Decisions, Decisions…

I’ve had a positive life change occur over the past couple of weeks, but now I am in re-assess mode.

“What am I doing with my collection?” is one of those things I am re-assessing. Maybe it’s my financial situation – the fact that I am waiting for Series 2 and don’t have that much to spend on other cards right now to complete some sets.

I have some cards out for some trades that I need to pack up and ship out, but I don’t have the motivation to do it mainly because my motivation is on other (good) things. My reading habits have changed as well. I’m just glossing over some blogs when I used to devour the minutiae.

Then there’s work, which is also a positive but a brain sucker like those little things on the ceiling of that one Star Trek episode.

So, while I think about stuff and things, enjoy Rick Jones’ 1977 card in all of it’s airbrushy goodness. The painted chest hair is especially wondermous, isn’t it?

We’ve come a long way, right?

Wait, don’t answer that.

12-Man Staffs? Yeah, I Got Your 12-Man Staff Right Here!

I was noodling around a post on one angle about the 1976 Tigers (why, don’t ask) and found a nugget that I thought I should pass along.

Right now, baseball’s conventional wisdom is to use 12-man pitching staffs for whatever reason. Loogys and roogys and ‘proven closers’ and all that nonsense.

It wasn’t that long ago, really, that teams used 12-man staffs. But that was for the entire season!

Case in point, the 1976 Tigers, who used just twelve pitchers all year. One of them (Joe Coleman) was sent packing in early June. Another (Ed Glynn) was a September call-up. Frank MacCormack and Dave Lemanczyk spent time in Evansville (lovely in the summer no doubt), so it was up to guys like Bare and his compadres (Roberts, Fidrych, Ruhle, Laxton, Grilli, Crawford and Hiller) to toe the slab for the Bengals on a daily basis.

This bunch of Tigers were resoundingly mediocre with only Fidrych and Hiller shining on the hill. When guys like Bare went out there, it was always teetering between ‘good enough’ and ‘get someone up pronto’.

You may ask with this wonderful collection of zzzzz on the hill why didn’t they grab guys from Evansville to help. Now, of course, teams use their powers of options and DFAs to keep a revolving cast of 15-20 pitchers in and out of the big league clubhouse.

It was a much different world and explains why the mid-70’s Tigers were rotten. They had juts four farm teams (Evansville, Montgomery, Lakeland and Bristol) so there weren’t that many options. The AAA Triplets (no fooling!) were 55-81 and didn’t entice many from the Pocket City to venture to Bosse Field. Though certainly players like Milt Wilcox and Fernando Arroyo could have helped. But times were tough down there – old-timer (OK, he was 28 but still it seemed like he was around forever by then) Boots Day hurled in 13-games.

Yes, Boots Day, the old Expos CF, pitched in 13 games in Evansville in 1976. Heck, he didn’t do too bad – a 3.94 ERA and a 1.375 WHIP.

Maybe that’s why Ralph Houk had his staff iron man it up in Detroit. Either that, or it was a threat, “Bare! I’ll call up a washed up CF to take your spot in the bullpen if you don’t pitch well today!”

 

Won’t You Spare Me Over For Another Year?

I remember getting this card as a kid. Scratch that, I remember getting about a half-dozen of these cards as a kid.

Trust me, for the group of kids I was friends with, having spare Angels cards didn’t endear you to trading partners, unless you had extra Nolan Ryans or Frank Tananas hanging around.

Looking at the back of this card, seeing his less than stellar major league career to that point, the best you could do with a Mike Miley was a throw-in just to rid yourself of the doubles or triples.

Then, you notice that he didn’t get a card in 1978. You may have noticed that he wasn’t in the minor league stats for the Angels in 1977.

Then, in early 1978 you read something in a preview magazine about the Angels trying to regroup at short with Rance Mulliniks and Dave Chalk because of ineffectiveness of their prospects and…

…the death of Mike Miley.

Whoa.

Because the Angels were really out of your radar screen even after their big free agent signings (Rudi, Baylor, Grich) you didn’t really notice them all too much. They were in the wrong league and their games were always ‘late game not included’ in the morning newspaper, and in the afternoon newspaper (remember those?) they were two lines and a box score.

So, if you were me, you’d try to figure out what happened. That means a trip to the library to find old Sporting News from before the 1977 season, since you only bought those to get the minor league stats (as you were a junior stats geek already).

Car crash in early 1977.

Then you find out more about Miley. He was a gifted two-sport athlete at LSU and was the starting QB and SS for the Tigers. That’s pretty impressive. Can you imagine the hype now for a college athlete by Miley? ESPN would have daily updates on what sport he would choose.

