Friday, November 30, 2012

#261 1982 Detroit Tigers

Disclaimer: The Tigers are my home team and thus rewarded with a lengthy post.
The 1982 Tigers won 83 games and finished in 4th place in the AL East.  It might be a bit of bit of a surprise to see Larry Herndon and Dan Petry as the Tigers leaders.  You may have expected to see Lou Whitaker or Alan Trammell here and many would have guessed Jack Morris to lead the team in ERA.  Well Herndon did lead the team with his .292 average and was also tops on the team with 88 RBI.  Lance Parrish bashed 32 HR, best of all Bengal batters in '82.  Morris' 4.06 ERA was actually the worst of the Tigers' four main starting pitchers in '82, but he was a workhorse if nothing else, topping the squad in wins (17), complete games (17), starts (37), innings (266), and strikeouts(135).  Petry had a fine year with 15 wins in 36 starts while tossing 246 innings at just age 23.

Flipside:  25 players and Manager Sparky Anderson were included in this set.  As of right now Anderson is the only Hall of Famer of the bunch, although Morris has garnered support in recent years as has Trammell to some degree.  Whitaker, who is more deserving than either, fell off the ballot a few years ago.
Dave Rozema got a card despite missing most of the year and pitching only 27 innings.  Rookie Larry Pashnick hurled 94 frames but was snubbed. 
The Starting Nine:
C: Lance Parrish
1B: Enos Cabell
2B: Lou Whitaker
SS: Alan Trammell
3B: Tom Brookens
LF: Larry Herndon
CF: Glenn Wilson / Kirk Gibson
RF: Chet Lemon
DH: Mike Ivie / Jerry Turner
It's surprising to see the Wilson / Gibson platoon manning CF with Lemon in right.  Lemon still had plus range and would return to CF in '83.  Although Wilson was a fine outfielder and young Gibson could fly, neither was the defender of Lemon's caliber. 

Backstop Lance Parrish had perhaps his finest year batting .284/.338/.529, while gunning out 46% of runners who tried to steal.  Senior Circuit veteran Enos Cabell was a new addition to the team and put up a meager 67 OPS+ at first base.  Of course Whitaker and Trammell were stationed up the middle with Sweet Lou batting .286/341/.434.  Tram led the team with 19 steals but had an off year and was not as productive with the stick batting just .258.  Brookens manned the hot corner but had just a 72 OPS+ while a young Howard Johnson batted .316/.384/.426 in 54 games and pushed for playing time.
Versatile Johnny Wockenfuss backed up Parrish, Cabell, played some outfield, and batted .310 with a 136 OPS+.   Veteran corner man Richie Hebner had a 120+ OPS in part time work but the Tigers preferred the younger but less productive Rick Leach (.330 slugging) and Jerry Turner (.376 slugging).  Hebner was sold to the Pirates in August.  Mike Ivie had some pop with 14 HR in 259 at bats but really a one tool player.
Herndon, the only outfielder to play more than 125 games, streaked around the bases for a team high 13 triples.  As mentioned Wilson (111 OPS+) and Gibson (114) provided a youthful CF platoon.  Lemon shifted to RF, hit .266 with 19 HR in 436 at bats while Lynn Jones backed up with a woeful 43 OPS+. 
Overall it was a balanced offense that finished 7th out of 14 AL teams in runs scored, 4th in HR, and 7th in stolen bases.
Pitching Staff:
SP     Jack Morris       37 GS
SP     Dan Petry          35 GS
SP     Milt Wilcox      29 GS
SP     Jerry Udjur       25 GS
P       Pat Underwood 33 G/12 GS
P       Larry Pashnick 28 G/13 GS
RP     Dave Tobik       98 IP
RP     Dave Rucker    64 IP
RP     Elias Sosa          61 IP
RP     Aurelio Lopez   41 IP
RP     Kevin Saucier  40 IP
Despite having the third youngest staff in the AL, this group led the league in ERA at 3.80.  Sparky jockeyed the pitchers back and forth between a four and five man rotation all year, but he seemed to push the right buttons.  The top four starters were reliable, each winning double digits with ERA’s from 3.22 to 4.06. 
The bullpen was a mess as Lopez struggled with effectiveness (5.27 ERA) and spent part of the year at AAA.  Tobik (1.25 WHIP) topped the team with nine saves.  Saucier and Rucker were effective lefties with ERA+'s of 131 and 120.  Sosa gave up 11 HR in 61 innings which jacked his ERA to 4.43.  Underwood and Pashnick were unremarkable as they bounced from the rotation to the pen. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

