I Had Glasses Like That…

It didn’t help my fastball one whit though.

Nor was I ever plucky, gritty, crafty, or even a proven veteran.

 

He Was A Rated Rookie? Really?

I received this card today from Hilfew, who while I argue about advanced metrics with him I dig that he’s a Rockies collector (and baseball fan, naturally) so I have a home for any of my Rockies bling. He also took care of one of my set needs and whacked a few others down to size. Good job, internet trade!

I was surprised when I saw that Fraser was a ‘Rated Rookie’. Fraser was one of those guys that my AL Rotiss League never drafted, and we had 12 teams in the league! He was a roster filler, and the Angels had no shortage of pitchers like that in the 80’s.

He had a very fast rise in the Angels farm system, either by design or desperation. A first round pick in 1985 (out of Concordia College – Bronxville (Yo!)), he spent 1985 being cuffed around in the Midwest League (maybe it was culture shock to go from New York City to the Quad Cities), but had a decent 1986 in AA and AAA before matriculating to the bigs for one forgettable start during the Angels’ pennant year of 1986 (six hits and four runs in 4 1/3 against Cleveland in September).

The Angels fell apart in 1987, though it wasn’t Fraser’s issue. He was 10-10 as a swingman with an ERA+ of 111 and a 1.9 WAR. Pretty good numbers for a rookie. But 1988 was a disaster (12-13, 5.41, 71 ERA+, -1.8 WAR) and after that he was relegated to the back-40 of the bullpen. His 1989 and 1990 were decent, but he never instilled confidence for the Angels to use him when they had a lead (only 20 of his 89 appearances where when California was ahead). He then was part of the bounty the Blue Jays received when they stole Devon White in exchange for Junior Felix and Luis Sojo.

From there, he went here, there, everywhere, and hung ‘em up after spending most of 1995 in lovely Ottawa, Ontario.

Seeing ‘Rated Rookie” on Frasier’s card (and seeing him called Will, not Willie) was just a shock. I just remember him as a vagabond and an afterthought, but for a brief time he was a prospect.

You have to remember that it’s baseball, though, except for the few fame is fleeting. But we have the cards – yes we have the cards.

Donnie Hill – 1987 Topps

November 6, 2011

A Dilemma. Also, Most Inexcusable Air-Brush Job Ever.

The dilemma is this, my friends.

I finally got all of my keepers located and put into containers where I can locate them, and store them in the garage. I posted on my Facebook page (which you can find if you know me name) that I couldn’t locate my Misc. Fleer binder, but it was under a pillow on the love seat (which mostly collects things right now). Also, I just tweeted (which you can find if you think about it a bit, especially if you’ve received email from me) about my dilemma.

Which is…

I don’t know what to do with my doubles. I gots some good doubles for trade, but I also have a scad of junk waxes that I somehow didn’t get rid of in spring cleaning / grab bags. And now I don’t have anything to store them in. I went to a LCS yesterday but arrived too late. I consolidated on the move and just don’t want to dump these things into boxes.

I wonder, WONDER, mind you, if I should just recycle cards like the above Donnie Hill. It’s against my manifesto – and I probably could just donate them to Goodwill. (Actually, that’s what I’ll do probably.) It’s more of a storage thing than anything. But then I remember I was the loony who wanted to try to get those sets and, well, I want to perform the same service.

Think, think, think. Oh, bother.

At any rate, I’ll sort this thing out soon.

But now onto Mr. Hill.

The scan doesn’t do the card justice.

(Nor does the knife feel like justice, really…)

It’s just electric green and the A’s had is definitely plunked onto his head. I don’t think he was wearing a hat in the shot.

The question is why was Mr. Hill subjected to the treatment given to those who were traded or signed as a free agent or rushed up to the minors in a huff?

You look at the back of Hill’s card, he doesn’t have his minor league stats printed. So he wasn’t a rookie or a noob.

In fact, he played two full seasons and two mostly full seasons in the bigs. He was the regular second sacker in 1985 and in 1986 split time with Tony Phillips and then filled in quite a bit at third for Carney Lansford.

No star he, but he had played 357 big league games for Oakland. And Topps gave him the electric green airbrush treatment.

Some things I just don’t understand. But maybe I’m not supposed to.

Who Did He Bribe?

Here is Alvaro Espinoza’s final card as a Minnesota Twin.

He was just 24, but it could have realistically been his last card.  He was a good fielder, but had no stick, and those guys were beginning to be a dime-a-dozen. He was buried behind Greg Gagne and Al Newman. He spent 1987 in Portland, hitting singles and fielding grounders. The Twins took him off the roster and the Yanks signed him as a six-year free agent.