The Angels being who they were, they thrust him into the system a bit too quickly. He started in AA and showed decent power, but had a lousy 1975 in the PCL (hitting .209 in the PCL was pretty awful) but rebounded with a strong 1976 at Salt Lake and looked like he was going to pan out. He had a little power, some speed, a lot of patience, and was improving defensively.

Then, it was over. Not just his baseball career, his existence.

He’s remembered fondly with stadiums and streets in certain places, sure. But he never really had a chance to establish his legacy in the baseball world, or the real world.

I wrote this about Mariano Rivera’s asking for some perspective. Rivera had a long career, and his ending, while sudden, would not be tragic nor sad.

Miley’s ending was both.

As a kid, I never knew that he was gone when I pulled this card. I threw him into the ‘not good’ pile and left him there.

How would I have reacted if I knew about his untimely passing? The 46-year old me speculates that I would have treated him with more respect than that.

But it’s a far cry from age 12 to age 46.

Still Here…

Been crazy. I’m not going to beat myself up over it because why bother? It’s a blog about a hobby and real life happens. Such as:

1. Five straight work days of 7A calls for work.

2. Taxes and financial stuff.

3. Planning a trip back to MN to see the kids and the girlfriend.

4. Planning a work trip to a client.

5. Planning for the girlfriend to move down here.

6. Writing for Bugs & Cranks.

7. Stuff and things.

Basically, my brain has been dead. My finances aren’t in the best shape, but this was expected in the timing of the whole move down here.

So I chose Dave Hilton as my representation for the prodigal blogger.

The Padres had high apple pie in the sky hopes for Hilton. Frankly, though, they had a lot of high draft picks that rather much, um, kerplopped (well there’s that Winfield guy…) and Hilton was one of them. He basically became a AAAA-player that had enough holes in his game for big league pitchers to exploit and he was hampered as a utility guy because he didn’t play shortstop.

The Blue Jays gave him a shot to make the team in 1977 and he didn’t. Not making the team when guys like Hector Torres, Steve Skaggs, Dave McKay and Tim Nordbrook were hanging around had to hurt. So he went to Japan for a couple of seasons and was involved in an ugly series of events that cost him and manager Don Blasingame their jobs. (Not Hilton’s fault, but he was a pawn in the game of baseball…)

My appearances here may be spotty until I get my mojo hand back. Hopefully I won’t get DFA’d by my own blog.

 

 

What Color Is That Anyway?

Now, I’m no artiste, nor a photographer, but I have a question.

Everyone knows that the Mariners (and Brewers – who also had many hats airbrushed in this style) colors were blue. Not sky blue or turquoise but blue blue.

So why did Topps hang this whatever-you-call-it color on several M’s their first year or two?

Did they just not care about the M’s that card over card the colors (and logos) were mismatched?

Wait, don’t answer that.

Pagan’s claim to fame was being part of the ginormous Yanks / O’s trade in 1976 that Orioles out of Rick Dempsey, Scott McGregor and Tippy Martinez (hard to think of them as anything else but Orioles) along with Rudy May while the Yanks rented Doyle Alexander, Ellie Hendricks and Grant Jackson and also acquired a punching bag for Billy Martin (Ken Holtzman). While the Yanks won the 1976 pennant the trade was a swindle.

He also was a hard thrower who eschewed the national sport of Canada (hockey) to play baseball. Coming from Saskatchewan that was a big ol’ deal. As an original M he struggled but seemingly put it together after twirling a 3-0 shutout against Oakland in mid-May. But he undid that work by seeing his ERA raise two full points in a month (hard to do) and then being dumped to Pittsburgh for a PTBNL which turned into Rick Honeycutt, after which he was sent down by the Pirates. He pitched one game for Pittsburgh in late September and that was it.

All we have now is this…with whatever the hell color it is? Any one have the Pantone number for it?

Case Of The Blahs…

That’s what I’ve had. I’ve been overwhelmed by work and the NCAA tourney and some personal stuff and well, you know.

I did crack open a few things of Heritage and like it even though my retinas are burned by the back of the card.

So why not showcase my blah with Steve Braun in a blah card? I always liked Braun because of his on-base skills, but his skill set doesn’t fit the positions he was asked to play the most (third and corner outfield). And defensively, as a third baseman he was a decent left fielder. (Yes, you read that right).

Even though he was seemingly a Gene Mauch type of player, the Twins left him exposed in the expansion draft after the 1976 season and he wasn’t taken until the 38th pick, after the M’s selected notables like Dan Meyer, Frank MacCormack, Carlos Lopez and Juan Bernhardt. He flopped in Seattle (a .315 SLG as a LF was a bit too much to ask for even an expansion team) and re-invented himself as a pinch-hitter deluxe with Kansas City and St. Louis.

But yeah, bleah.