#260 Steve Kemp - Chicago White Sox

By the time Steve Kemp's 7th Topps card came out he was no longer a member of the White Sox.  When collectors viewed this card for the first time he was the newest toy in Yankees owner George Steinbrenner's toy chest.  Due to the Yankees facial hair restrictions, Kemp had to leave the beard behind.  Unfortunately his best years and health were left behind too.   
Player: Steve Kemp was the first overall pick in 1976 winter draft.  The USC product spent the '76 season playing for the Detroit Tigers AA and AAA teams and hit .328/.429/.557 in 509 plate appearances. 
With nothing more to prove in the minors, the 22 year-old Kemp was tabbed as the Tigers everyday leftfielder in '77.  Although he struggled defensively he showed some power with 18 homers and walked enough (.343 OBP) to compensate for a low batting average (.257 BA).  He improved to hit .277/.379/.399 with a 117 OPS+ in '78 while playing in 159 games.
Kemp found his power and hit 47 dingers over the next two years while batting .318 in '79 and .293 in '80.  Nagging injuries limited him to 134 and 135 games but he was recognized with an All-Star nod and a few MVP votes in '79.  His power dropped in '81 but he was still good for a .277/.389/.419 line.  In what would turn out to be a great trade for the Tigers they sent Kemp to the White Sox in exchange for Chet Lemon on 11/27/81.
Kemp had a decent year in the Windy City batting .286 with 19 HR but elected for free-agency after the season.  He signed a 5-year/$5.45 million deal with the Yankees and was expected to be a force in the middle of the Ynakee lineup.  Instead he struggled badly and was even platooned for a while.  He was batting just .241, when his poor year turned disastrous.  During batting practice on 9/8/83 an Omar Moreno line drive smashed Kemp in the face, fracturing his cheekbone and forever changing his career. 
Damage to Kemp's left eye affected his depth perception and left him with 20-50 vision.  Although he came back in '84 to hit .291 in 313 at bats he was never was the same. The Yankees swapped their damaged slugger and Tim Foli to the Pirates for Dale Berra, Jay Buhner, and Alonso Pulido.  Kemp hit a disappointing .250/.317/.347 in 92 games in '85 and was released after a 3 for 16 start to the '86 season.
Kemp spent the next year and a half in the minors before resurfacing with the Rangers in 1988.  Playing sporadically in April and May, he had just 8 singles in 36 at bats before spending the rest of the year back at AAA.  Kemp retired after the '88 season with a career line of .278/.367/.431, 130 HR, 119 OPS+, and 17.3 WAR.
Flipside:  Kemp had a great start to his career and had comparable stats to Dave Winfiled, Al Oliver, and Gary Matthews through his age 27 season.  Six years later he was more comparable to Willard Marshall and Mel Hall.

Oddball: Not sure what kept the Tigers from calling Kemp up to the majors in '76.  While CF RonLeFlore (128 OPS+), RF Rusty Staub (137), and DH Willie Horton (117) were all productive, LF Alex Johnson (89) was hitting a hollow .268 and playing sub-par defense. Meanwhile Kemp was promoted to AAA for the second half of the season and hit .386/.507/.696 in 217 plate appearances.  At least the Tigers had the sense to dump Johnson and give the job to Kemp in '77.

History:  Kemp came up with the nucleus of young Tigers that went on to form the '84 World Champs, but Kemp never sniffed the postseason.  He had good on base ability and power which helped establish him as a star in Detroit in the late 70's.
Burdened with a mid-career slump, the expectations of a huge contract, and a devastating injury, Kemp's career hit the skids in New York.  He had 16.4 WAR before the trade and just 0.9 afterwards.  (Meanwhile Chet Lemon went on to 28.7 WAR in his nine seasons in Detroit).  Unfortunately for Kemp he is best remembered for what could have been. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

#259 Jeff Jones - Oakland A's

Oakland Athletics pitcher Jeff Jones glows here in brilliant neon green on his third Topps card.  Is Jones playing peek-a-boo with the batter?
Player:  Jeff Jones  spent five years in the major leagues, all with the Oakland A's.  Drafted in the 13th round in 1977 he was in the majors by 1980.  He worked out of the pen, but on Billy Martin's staff that meant infrequent work since the starters completed 94 of 162 starts!  Jones was second on the team with 5 saves and logged a 2.84 ERA in 44.1 innings.
Jones led A's reliever's  in '81 with 61 innings, averaged two innings per game, and posted a 3.39 ERA.  Jones scuffled mightily in '82 as he allowed 70 baserunners in 37 innings. 
He spent more time in AAA than Oakland the next two years pitching just 13 games for the big league A's each year.  His 5.76 ERA in '83 was a career worst and despite lowering it to 3.55 in '84 his major league career came to end when he was released after the season.