In 1988 he hit .246 in the International League.

In 1989, he replaced Rafael Santana as the Yankees shortstop and was the regular for three years. He never had an OPS higher than .633. His high water mark in runs was 51. His high water mark in RBI was 41. He walked 14, 16, and 16 times. He stole 8 bases in three seasons and was caught six times.

He played under Dallas Green, Bucky Dent and Stump Merrill. None of those managers thought an upgrade at short was necessary. All were fired.

Later, he was a platoon third baseman (!) (with Jeff Treadway! What was Hargrove thinking?) and Jim Thome’s defensive caddy in Cleveland. A utility player and defensive replacement should have been the limit of his play.

How did he last three years as a starter? In New York? For the Yankees?

BTW, he drew one intentional walk in his career. That was in 1989, August 21 to be exact. Down 5-4, with two out (no less) Joe Morgan of the Red Sox ordered Espinoza and his .311 OBP walked him intentionally in the bottom of the eighth, to load the bases and bring up Wayne Tolleson. Ken Phelps pinch hit and walked in an insurance run as the Yankees win 6-4. To move to 57-68 on the season. The Red Sox fell to 58-65.

Who was the hurler that Morgan ordered to walk Espinoza?

Roger Clemens.

Morgan decided that it was best for Clemens to walk Alvaro Espinoza with runners on second and third and two out, and then take his chances with an inevitable pinch hitter for Tolleson. And of course, Dallas Green chose Ken Phelps, who walked for a living.

Sure, Clemens wasn’t that sharp that night. But there were two outs, and Jessie Barfield moved to second on a foul pop to catcher off the bat of Bob Geren. (Quite the murder’s row there at 6, 7 and 8: Geren, Espinoza, Tolleson.) I don’t know what Rick Cerone was doing, but somehow Barfield moved up a bag.

If you can’t trust Roger Freakin’ Clemens to get Alvaro Espinoza out, then why are you managing?

Or did Morgan get a cut of what Espinoza gave the Yanks to become their shortstop?

 

Tom Seaver – 1987 Topps

February 25, 2011

This Just Doesn’t Look Right

First, props to Nachos Grande (one for me, please, with taco meat) for helping me almost complete my 2010 A & G set of base cards and got me within double digits of 1991 Topps.

And mad, bad, and dangerous to know props to Cards On Cards for a big ol’ box helping me hugely on several sets, completing one for me (1990 Fleer) and jump starting me on three sets that I’m about ready to roll out on my want list page (as soon as I consolidate my holdings, as it were). My want list is updated for the damage he did on my spreadsheets.

So now on to the main feature…

I’ve noticed since I’ve gotten back into collecting (one year this coming May) that I have forgotten where some players wound up in their career. I mentioned Vince Coleman as one example, since I totally whiffed on his time with the Mariners even though he was on the 1995 team that beat the Yankees in the ALDS.

Icons, though, like Tom Seaver, seeing him in a uniform other than the Mets or the Reds is weird (and even the Reds is a bit odd because Seaver is so identified with the Mets).

Just something is just jarring about it – seeing a player like Seaver in irregular colors.

This is why we have cardboard like this, though, to provide a lasting document of the game and the players’ movements within the game.

There has been some talk on other blogs around regarding players changing teams. My thoughts are these:

1. People remember the stars like Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle all staying in one place. But the non-star regulars weren’t really afforded the luxury.

2. Teams on good financial footing throughout history kept their stars. But teams like the Browns, Senators, Phillies and A’s had a revolving door. It was all about the $$ even then.

3. Don’t be fooled by the ‘old fogeyism’ where today’s players were ‘all about the money’ and ‘we would play the game for free’. I read something in a historical tome where they documented such talk in the 1860’s! The 1860’s!! And each generation of players after that thought they were the ‘glory days’ and the current players are just greedy bastards.

4. Also don’t be fooled about the ‘loyalty’ card thrown out there by players of the past. It was known that before the reserve clause, players went where they got paid. The reserve clause was put in place to control salaries. So don’t give me that bullpuckey about the loyalty of players. If the reserve clause wasn’t in play – they’d be all playing for the next contract for the highest bidder.

5. Some players are loyal, yes. But loyalty has a price. Joe Mauer wanted to stay with the Twins, but if they didn’t give him a good contract he wouldn’t be up here.

6. And while it may be easier not to have to remember a new second baseman every year or two, if that second baseman is sub-standard then fans would be complaining about not doing anything to become competitive.

So yeah, Seaver looks weird as a Red Sox pitcher. But Harmon Killebrew looked very strange in Royals blue, and Ty Cobb looked very odd in the whites of the Philadelphia A’s.

