December 10, 2010
Walt, Loosen Up A Bit, Would Ya?
Doesn’t he scream “Walt” to ya? Isn’t he a prototypical “Walt” from 50’s family sitcoms as the Dad.
Good ol’ Walt. Give him the ball, and he’ll eat 200 innings. Sure, he’ll give up some hits, some runs, he’ll win some games, he’ll lose a few more. But more than 50% of the time he’d give you a quality start.
His high water mark was in 1987, when he helped pitch the Tigers to the AL East crown. He won 17 games with a little better than league average ERA.
The next year, his ERA was lower, but his run support shrunk from 5.5 to 3.8 runs per game, and he went 7-16. That Tigers team won 88 games, and their bats went into the cryogenic container when Walt took the mound. Doyle Alexander’s ERA was 4.37. Walt’s was 3.97. Doyle got a run a game more to work with – and of course he had a winning record.
That’s enough to make you surly and uncomfortable. Well, so is being a Met (as pictured above). By the time kids and collectors cracked open the wax to find this, though, he was a Tiger, sent there for Howard Johnson. Really, a good trade for both teams until Detroit panicked.
Let’s channel Hubie Brown
Let’s say you are the Tigers in the fall of 1987. You gave it a good run but you came up short. Your 30-year old innings eater had no run support, so he went 7-16. Your team is getting older, and your corner infielders are atrocious. Face it, Ray Knight and Tom Brookens are done. However, some players on your team have value, and you can find value out there for the corners.
You don’t trade your 30-year old innings eater for Keith Moreland and Chris Brown. You just don’t.
That was a ghastly trade. The Padres scored just 2.9 runs per start for Walt. No wonder he went 5-13. And of course, the Padres were in a race, so they HAD to do something with Walt. Never mind he was out-pitching Rasmussen and Show. He was 5-13! So off he went back to New York, this time to the Bronx, for Mike Pagliarulo.
He pitched poorly in New York (but had a winning record!), signed a free agent contract with Pittsburgh, was released in mid-season there, but Sparky said, “Walt, we had some good times. C’mon back to Detroit.” And so he did, pitching the next 2 1/2 seasons there.
I go back to this photo of Walt as a Met. He was part of the Ron Darling / Lee Mazzilli trade. The Mets actually drafted him in 1979 but he didn’t sign, so they had their eye on him for a while. He was a Hoosier, born in Jeffersonville (near Louisville) and he went to Morehead State in BFE, Kentucky. So New York was, well, a bit out of his idiom. I can see how Detroit fit him much better. He could go out, eat some innings, and kick back out of the media spotlight. In New York, if he pitched six innings, then why didn’t he go seven. If he gave up three runs, then why did he? This photo seems to say Walt was uncomfortable in that environment.
Either that, or Walt had a bad calzone on his way to the park. Gotta watch out for some of those shops in Brooklyn…