Flipside: Jones made only three starts in his career and despite being used primarily as a reliever he fared pretty well.  The May 1 highlight was his only start in '82 and he allowed two runs in five innings.  He allowed three runs over 10.1 innings in his two other starts.
Oddball: Jones tied Dave Beard for the team lead in saves for the A's in 1981 with three.  Yes, three saves led the team as the A's notched just ten saves all year.  It was a strike shortened season so the A's played only 109 games.  Another factor was that if it was close, skipper Billy Martin  left his starter in the game and A's sore armed starters completed 60 games.
History:  Jones finished his career with a 9-9 record, 8 saves, and a 3.95 ERA (95 ERA+) in 205 innings of work.  He had a relitively short career and after the A's let him go he pitched in the minors through the '87 season.  
Jones' last days as a pitcher were spent in the system of his hometown Detroit Tigers.  He parlayed that into a coaching career that saw him rise through the ranks and become the Tigers pitching coach midyear in 2011.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

#258 Manny Castillo - Seattle Mariners

Like Jesse Barfield in the last post, this is Manny Castillo's first solo Topps card.  He appeared on a three player card in the '81 set but did not have a '82 card.
This card has quite a mish mash of colors: yellow, hot pink, green, baby blue.  I like Castillo's dirty uniform but he loses points in my book for his weak mustache.

Player: Manny Castillo was signed by the Mets as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1973.  He played three years in the Mets chain and four in the Cardinals farm system before he was acquired by the Royals in 1980. 

Castillo got into seven games for the Royals in '80 and went two-for-ten at the plate.  He spent all of '81 back at AAA, and in what turned out to be a very good trade for the Royals, was swapped for lefty hurler Bud Black. 

The switch-hitting Castillo was the starter at the hot corner for Seattle in '82.  He hit right handed pitching much better than lefties (.272/.192), and was platooned in the second half.  For the season he hit .257/.286/.336 with 3 HR in 541 plate appearances. 

In '83, he batted just .207 in 203 at bats as a reserve infielder and was released the following spring.  He spent '84 in the Blue Jays organization and played in Mexico through the '88 season but never made it back to the majors.

Flipside:  I find Castillo's 1957 birth date a little suspicious.  Research show he signed with the Mets on March 3, 1973 and had his 16th birthday on April Fools day just four weeks later.  At just 5'9" as an adult, I imagine a 17 or 18 year old Castillo could have easily passed for 15 or 16.

Oddball:  Castillo had a pretty poor career but he wasn't the worst Castillo in the majors.  Although not related, Marty Castillo shared the same weak bat.  Marty, a backup third sacker and catcher for the Tigers, put up a .190/.231/.301 line over the '81-'85 seasons.

History:  Manny Castillo hit over .320 three times in the minors but failed to produce in the bigs.  He played well below replacement level (-2.4 WAR) and even pitched pitched poorly when given the chance.  Castillo got rocked for seven runs in 2.2 innings on 6/26/83 which is humorously noted at this link.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

#256 Gene Garber Super Veteran

Then and Now: Gene Garber was a clean-shaven young chap for the Pirates.  He soon learned that if he wanted to be a bad ass relief ace he had to grow some facial hair.

Career Span:  6/17/1969 to 7/1/1988.  As a young Pirate, Garber played with a lot of great players like Clemente and Mazerowski.  He shared a mound briefly with veteran Jim Bunning who had been pitching in the majors since 1955.
Garber was teammates with Tom Glavine for about two weeks in 1987.  Glavine would go on to pitch until 2008.  (Garber just missed pitching with Tom "Flash" Gordon, '88-'09, while with the Royals)

All Star:  Garber was never an All-Star which is something no one else with 200 plus saves can honestly say.  He had some deserving seasons although looking at his career splits, he had a 3.63 first half ERA against a 3.01 mark in the second half.  Perhaps some slow starts hurt his chances.

League Leader:  Led the NL with 75 games and 47 games finished in 1975.

All-Time: 16th, 609 games finished
20th, 931 games pitched,
38th, 218 saves
8th Range Factor/9inn for Pitchers, 2.64. 
I guess a lot of Garber's sinkers were hit right back to him!

Make WAR:  Garber had four seasons between 2.4 and 2.9 WAR.  He had five more between 1.0 and 1.5 and finished his career with 15.1.

Postseason: Did not win a World Series.  1976 NLCS, did not pitch well taking the loss in the deciding game three.
He pitched better in the '77 NLCS winning game one and losing game three to the Dodgers.
His playoff struggles continued in the '82 NLCS as he was pegged with the loss in game two.
For his career he was 1-3, 5.79 ERA, 9.1 innings

Cy Young: The only time he received votes was when he finished 7th in 1982.