And if anyone has an old shot of Honus Wagner as a Louisville Colonel, then that would be the oddest of them all.

 

Bruce Hurst – 1987 Topps

February 23, 2011

A Great Day For Baseball Here In Beantown

Why, it’s almost 40 degrees!

Mike Brown – 1987 Topps

February 22, 2011

The Haunted Look Of A Mariners’ Middle Reliever

Typing in Mike Brown into Baseball-Reference.com leads to two major league players named Mike Brown who were both in the majors at the same time.

Mike Brown, the outfielder, probably got a raw deal by the Pirates and Angels. He could flat out rake in the minors and half of the time in the majors.

This Mike Brown was a top prospect for the Red Sox, and like a lot of the mid-level Boston prospects didn’t pan out. When you go 1-8, 6.85, you don’t have a long leash. So he languished in the minors and struggled with some injuries (his 1985 was basically lost in the weeds with ineffective performances at both Boston and Pawtucket, and not many innings pitched) and then in 1986 when the Mariners dangled Spike Owen and Dave Henderson, the Red Sox said, “Hey, have two Mikes! So Brown and Trujillo went to the Mariners.

And pitching for the 1986 Mariners can try a man’s soul.

Now it could be that Brown had foreshadowing, since he was traded so late. This could be an airbrush job but I don’t have conclusive proof one way or another.

At any rate, Brown went from fringe contributor to a pennant winner to, well, just another pitcher in the clown car that was the Mariners’ staff. His first start was a disaster (1 2/3 innings, 5 hits, 3 walks, 6 runs), his second pretty good, and of course (7 IP, 3 hits, 2 ER), so of course he was just a mop-up man in September. You know, because Mike Morgan really needed those innings.

At any rate, Brown was not in the Mariners plans for 1987 for whatever reason, and pitched just 1/3 of an inning, giving up three hits and two runs in the first inning after Lee Guetterman was knocked out of the box by the Twins. Brown gave up double, single, double, fly out and then was sent back to the PCL. He pitched one more year, in Colorado Springs for the Indians, and was done.

So maybe Brown sees the future in this card, where he’s back to riding the buses as a pitching coach. Or perhaps Brown is reflecting on his high school successes, as the back of the card enumerates:

He must have been a pretty darn good athlete (Falls Church Marshall Statesmen, class of 1977!), as he went to Clemson on a baseball scholarship, and as it says averaging 24.5 points in hoops and 40 yards in football.

Wait…

“40 yards in football”?????

40 yards what? Rushing? Passing?

Unless that was a per reception or return average, 40 yards is nothing special for a rusher or receiver, and bad as a QB except in an option or wing-T offense.

Did Topps run out of room? Didn’t check the content? Or were the fumes from the airbrush department overwhelming the copy editors?

Maybe Brown is thinking about that?

“I have a vision. The back of my baseball card is not going to make sense…”

 

 

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…

STRIKE!

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.

The End Of Tequila Sunrise

The Astros of the 80’s finally realized that their garish “Tequila Sunrise” uniforms were out of control, and started to ease into something a bit more…normal.

 

Of course, fashion is a fickle thing. My high school (colors gold and blue) had blue ‘tequila sunrise’ patterned uniforms in 1981 and 1982 and the JV got to wear them in 1983 and 1984. Those came complete with a piece of black fabric sewn on the back and a whole bunch of velcro letters that I had to attach, so each shirt had a NOB. (OK, I didn’t have to do the JV in 1983 and 1984, but the other manager was a total doofus knucklehead, so I pitched in.)

And you look back at this…

And you realize that the Astros unis were just part of a passing phase of gauche sweeping the nation. And baseball being baseball, it was kind of late to the scene.

(Ok, I gotta put their groovy tune on the post…)

Mizerock was a great disappointment for the Astros. Yes, sorry Dimwit, I’m picking on them again. But catchers, aside from pitchers, always seem to be the one position that’s extremely hard to draft and project. For every Joe Mauer, there’s a John Mizerock – a high draft pick who can catch but can’t hit. Many drafted catchers turn out not to be able to catch in the minors, and then they become Tyler Houston.

If you were drafting a catcher, 1979 wasn’t the year to do so. The first rounders were: Jay Schroeder (well, he’d be the QB on the all-1979 draftee team, I guess), Mizerock, Ricky Seilheimer, Dan Lamar and Bob Geren. The only catchers with a positive WAR in the majors drafted that year were Tim Laudner, Bob Melvin, Mark Parent, Bill Schroeder, Darrell Miller, Mark Salas, and the best of the bunch, Don Slaught. Slaught, of course, was a 20th round pick.

