Ray Searage – 1987 Topps
February 11, 2011
Raw Sewage? Then Why Is He On Your APBA Team?
First, a personal digression:
This has been my week. And it’s with sadness that I’m going to have to hold off on trading after I send out six packages that are behind me right now. Of course, I will always RECEIVE packages (hint hint) and will update my online want lists soon, but I won’t be able to send out for a few weeks. I’ll keep ya posted.
Also, this could be Hosni Mobarak’s week as well, but he’s got billions. I got…well…my health, friends and family.
Ok, back to the show…
Ray Searage was a generic, journeyman reliever back in the 80’s who is only memorable for his name. And that my good friend Brent’s brother Randy (RIP) had him on his APBA team and called him Raw Sewage. He also nicknamed Rick Sutcliffe “Slutty”.
(Side note – we had 12 managers in our APBA team back in the 80’s when we were all in our late teens / early 20’s. Of those, 25% of us have passed away. Wow.)
He got APBA cards worth having for his 1984 and 1986 season. With 12 teams x 25 players, any pitcher that had a B or even a high C was on a roster.
It was APBA and Bill James that taught me about the importance of offense over defense, about OBP, about not sacrificing unless it was needed, and about not wasting outs. But also, on how that stealing, hitting and running, and other strategic parts of the game work well if executed well (good dice rolls) in the right situation.
All it takes is rolling a home run number when you’re sacrificing to realize that perhaps bunting is not always the best strategy for position players unless they are hapless at the bat, and then why the heck are they in an APBA game anyway?
Searage was quite competent. He was a lefty that had a good ERA+ and only blew eight of his 46 total save situations (counting holds). But he never got the trust of big league managers. Less than 1/3 of his appearances were high-leverage. His OPS+ against was 100, but it was only 102 against righties so he did pretty well against them, considering.
So was Searage in the wrong place, wrong time for all of his teams?
He was drafted by the Cards in 1976 in the 22nd round, which of course is roster-filler territory. But he was well regarded enough after an excellent 1979 season at Arkansas to be traded to the Mets for Jody…Jody Davis!
(A. I totally did not know that Davis was a Met farmhand, much less a Cards farmhand. B. I totally had no idea that Davis was a 1976 draftee. Now his sudden splat from glory makes sense…)
He pitched poorly in 1980 in AA and AAA but stuck around, pitched great in Tidewater the first two months of 1981 and then was promoted to the Mets. And then…
He pitched in one game, then went on strike. Hopefully some of his veteran players and the MLBPA took care of him. After the strike he was OK, not great, but not bad. But the Mets problems that year (41-62) were on the offensive end. They had a good pitching staff, and Searage was an extra arm. So after the season he was traded to Cleveland for Tom Veryzer.
A fringe player from a inept franchise traded for another fringe player from another inept franchise doesn’t make news. And Cleveland was quite inept. Unfortunately, Searage didn’t do himself any favors. The Indians needed starters (Sorenson, Denny and Waits all had ERAs over 5.00 in 1982) and Searage couldn’t fill that gap and pitched poorly in AAA. The next year, he was sent conditionally to the Padres, sent back, and sent to AAA. He was mostly a starter, but pitched even worse while the Indians’ bullpen imploded.
He gained six-year free agency and signed with Milwaukee for 1984. He had a good year in Vancouver and then pitched lights-out for Milwaukee at the end of 1984. But 1985 was not kind to Ray. Through June 11 he was 1-3, 8.66 in 17 2/3 innings covering 16 games. Back to Vancouver, where he pitched well, and then back to Milwaukee, where he wasn’t horrid but not lights out.
The Brewers really needed him in 1985. Everyone (Fingers, Ladd, McClure, Gibson, Waits, Cocanower and Searage) had issues.
He made the club in 1986, was wretched in four games, was sent down, recalled, still pitched poorly, and was finally traded to the White Sox for Al Jones. Something clicked for Ray, and he was excellent (0.62 ERA and only one unearned run in 29 innings). He was OK in 1987 for the White Sox (ERA+ of 110 even though it was over 4) but then was released at the end of spring training in 1988.
I wonder why Searage was released in Spring 1988? I think it was the appearance of Ricky Horton in White Sox duds, and also the ‘potential’ of Steve Rosenberg and Ken Patterson. But all three were found wanting.
The Dodgers signed him to a minor league deal and he spent all of 1988 getting cuffed around in Albuquerque, and most of 1989 and 1990 in the majors. After the 1990 season, he spent a couple of years in the minors then left.
Ray had bad luck in 1987, and wasn’t going to crack the Dodgers staff in 1988 unless he pitched extremely well in the PCL AND he sawed Jessie Orosco’s arm off. But for the most part, Searage didn’t pitch well when the big league club had an opportunity, and when he did pitch well, it seemed that the big league clubs gave him less latitude when he did struggle.
After he quit playing, he’s built a very successful career as a minor league pitching coach and coordinator, and was the bullpen coach last season in Pittsburgh (his first major league coaching job) until Joe Kerrigan was fired. He then became interim pitching coach and has been retained as major league pitching coach for 2011. He’s also spent time as a pitching coach in the Winter Leagues. He knows the Pirates young pitchers and maybe can help them become successful.
And I bet he’ll give anyone who can get someone out a chance to keep proving people wrong.