MVP: Likewise he finished 19th in the '82 MVP vote

HOF:  Nope.  Not even close.  Garber didn't received a single vote when he became eligible in '94.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

#250 Bill Buckner - Chicago Cubs

I thought I published this post last weekend but somehow I skipped Buckner.  Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Bill Buckner looks like he just hit a line drive down the right field line.  The color combo on this card works pretty good on Buckner's 13th Topps card.  I'm pretty sure that is Leon Durham in the background.  He batted behind Buckner 97 times in '82.  Billy Buck sure has some thick eyebrows and mustache!
Player:  A 2nd round pick of the Dodgers in '68, Bill Buckner was promoted to LA in '69 after hitting .322 at three levels but received just one at bat.  Only 20 years old, Buckner started the 1970 season as the Dodgers leftfielder but was sent back down in May with a sub .200 average.  He raked in AAA to the tune of .335 earning him another look in September.
Buckner made the Dodgers in '71 as a platoon RF and also saw some action at first base.  He showed great contact ability, striking out just 4% of the time with averages of .277 and .319 and 5 homers each year.  Buckner was a full time player three of the next four years with his average topping .300 in '74 and '76.  He had good wheels early in his career as evidenced by his 31 steals in '74.
Before the '77 season, Buckner was sent to the Cubs for Rick Monday.  Buckner shared time his first two years in Chicago before becoming the Cubs everyday first sacker.  From '77 to '83 Buckner hit .301 and hit double digits in the HR column, averaging a dozen a year.  Buckner led the NL in batting average at .324 in 1980 while striking out just 18 times in 615 plate appearances.  
While not the prototypical home run clubbing slugger, he topped the Senior Circuit in doubles in '81 and '83.  When this card came out Buckner was coming off a decent season as he drove in over 100 for the first time in '82 and batted .306 with 15 homers.
By 1984 Buckner lost his starting job to Leon Durham.  He batted just .209 in his first 21 games and the Cubs sent him to the Red Sox for Dennis Eckersley.  Buckner batted .276 with 11 homers for his new team.  He played in every game in '85 batting .299 with 46, doubles, 16 homers and 110 RBI.  He even swiped 18 bases. 
Although his average fell to .267, Buckner hit a career best 18 dingers and drove in over 100 for the third time in his career.  The pennant winning Red Sox dropped the World Series with Buckner labeled as the goat despite the team blowing several opportunities to put the Mets away. 
Booed in Boston and razzed on the road, Buckner got out of town when he was released in July of '87.  With his best years behind him, Buckner DH'd part time for the Angels and Royals through the '89 season.  He returned to Boston in 1990 as a pinch hitter and although most of Red Sox nation received him warmly upon his return, the 40 year-old had reached the end of the road and he batted just .186 in 43 at bats.  Great video from ESPN's E:60.
Flipside:  Buckner's had one major flaw in his game and that was his lack of base on balls.  He walked only 450 times or 4.4% of his plate appearances and 111 of those were intentional passes. 
After the '82 season Buckner had walked 282 times in his career to 265 strikeouts.  When he returned to Boston in 1990 he had 450 of each before K'ing three times without a walk. 
Oddball:  Buckner demanded a trade in '84 when he found out he wouldn't be starting for the Cubs.  According to my 1985 Zander Hollister Handook, a trade with the Phillies fell through when they failed to sweeten Buckner's already robust 5 year-$3.5 million contract.  Billy Bucks blocked the deal and the rest is history.
Buckner is one of five players to have played in the 60's and 90's.  The others: Rick Dempsey, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Reuss, and Carlton Fisk.
History:  Although his name still conjures up bad memories for a lot of Red Sox fans, time has helped heal wounds caused by Boston's collapse in '86.  He received a long standing ovation from fans when he threw out the first pitch on opening day in 2007 as the Red Sox celebrated their World Series championship the year prior.
Buckner hit over .300 seven times and posted a .289/.321/.408  line for his  career.  He was a hard nosed player who played through pain and had over 2,700 career hits.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

#253 Larry McWilliams - Pittsburgh Pirates

Larry McWilliams' 5th Topps card is a bit of a snoozer with an up close pose and near identical inset picture.  However we get a good look at the Pirates' old pillbox style hat.  McWilliams has quite the collection "Stargell Stars" going for him.
Player: Larry McWilliams was a first round pick (6th overall)of the Braves in 1974.  The tall lefty reached Atlanta in '78 and fared well with a 2.81 ERA (146 ERA+) in 99 innings.  He was hit hard early in '79 and was on the shelf for half the year recovering from injury.  McWIlliams returned but was ineffective in '80 with a 4.95 ERA in 30 starts.  He spent most of 1981 back in AAA, but threw a two-hit shutout among his five late season starts.