(Looking at past drafts can be either fun, or scary…)

But even with a MLB OPS+ of 65, a .232 batting average in the minors (!), the Miz has some things going for him.

1. He’s from Punxsutwaney, PA. So you know the town really exists.

2. He’s got several built in nicknames – The Miz, the Rock, etc.

3. He made a career for himself in coaching and managing.

So he’s got that going for him.

 

Chuck Tanner – 1987 Topps

January 27, 2011

The Sad Demise Of A Clueless Manager

Chuck Tanner was well-liked by his players. And why not? He basically let them do what they wanted to. He won a World Series in Pittsburgh, and got the White Sox off of the mat and into the first division.

But then, well, there was the Pittsburgh locker room where Tanner either willfully looked away or was just outright ignorant about drugs – even with players like Rod Scurry and Dale Berra running around coked up.

And then there’s his stint in Atlanta.

He became well known first as manager of the White Sox. They were moribund, and perhaps on the verge of moving to Milwaukee (before the Pilots went bust). Tanner used the arm of Wilbur Wood and the bats of Bill Melton and then Dick Allen to rebuild the franchise. He broke in players like Jorge Orta, Bucky Dent and Brian Downing into the big leagues.

But at what cost? Tanner tried to use a three-man starting staff at times of Wood, Jim Kaat and Stan Bahnsen. Before then Bart Johnson and Tom Bradley were pitched into the ground. His lack of ‘rules’ for Allen backfired on him in 1974. The team floundered at about .500 and then went back to their losing ways, sans Allen  in 1975.

Fired by the Sox, he then went to the Oakland A’s circus. The 1976 A’s were chock full of drama. They had lost Catfish Hunter to free agency thanks to an arbitrator, and everyone in the room knew that most all of the players that were part of the A’s dynasty were as good as gone as soon as they were allowed to play out their option. So it was the last hurrah.

Compound that with Charlie O. Finley going absolutely bonkers on his pinch running idea, and running in general, and then the loss of Vida Blue, Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers for two weeks, Tanner did a good job keeping the A’s in the race all season.

Then he was traded (yes traded) to Pittsburgh where he inherited a great team and managed them well for the first few years. He got at bats for Bill Robinson and Mike Easler, broke in Ed Ott and Don Robinson and got the bullpen and rotation humming along.

Then, the money and the cocaine happened, and Tanner couldn’t capitalize on his success. Plus, he remained loyal to dead weight like Berra, Bill Madlock and Omar Moreno and then force fed Marvell Wynne and Sammy Khalifa into the bigs. When they hit bottom, they cratered big time. They were 11th in runs scored and 10th in ERA. They had no power, and the only players with on-base skills were the slugger (Jason Thompson) or a total slappy (Joe Orsulak, who had an OPS+ of 99 even with a .342 OBP).

But Tanner had a rep, Ted Turner had the cash, and off he went to Atlanta in 1986.

Turner had fired Joe Torre after an 80-82 record in 1984. Eddie Haas didn’t even last one season; he was fired and Bobby Wine too over as the 1985 Braves ended at 66-96.

In looking at the 1985 Braves, they gave too many at bats to players with no or limited offensive skills, had kids that didn’t come through, and had pitchers that fell apart due to drug abuse, arm woes, or ineptitude.

There was no reason to be optimistic about 1986, but hey, Tanner had successfully launched some players in the bigs – and the players like him. Why not?

They were better in 1986, but 6 1/2 games better only. Chuck thought by just saying good things to Raffy Ramirez, Glenn Hubbard and Andres Thomas, then they’d learn to hit. He thought that Omar Moreno should lead off because he was fast. Rick Mahler wanted the ball every four days, so why not start him 39 times?

The offense was better in 1987, even though Andres Thomas still existed, but the bullpen fell apart and Tanner couldn’t fix it by hoping Gene Garber would turn it around. It went from bad to worse to egregious in 1988, and Tanner was fired. He wasn’t hired again.

He could be given a grace year in 1986 – but in 1987 he should have realized that Thomas and Ramirez and Hubbard were too much of a bad thing, and just thrown it over to Jeff Blauser to play shortstop. He should have realized that you couldn’t win with no power at first base or third and that Gerald Perry’s 42 steals do no good when he can’t get on base consistently. And a last place team doesn’t need to have Ken Griffey Sr., Ted Simmons, Gary Roenicke and Graig Nettles hanging around.

He didn’t question or push anything – he just went along with what was going on – whether it was stealing bases every 5 seconds, or going with a 3-man rotation, or playing an entire team of middle infielders. Why not – if we think it’ll work it should, right?

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