Sunday, January 13, 2013

#287 Bobby Brown - Seattle Mariners

We caught our first glimpse of Bobby Brown playing the hot corner for the Yankees in the late 40s and early 50s.  He earned his medical degree and later became president of the American League.  Oops, wrong guy.  Surely this is Bobby Brown of New Edition fame who later emerged with the hit single "My Prerogative".  Nope, not him either.  
This is Rogers Lee "Bobby" Brown and is viewed here on his 4th Topps card.  With a cool name like Rogers not sure how he was tagged with "Bobby", but anyway... 
Even though he spent just one year as a Mariner, I always associate him with Seattle because of this card.  It could have been a really nice card if not for the horrendous pink borders.  It looks like Brown may have been out in front of the pitch judging by his follow through.
Baseball Card Database

Player: Bobby Brown had a strange path to the majors.  The switch-hitter was drafted in the 11th round by the Orioles in 1972 but was released the spring of '76 after batting .295 the year prior.  He signed with the Phillies and reached AAA by 1978 but was traded to the Yankees with Jay Johnstone for Rawley Eastwick. 

The '79 season was a hectic adventure and started when Brown was selected by the Mets in the rule five draft and picked up on waivers by Toronto in March.  Brown broke camp with the Jays but was hitless in ten at bats and was sold back to the Yankees.  Brown went back down to AAA and hit .349/.394/.519 in 80 games before the Yankees brought him back to the majors.  Brown got spotty work in left and centerfield and batted .250 in 68 at bats.

Brown made the team as a spare outfielder in 1980 and despite not starting a game until May, he ended up with more at bats than all Yankee outfielders not named Reggie Jackson.  In 446 plate appearances he batted .260/.306/.415 while showing off a nice balance of power and speed with 14 home runs and 27 steals. Brown benefited from Ruppert Jones' injuries and was the starter in centerfield for all three games in the ALCS but got on base just once in the series.

With the Yankee outfield healthy in '81 Brown split the year between Columbus and riding the pine in New York.  He tore up AAA, again hitting well over .300 but hit a meager .226 in 69 trips to the plate in the bigs.  He came off the bench in seven games during the '81 postseason and had a hit in two at bats, getting most of his time as a pinch runner. 

Brown was traded to the Mariners as the '82 season was about to commence and started the year back in the minors.  Recalled in May when centerfielder Dave Henderson went on the disabled list, Brown opened eyes by stealing seven bases in his first eight games.  He remained with the team when Henderson came back and platooned with Bruce Bochte in left field the rest of the year.  His 67 OPS+ indicated his poor year at the plate but he was considered an asset on the bases as he stole 28 bases in 34 attempts. 

The Mariners cut Brown the following spring and he was picked up by the Padres and assigned to AAA.  He once again torched minor league pitching hitting over .320 for the fourth time in the bushes, while hitting 14 HR and swiping 44 bags before July was over.  Called up to San Diego he was their regular starter in left field the last two months of the year.  He hovered around .300 for the first month before cooling off to a .267/.333/.382 line with 27 SB. 

With the emergence of Tony Gwynn, Kevin McReyolds, and Carmelo Martinez in '84, playing time was at a premium.  Brown was used primarily as a pinch-hitter and had 187 plate appearances and stole 16 bases despite a sub .300 on base percentage.  Brown took over in centerfield when McReynolds went down with an injury in the NLCS.  The Padres advanced to the World Series but Brown had just one hit in 19 postseason at bats. 

Brown was on the roster all year in '85 but started just six games and batted .155 in 84 at bats. 
Summarizing this brief article, this is how Brown's career came to an abrupt end.  When San Diego acquired Marvell Wynne, an outfielder with similar skills right before the start of the '86 season, Brown walked into manager Jack McKeon's office and asked: "What's the deal? Are you gonna release me?  McKeon said, yes, he was thinking about it. To which replied Brown said, "If you're gonna release me, release me now."
So the Padres obliged and that was the end for Brown

Baseball Card Database
Flipside:  The 1980 season was the closest Brown came to full time playing in the majors.  About a third of his career at bats came in that season alone.

Oddball: I've mentioned before that the "Scouting Report: 1983" is prone to hyperbole but this one takes the cake.  Said of Brown "If he played every day, it is very likely that he would lead the league in stolen bases".  Uh, maybe in some eras but not when he shares the same league as Rickey Henderson who stole a record 130 in '82.

History:  Brown was a fast and daring runner who was so aggressive he often was erased trying for extra bases.  He stole 110 bases with a 76% success rate but his lifetime on base percentage of .295 limted his ability to use his speed.  He played seven years in the majors and was fortunate enough to play on two pennant winners.  He didn't do well in the spotlight with just two hits in 31 postseason at bats.

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