McWilliams was getting blown up (6.21 ERA, 37 innings) as the Braves mop up man when he was traded to the Pirates in June '82 for Pascual Perez.  Braves coach Johnny Sain had been working with McWilliams on a quick, no wind-up delivery but it didn't really work for him until he got to Pittsburgh.  The southpaw joined the Bucs rotation, made 18 starts, and posted a 3.11(121 ERA+). 

The 1983 season would be a career year for McWilliams.  He went 15-8 in 35 starts, with a 3.25 ERA and 199 strikeouts across 238 innings.  He tossed four shutouts and finished 5th in NL Cy Young voting.  He followed it up by winning 12 games in 32 starts in '84. Although he allowed more runners than the year prior (WHIP 1.227 to 1.337) his ERA went down to 2.93. 

McWilliams struggled mightily the next two years as his ERA exploded to 4.70 and 5.15.  The Pirates let him go before the '87 season and he was picked up by the Braves.  After nine appearances he was released and spent the rest of the year at the Rangers AAA affiliate. 

He made the St. Louis pitching staff in '88 as a long man and spot starter.  He showed flashes of brilliance as he had a six game stretch that included a two-hit shutout and a four hit complete game.  He soon returned to the pen and ended up the year with a 3.90 ERA (90 ERA+) in 136 innings.  He filled the same role in '89, pitching for both the Phillies and Royals and ended the year with a 4.11 in 153 frames. 

Kansas City tried using McWilliams as a lefty bullpen specialist in 1990 but it didn't work. 19 of the 43 opposing batters reached base and he was cut five weeks into the season.  That spelled the end of the line for McWilliams whose career line shows 78 wins, 90 losses and a 3.99 ERA.

Stuff:  Fastball (high 80s), forkball, slider, curve, occasional knuckle ball
Flipside:  McWilliams also pitched a five-hit shutout on 9/26 against the Expos.  But the best was yet to come as he would throw 3 two-hitters and a one-hitter in 1983.

Oddball:  McWilliams was nicknamed McCloud due to his resemblance to Dennis Weaver's character in the McCloud TV series.

History:  McWilliams never pitched in the postseason or made an All-Star squad.  He had a strong two year peak with 3.8 and 3.5 WAR but his 13 year career was troubled with inconsistency. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

#252 Luis Aguayo - Philadelphia Phillies

I really like the powder blue batting glove on Luis Aguayo's 2nd Topps card.  Seems like Topps could have made the bottom red border darker to match the Phillies' colors.
Player: Luis Aguayo was a utility infielder for 10 years in the major leagues mostly with the Phillies.  Aguayo signed with Philadelphia out of Puerto Rico in 1975 when he was just 16 years old.  He debuted in the majors in 1980 and was used sparingly over the next three seasons with just 207 plate appearances.  He batted .277, .214, and .268 over that time and spent all but two games back in the minors in 1983.

Aguayo was in the majors for most of '84 and was productive despite just 72 at bats.  He sported a .278/.350/.458 line and played second, third and shortstop.  His '85 campaign was his best as a pro as he batted .278/.378/.467 with an OPS+ of 134 in 200 plate appearances.

Aguayo's performance slipped the next two years as he batted .211 and .206, although he did manage to hit 12 homers in 239 in the '87 season.  His dozen dingers came in 230 plate appearances and doubled his previous career high.

The '88 season would be his last in Philly as he was sent to the Yankees in a July trade.  By this point in his career he was primarily playing third base as his range was slipping.  Between the two teams he played in a career high 99 games and batted .249. 

1989 would be Aguayo's last in the major leagues.  He signed as a free-agent with the Indians and batted just .175.  He hung around the minors for three more years before calling it quits after the 1992 season. 

Flipside/Oddball:  Aguayo's highlights list him scoring from 2nd base on a ground ball which indicates the good speed he had early in his career.  By the end of his time in Philly he was no longer fleet of foot.  Phillies great and broadcaster Richie Ashburn quote on Aguayo-

"Aguayo's running at first base. He doesn't have great speed ... what am I saying? he doesn't have good speed, he doesn't even have average speed. The man is slow."

History:  Aguayo was a typical utility infielder who played on some very good teams early in his career.  He didn't play in the postseason in 1980 or 1983 when the Phillies were in the World Series.  He pinch ran twice in the '81 NLDS and that was the extent of his postseason experience. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

#251 Alan Wiggins - San Diego Padres

Alan Wiggins shows off his left handed stance on his rookie card.  Padres' fan had to be optimistic with Wiggins and Tony Gwynn making the show in the early 80's.