I need to get fired up before the bleah-ness subsumes my soul and I start posting non-ironically about guys like Tommy McMillan.

The Epitome Of Cool

George Hendrick was the coolest, baddest dude on the mid-70’s Indians.

No, he didn’t have a name like Charlie Spikes, or a nickname like “Sugar Bear” Blanks. No, he didn’t have Oscar Gamble’s afro.

But he was the man.

As you know, the mid-70’s Indians unis were, well, um….

“Blood Clot!”

I didn’t mind the font, especially on the hat, but the bright red (magenta? fuschia? whatever…) uniforms were just not good at all. The sight of Frank Robinson and Boog Powell cavorting in them were also sad reminders of how unfortunate sartorial choices can make the most distinguished men look like clowns, and the stoutest of men look like marshmallow men.

Hendrick, while he may have donned the uniforms, never had a card that featured him in one.

His ‘blood clot’ era cards featured him in a jacket, covering up the mess underneath.

But that’s not why he’s the coolest. I mean, Don Hood is in a jacket in his 1977 card.

It’s not the well-sculpted fu manchu either, though it’s pretty rad.

It’s the combo of everything, with the kicker of wearing a visor instead of a hat.

In this card, he’s wearing a visor as you can see. He’s saying,  “I’m not going to pose unless I do it my way. With my jacket and my visor.”

He’s bad…

 

We Spawned A Monster…

And I’m not talking about Jesse Jefferson’s visage, or countenance, or that wonderful airbrushing (I’m sure the Topps artists were beside themselves when the Blue Jays logo was revealed). (Jesse does look like the son of a Hapsburg in the photo (and that’s not a compliment).)

I’m talking about us!

I realized it again when I went through the Rubbermaid containers that contain my binders of cards so I could mark what sets are in which container. That way, when I put them in storage in the garage when the girlfriend arrives down here I know which sets are which.

But it struck me as I went through them how many sets I’m chasing (well, not so much chasing now as in please peeps send me the cards) and I forgot how many sets I started thanks to those re-packs at Target. It’s no wonder that baseball wanted to get a handle on it because even after a lot of companies came and went Upper Deck was really diluting things with all the sub-sets that seemingly showcased the same players in different poses.

Just too much when you added that in with what Topps was doing, IMHO. Of course, us adult-type collectors clamored for it back in the day.

Now, people are grousing that there’s no competition to Topps, and well, they may be right, but there’s still a lot of product out there. And because of my financial shape, I’m only doing the base set, update, Heritage and either Gypsy Queen or A&G (or maybe neither one) as of now.

And I’m thinking of turning my Bowman, Opening Day, and a lot of those small subset type sets back to the marketplace, though I’m not a huge fan of eBaying it. I may rely on you all, but that’s an aside.

Really, though, I think we’re mostly responsible. We, as adults who are pursuing our hobby. We wanted more premiums, more shiny, more autos, more relics, more, more more and when something wasn’t right we turned internet-tough guy and wrote expletive filled blog posts to show our displeasure.

We lost our way a bit in this hobby and it hit home collating those binders and reading some of the screeds this past year about the damn squirrel and the ‘game changing’ hype. (It’s hype, and it doesn’t concern me, and it’s nothing to get all angsty about. It’s marketing. Whoop-de.)

I think we forgot something. I went back to this hobby because it reminded me of happier times as a child in a tough time personally. Jesse Jefferson was part of those happier times, warts and airbrush and inflated ERA and all. The junk wax era isn’t junk to me because it’s another happier time for me as a person and baseball fan, right out of college and into four rotiss leagues.

Yes, I think we lost the real reason this hobby grew.

It’s to make us happy. Not make money. Not race to collect bling. But to be the kids collecting mementos about your favorite player, team or sport. I really don’t have much to complain about with most all that I trade with because they’re seemingly doing it for the right reason and not trying to make a fast buck or two. You all aren’t pawing through the cards at Target, or setting the prices so they’re out of reach of the kids and fans. You collect teams and players and sets and if you like shinys or parallels or things you collect them because you LIKE them, not for profit.

It just hit me today. The industry ate itself because it lost sight of the 12-year olds. Including the 12-year olds in 46-year old bodies.

I feel good when I see this Jesse Jefferson card, and I don’t care that it doesn’t have three parallels and a purple refactor.

Of course, I think Paul Richards cared about Jesse’s ERA, which is why Jesse is airbrushed into that wonderful hat.

The Perils Of Being Poor At Pitching

You may not realize this, but John D’Acquisto had one of the fastest fastballs in the 1970’s. Bill James claimed he was the runner up to Nolan Ryan on an official radar gun reading for MPH in the 70’s.

I can believe that.

