Friday, December 9, 2011

#63 Rick Monday

Card:  This is Rick Monday's 17th Topps card.  Monday's rookie card was a two player card with Tony Pierce in the 1967 set.

Pic:  Monday has a classic follow through. In fact he reminds me of a Starting Lineup figure.  Monday is oblivious to the radioactive green blob attacking his forehead in the inset.

Player:  Rick Monday was the first overall selection in the first ever amateur draft in 1965 by the Kansas City A's.  After a year and a half in the minors, the Arizona State product made his MLB debut with the A's in 1966, but managed only 4 hits in 41 at bats.  Monday made the A's squad in '67 as an extra outfielder, and by the end of April he was starting everyday in centerfield.  He hit .251 with 14 homeruns in the A's last year in KC. 

Monday was a semi-regular for Oakland over the '68 - '70 seasons. Although his raw stats don't seem all that impressive on the surface (8 to 12 HR, .271- .290 BA), during this pitching strong era he posted OPS+ of 141, 133, and 136.  Monday hit 18 home runs in '71 but saw his average drop to .245 in 355 at bats. 

Before the '72 season, the A's dealt Monday to the Cubs for  Ken Holtzman.  Monday was platooned for part of the year and hit only .249 with 11 dingers.  The next four years would represent the peak of Monday's offensive production.  From '73-'76 he averaged 24 HR with a career best 32 in '76.  Over this time he posted a .275/.367/.473 line.  By now his range was slipping in centerfield as he ranked near the bottom in chances per game among MLB centerfielders.  Monday's best play in center was on April 25, 1976 when he grabbed the American flag away from a father-son duo who tried to set Ol' Glory on fire in the outfield at Dodger Stadium.
Monday, the Ex-Marine Reserve saves the flag.
Monday was sent to the Dodgers in the trade that sent  Bill Buckner and Ivan de Jesus to the Cubs on Jan 11, 1977.  Monday played somewhat regularly in LA, and batted .230 and .254 in the '77 and '78 seasons and hit 34 homers in this span.  Monday struggled in the playoffs in both '77 and '78 batting only a combined .190 as the Dodgers lost in the World Series both years.  He injured his achilles tendon in '79 and played only 12 games. 

Following his injury, Monday was a bench player and in 1980 he hit 10 homers while batting .268 in 194 at bats.  In the '81 season Monday was extremely efficient, belting 11 long balls in only 130 at bats with a .315 average and 1.031 OPS.  In game five of the NLCS, Monday launched the series deciding home run with two outs in the ninth in a 1-1 tie game off of Steve Rogers.  Monday's key hit propelled LA to the World Series where they knocked off the Yankees.  Monday hit another 11 home runs and batted.257 with a .372 OBP in 1982.  Monday's declining skills and career long battles with back injuries began to catch up with him in '83, as he batted just .247.  The 38 year-old veteran struggled further in '84 and was released in June with a .191 average. 
Monday hit 241 home runs in his career and was an All-Star in '68 and '78.

Flipside:  As a kid I always loved seeing the small print on the back.  It meant I had a star, or at least a long tenured veteran's card in my possession. 
Another '82 highlight was a four hit game on 8/18 in a 7-4 win against the Cubs.

Oddball:  Monday and Jay Johnstone were both born on November 20,1945.  Monday and Johnstone were teammates on the '81 Dodgers, and both served in the Marine Corps Reserves in the 60's.  They both played for the A's, Cubs, and Dodgers in their careers.  (isn't Wikipedia great?)
Monday never grounded into more than eight double plays in a season. 

History:  Monday was highly touted coming out of college having just won the College World Series with ASU and earning player of the year honors.  Monday just missed out on the A's dynasty and had his best individual success in Chicago.  Monday was a useful part of the late 70's and early 80's Dodgers teams and won a championship in 1981. 
He never quite lived up to his number #1 draft position but he had a productive career. His career OPS+ is 125 and in the 16 seasons in which he batted more than 100 times his OPS+ was less than 100 only once.  Monday's managers seemed to overestimate his speed and range.  Monday was not a good base stealer as his 98 SB / 91 CS shows.  His range dropped severely after age 30 and he would have been better off playing in left or right. 
Since his playing days, Monday has been a popular announcer, first with Padres and since '93 with the Dodgers.

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