Player: Alan Wiggins was a lanky speedster who was with his third franchise by the time he broke though with the Padres in '81.  He hit .302 at AAA Hawaii in '81 with 73 steals.  That got him a 15 game September look in which he went 5 for 14 for the Padres.
The switch hitter batted .256/.295/.303 while playing left and centerfield in '82.  He was limited to 72 games because he was arrested for possession of cocaine and served a 30 day suspension and a stint in rehab.  He became an everyday player in '83 appearing at all three outfield spots and first base.  Wiggins sported a .276/.360/.324 line and swiped 66 bags. 
The speedster found a home at secondbase in '84, a position he had played regularly in the minors.  He offset a .256 average with 75 walks and stole a team record 70 bases.  Wiggins was a sparkplug for the pennant winning Padres as he batted over .300 in the NLDS and World Series.
In the midst of a 2 for 37 start to the '85 season his drug problems popped up again.  After he acquired cocaine while still in rehab, Padres owner Joan Kroc vowed to run a clean team and traded him to the Orioles.  Wiggins hit .285 with 30 bases in half a season for his new team. 
Wiggins hit .251 in a part time role in '86.  He occasionally DH'd and backed up Rick Burleson and Billy Ripken in '87 but the season was marred by an explosive argument with manager Cal Ripken Sr that earned him a three-game suspension.  He was batting .232 when he was suspended for failing a drug test and he eventually was released on September 29.  
Wiggins career was over at age 29.  In seven seasons he batted .259/.330/.309 with 242 stolen bases.  Unfortunately he died from complications of AIDS less than four years later.

Flipside:  The Angels released Wiggins in June '78 after he got into a fight with one of his coaches.  The Dodgers snatched him up and he stole 120 bases at single-A Lodi in 1980.  Wiggins was arrested for marijuana possession and the Dodgers left him unprotected and he was taken by the Padres in the Rule 5 draft.
Oddball: Wiggins committed a whopping 32 errors at second base in '84.
History: Wiggins had 6.6 WAR over the '83-'84 seasons as he ignited the Padres offense.  It's sad that he played only seven years but a tragedy he died at age 32.  A great article on Wiggins can be read here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

#249 Fun with Checklists Part 2

This is the second checklist in the set. 
Boring, right?
Not so fast!  Like I did for the first checklist, I will assemble an all-star team from the players on this checklist.  The player pool consists of the base cards for players listed from 133-264.  Peruse the card #249 and see what players you'd pick.  Then check my selections below:

1B: Rod Carew beats out Cecil Cooper
2B: Willie Randolph easily wins the job over a deep group that also includes Steve Sax, Johnny Ray, Damaso Garcia, and Alan Wiggins.  Interestingly Randolph's career WAR outpaces the other candidates combined 63 to 56.
SS: Cal Ripken
3B: Ken Oberkfell is a weak link but he beats out Hubie Brooks, Wayne Gross, and Enos Cabell. 
Middle Infield: Steve Sax will back up 2B... Iron Man Ripken doesn't really need a back up.
Corner Infield: Dave Kingman. I'd prefer to put Cecil Cooper on the team, but Kong's 154 career games at the hot corner and 603 games at firstbase gives the team flexibility and a right handed platoon option with Oberkfell.
Utility: Hubie Brooks played 3B, SS, and RF. Ok, so he was a butcher at two of those three positions but my only other reasonable option was Enos Cabell.
C: Rick Dempsey backed up by Bo Diaz
LF: Rickey Henderson
CF: Mickey Rivers
RF: Dwight Evans over Dave Parker although "Cobra" makes the team as a pinch hitter as does Jack Clark.
DH:  Harold Baines 

SP: Ferguson Jenkins, Don Sutton, Luis Tiant, Jerry Koosman.  With these workhorses not sure a 5th starter is needed but I'll keep Joe Niekro around as a swingman.
Bullpen: Absolutely loaded with Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Dan Quisenberry working a bullpen by committee. Last two spots go to Gene Garber and Steve Bedrosian.  Dave Smith and Steve Howe were viable choices but didn't have the career length of the others.
Manager:  Tony LaRussa takes control of this team and he could put Whitey Herzog and Billy Martin on his staff as his base coaches.  What better guys to work the running game with Henderson, Rivers, and Carew circling the bases?