He wasn’t Nolan Ryan because while Ryan had control issues, D’Acquisto had full-on control maladies. The combination of the heat and wildness made for some fun stats.

In 1970, at Great Falls, at age 18,  in 55 innings he walked 74.

In 1971,  at Class A Clinton, he whiffed 244 and walked 124 in 233 innings.

In 1972, at Fresno, he whiffed 245 and walked 102 in 209 innings.

After a pretty nifty year in 1973 at Phoenix, he was in the bigs in 1974. It was a pretty nifty year, too. 215 innings, 167 whiffs, 2.5 WAR. Oh, and 124 walks.

“Man, if he could harness that heat, he was going to be great,” the wags thought.

It didn’t happen. He had elbow problems, but his wildness problem became out of control (as it were).

In 1975, he made six starts before hitting the DL. It was uggggly. 1-4, 11.19, 23 1/3 innings, 23 hits, 31 walks, 20 strikeouts.

He made some relief appearances at the end of 1975, and then pitched the entire year in 1976 for the Giants.

Oof.

Splitting time between starting and relieving, he had a 5.35 ERA and walked 102 in 106 innings while striking out just 53.  Through May, his ERA was 9.00.

As you can bet, the Giants said, ‘enough with you’ at the end of the season and included him in deal that send Mike Caldwell and Dave Rader to the Cards for Willie Crawford, Vic Harris and John Curtis. Detrius for detrius (though Caldwell had some great years for the Brewers, he wasn’t much of a commodity at that point).

Then the Cards sent him to the Padres for the burned out shell of Butch Metzger.

After another rough 1977 (6.54 ERA, 44 innings, 49 walks, 47 K’s), he somehow found it and more in 1978. 4-3, 10 saves, 2.13 ERA, 93 innings, 104 whiffs and only 56 walks.

He regressed in 1979, recovered to replacement level in 1980, and was done after pitching poorly in 1981 and 1982. He was just another burned out phenom.

Now, you would think the Giants would have moved him to the bullpen full-time after his elbow injury. That’s not how they rolled back then. But his performance in 1978 showed that he could have been pretty well served throwing his BB’s in the late innings. Why the Padres moved him to the rotation in 1979 for a bit is a question, but as I noted in the Bob Shirley post they didn’t have that many options and his splits were equally poor as both a starter and a reliever.

No matter what, the classic axiom holds for D’Acquisto:

“Oh, those bases on balls…”

We’ve Been Down This Road

Hello there! I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving  with someone special and working hard, so sorry for the absence.

This will be short, because I still got stuff to do, but I read something that gave me pause.

The Marlins signed Heath Bell, for big money. $9 million for three years. Oh, wait, allegedly agreed to terms. Whatever.

There are a few basic facts:

1. Of any position outside of DH (or maybe 1B), relief pitchers are pretty easy to come by and can easily be found in the minors or on the waiver wire.

2. Closers, for the most part, are way overrated. Usually they pitch in lower-leverage situations than the set-up men and now hardly ever enter with runners on base.

3. Anyone who is a legitimate major league pitcher can close.

So while elite talent is worth spending money for, perhaps Heath Bell shouldn’t be valued that highly for what his true value is.

But ever since the dawn of free agency, though, open-market closers have been quite desirable.

Case in point, Mr. Campbell. Soup to his friends.

Campbell spent 3 1/2 seasons in Minnesota before free agency became the law of the baseball land. The rules were different, so even though Campbell didn’t have that much service time he was allowed to rid himself of the penury from playing under Clark Griffith.

In 1976, Campbell went 17-5 with 20 saves and a 3.01 ERA in 167 2/3 innings. That’s a pretty hefty workload, and even then it should have been known that it was unsustainable.

Campbell had a better year in 1974 with a 3.7 WAR (8-7, 19 saves, 2.62 ERA. And he did blow 10 saves in 1976 (four of which he turned into wins). But the Red Sox needed pitching in order to compete with the Yankees, so why not spend the money?

They gave Campbell a five year $1 million deal.  That’s $1 million total. Still, it was a far cry from the $23,000 he earned in 1976.

In 1977, he went 13-9 with 31 saves and a 2.96 ERA. He blew 11 saves, and the Red Sox finished 2 1/2 back. His WAR was the best of his career at 4.6.

But the rest of the contract, he was rather much a disaster for the Red Sox. 0.5 WAR total. 15-10, 20 saves and a 4.02 ERA. Bleah!

After the contract, he became a Cub for two seasons, then drifted around the leagues.

In the first free agent class, it was demonstrated that spending lots of money for free-agent closers don’t really work out in the long term.

But to this day, teams will try to prove that wrong.

Good luck, Marlins. Hope you get some good trade value in year 3 of the deal!

 

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