit .240 in 320 plate appearances.

Seeking an everyday job, free-agent Youngblood signed with the Giants. He split '83 between second and third base and batted .292/.356/.499 with a career best 17 home runs in 415 trips to the plate. 1984 would be the only season in his career in which he started 100+ games at one position as he was the primary starter at the hot corner. Although a fine outfielder with a strong arm, Youngblood struggled at third, making 36 errors which yielded an .887 fielding percentage. His hitting suffered too as his average dropped to .254 and he hit just 10 HR despite 100 more at bats than the year prior.

Youngblood spent the next two years as a back up outfielder batting about 200 times each year with OPS+ of 102 and 103. He was used almost exclusively as a pinch-hitter the next two years and hit .252 and .253. Youngblood left the Giants for the Reds via free-agency after the '88 season. Back where he started his career, he batted just .212 in 118 at bats and retired following the end of the '89 season.

Flipside: If you are curious why the write up at the bottom is so specific, it's because Youngblood wasn't the first player to play for two teams in one day. Left-handed hitting outfielders Max Flack and Cliff Heathcote were traded for each other when Cardinals and Cubs met in Chicago for a double-header on May 30, 1922. Flack who started the day as a Cub, and Heathcote who started the day a Cardinal, both went hitless in Game 1 and both had hits in Game 2.

Oddball: Youngblood started more games in RF than any other position and was where he was most comfortable. He possessed a good arm and wiped out 18 baserunners from the outfield in both '79 and '80. I love looking at utility players games played by position. Youngblood's breakdown by games started:
RF: 267, 3B: 143, LF: 95, 2B: 74, CF: 47, 1B: 2. He came off the bench 304 times in his career and made 4 appearances at SS and even an inning behind the plate.

History: Youngblood's versatility helped him play 14 seasons in the major leagues. He retired with a stat line of .265/.329/.392 and 9.1 WAR. He was the last man off the bench for the World Champion Reds in '76 and didn't appear in the postseason. Likewise he didn't play for the Giants in '87 when they were knocked off in the LCS by the Cardinals.
Youngblood continues his versatility in his coaching career as he serves as the Diamondbacks minor league roving outfield, baserunning, and bunting coach.

I used a smaller font on this post.  Let me know in the comments if you prefer one over the other. 

You can follow me on Twitter @989baseball


  1. The font size looks the way it always does.

  2. The smaller font looks and reads better, more like most online news sources and articles.

  3. I was listening to the Expos game on the radio the night of Youngblood's historic second-game-of-the-day-in-a-different-city. Too bad he didn't do anything else of note that season -- the Expos coulda used a little of his 1983 production at 2nd base that season!