Starting Lineup:
1. Henderson LF
2. Randolph 2B
2. Carew 1B
4. Evans RF
5. Baines DH
6. Ripken SS
7. Rivers CF
8. Oberkfell 3B
9. Dempsey C

A lot speed and on base ability at the top of the lineup.  This team doesn't have a ton of power but should be able to win with pitching, speed, and defense.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

#248 Bake McBride - Cleveland Indians

Bake McBride just doesn't look right to me in an Indian uniform.  I remember him as a Phillie and being mesmerized by the giant fro on his previous Topps cards.  The background really looks distorted and bluish, I'm not sure what that is all about.  In the cameo pic, McBride looks proud of his 10th Topps card.
Player:  Bake McBride debuted in the majors with the Cardinals in 1973.  Despite his low status as a 37th round pick in the 1970 draft, McBride showed the ability to hit for average and carried it over to the majors.  In 71 trips to the plate McBride hit .302/.352/.349 which helped make a positive first impression when he debuted in '73.
McBride was the starting centerfielder for the Redbirds and on the strength of a .309 average, 30 stolen bases, and smooth defense he won the '74 NL Rookie of the Year award.  Although he hit .300 and .335 the next two years, shoulder and knee injuries limited him to just 188 games.
Coming off knee surgery, McBride got off to a slow start and was traded to the Phillies.  He hit .339/.392/.564 in half a season's work for his new team and became known as the rightfielder for some excellent Philadelphia squads in the late 70's and early 80's.  He hit 10 HR in '78 but a sore wrist limited him to 122 games.  He was healthier in '79 and he hit .280/.328/.411 with 12 triples and 12 homers.
McBride had a fine year for the Phils in 1980.  He hit 309/.342/.453 and was deemed important enough to Philadelphia's success he finished 10th in MVP voting.  He had a fine World Series, batting .304 with a homer and five RBI as the Phillies knocked off the Royals.
More knee injuries marred McBride's '81 season, limiting him to 58 games.  He had surgery on both knees and was later traded to the Indians in February of 1982.  As if he hadn't injured every body part imaginable, McBride had a problem with his contact solution and had conjunctivitis (pink eye) in both eyes.  He hit .365 for the Tribe but batted just 88 times. 
There was nothing wrong with McBride's eyes in '83 but a sore shoulder and a bum thumb kept him out of action half the year.  He batted .291/.318/.348 in what turned out to be his last major league season.  With teams scared off by his history of injuries, McBride couldn't find a major league team and played for the Rangers AAA affiliate in '84 before calling it a career.

Flipside:  McBride's .291 season in '83 dipped his career average down to .299.

Oddball:  "Shake 'n' Bake" suffered a lot of injuries in his career.  He played in over 137 games just twice in his eleven year career.  A partial list of McBride's injuries:
May '76 shoulder tear
July '76 sore left knee
August '76 torn knee cartilage 
1978 sore wrist
1978 twisted ankle
Feb '81 broken thumb in Hawaii during offseason
1981 knees
1982 conjunctivitis
June '83 sore right shoulder
August '83 jammed left thumb
Maybe it is fitting that his son Bake is a fitness trainer.

History:  McBride posted a .299/.345/.420 line in his career and one has to wonder if he had stayed healthy how his lifetime stats would have looked.  As it stands he still generated 21.1 WAR in his 11 seasons. McBride won a World Series in 1980, an NL ROY award in 1974 and was an NL All-Star in '76. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

#247 Dave Smith - Houston Astros

If you think Dave Smith's sunburned face is an accident think again.  He sports a similar raccoon appearance on virtually every picture you see of him.  Dude, use some sunblock!
The red and orange seats in the background go well with Smith's colorful Astros top here on his 3rd Topps card.  What disturbs me though is that the "action" picture shows him in a follow through, yet he is still holding the ball. 
Meanwhile the Marlboro man lurks on yet another card.  

Player:  Right-handed pitcher Dave Smith was the Astros 8th round pick in the 1976 draft and was primarily a starter in the minor leagues.  He made the majors in 1980 as a reliever and would pitch in 609 games in his 13 year career, all but one out of the pen.
Smith proved himself as a rookie with 102 innings pitched and a 1.95 ERA.  As the year wore on he was trusted in tight spots and earned 10 saves and finished 5th in NL ROY voting.  His ERA jumped to 2.76 in '81 but his WHIP, which is generally a better way to measure relief pitchers, was a nifty 1.027.  Back problems dogged Smith for most of '82 and his ERA and WHIP jumped to 3.84 and 1.579.
Smith was inconsistent in '83 (3.10 ERA, 1.486 WHIP) but really started to excel in '84.  It was the first in a string of seven straight season with an ERA under 2.75.  He also had four straight years with a WHIP under 1.1.  By '85 he was the Astros closer saving 23 - 33 games a year from '85 to '90.  His best year was '87 when he posted a 1.65 ERA and allowed just 39 hits and 21 walks in 60 innings.  In a year that saw a spike in home runs, Smith kept it in the yard all year.
Leaving the Astros as their all-time games pitched and saves leader, free-agent Smith signed with the Cubs after the 1990 season.  After saving games his first four games as a Cubbie, Smith's season imploded as he blew three saves in a row.  He was suddenly very hittable and allowed 6 HRs in just 33 innings as he spent 6 weeks on the disabled list.  He finished the year 0-6, with a 6.00 ERA. 
Smith was effective in '92 (2.51 ERA) but arm troubles limited him to 14.1 innings.  He came back with a surgically repaired elbow in '93 but was among the final roster cuts in spring training.  He retired with 216 career saves and a 2.67 ERA (130 ERA+) in 809.1 innings.
Stuff:  Fastball, sinker, curve, forkball

Flipside:  Smith's rate stats as a rookie compare favorably to Steve Howe who won the NL ROY award in 1980.
Smith 1.93 ERA, 171 ERA+, 102.2 IP, 1.188 WHIP
Howe 2.66 ERA, 134 ERA+, 84.2 IP, 1.240 WHIP
However Howe had 17 saves to Smith's 10 so maybe that's what voters were looking at in 1980.  It was a bumper crop for relief pitchers as Jeff Reardon and Al Holland finished 6th and 7th in the voting.

Oddball:  Smith was a laid back Californian who loved to surf while he was at San Diego State.  He used to upset his coach by showing up to practice late and still wearing his wet bathing suit.
History:  Dave Smith was a big part of the Astros three playoff teams in the '80s.  He won a game in the '80 NLCS but allowed Lenny Dykstra's winning HR in Game 3 of the '86 NLCS against the Mets.
The two-time all star was well liked by his teammates who remember him as a fierce competitor on the diamond and an easy going guy off the field.  Like his Astros teammates Joe Niekro and Vern Ruhle, Smith left this earth too soon when he died of a heart attack in 2008.

Monday, November 12, 2012

#246 George Bamberger - New York Mets

It had been 24 years since George Bamberger was able to claim Topps card for himself.  His 1959 issue can be seen here.  Bamberger looks pretty jolly in this picture and it reflects his personality.  While he was in Milwaukee he was known to stop by tailgating fans and have a beer before the game.

Player:  George Bamberger tossed only 14 innings in his big league career which consisted of three cups of coffee with the Giants in '51-'52 and the Orioles in '59.  He won over 200 games in the minors and played until 1963.

Bamberger spent the '64 through '67 seasons as the Orioles minor league pitching instructor.  He was Earl Weaver's pitching coach on the O's from '68 to '77 where he oversaw some very impressive pitchers

Manager:  After the '77 season Bamberger left Baltimore to manage in Milwaukee.  He oversaw a power hitting team with sluggers like Cecil Cooper, Gorman Thomas, Ben Oglive as well as future Hall of Famers Robin Yount and Paul Molitor.  "Bambi's Bombers", as they came to be known, were the forerunners to Harvey's Wallbangers.

Milwaukee won 93 games in '78 but finished third behind the Yankees and Red Sox.  In '79 they won 95 but finished in second in the AL East behind his former feathered friends from Baltimore. 

1980 would prove to be a difficult one for Bamberger.  He had a heart attack in spring training and after triple-bypass surgery did not take the reigns until June.  He stepped down in September citing the rigors of managing on his repaired heart.

After a year of serving in the Brewers front office, Bambi took over as the Mets field general prior for the 1982 season.  A 65 win campaign and the 16-30 start to the '83 season would be enough to tax anyone and Bamberger again stepped aside due to health concerns. 

Bamberger came back for a second stint with the Brewers in '85 and managed the squad to a 71-91 finish.  He called it quits for good in September 1986 when they were 10 games under .500.   

Flipside:  Wow 68.2 consecutive innings without a base on balls!  That's impressive no matter what level of competition.  It's too bad his control left him in his brief major league career as he walked 10 in 14 innings. 

Oddball:  Bamberger, his coaching staff, and a plumber suffered burns when a gas explosion at the Brewers spring complex ignited in February of 1986.  The fireball severely burned coach Tony Muser, destroyed the coaches office, and launched Bambi 10 feet from his chair. 

History:  Bamberger had a solid team in his first go around with the Brewers.  His  managerial record after that is less than stellar.  He had much more success as Earl Weaver's right hand man.  Born on Staten Island he taught many pitchers his renowned "Staten Island Sinker", which many suspected was actually a spitter.  In his ten year term as the O's pitching coach he oversaw 18 twenty-game winners.
Bamberger passed away in 2004 after a three year battle with cancer.