Hey Steve…

It’s Hector Villanova. Villanuva. Viloneva. Vilaneva. Villonuevo. Viyaneva.

How do you say it backwards anyway?

A Royals Version Of 1985

The (in) famous stat-geek, medical-type doctor and Royals fan Rany has posted a song tribute to his wobegon team.

It’s here!

 

Catcher? Oh, Yeah….

Well, here’s a question to ponder.

Would Todd Zeile have been an All-Star  player if he stayed at catcher?

Now, don’t invoke Sharia Law and stone me right now…but just think critically about this.

When he came up, he was the Cardinals #1 prospect. But the Cards also had Tom Pagnozzi as a catching prospect. And Joe Torre wanted Pagnozzi to catch, and so he moved Zeile to third.

Was that a smart move?

Zeile wasn’t a great defensive catcher. But unlike Brandon Inge, he was a catcher in college. And while Pagnozzi was a good (but not great) defensive catcher, he didn’t hit much. Of course, you want defense at catcher, but Zeile was worse at third than he was at catcher, according to the metrics.

What would have happened if Torre kept Zeile at catcher for longer than he did? It was obvious that Zeile would have to move at some point, but not right away for Tom Pagnozzi. It’s like moving Mike Piazza for Alex Trevino; you just don’t do it.

Think about it…and when you’re done, think about Zeile’s wife.

 

 

 

 

 

He Was A Met?

(Checks Baseball Reference…)

Yep.

This card, a high number, was in the last series of Upper Deck. Unlike Topps, they made an effort to get players in their new uniforms.

But check his B-R page again. By the time this card was produced and packaged, he was most likely already in Boston – traded for Greg Hansell.

By the same time in 1991, he was done. Out. Done in by a combo of some old-player skills (some power, no speed, no defense) and the lack of strike zone judgement that accentuated his decline.

I totally forgot about his steep decline. That’s why I went into collecting again – to remember players like Marshall who deserve to be remembered for what he did and then didn’t do.

 

Oops!

Boy, I shouldn’t scan during March Madness games.

Anyway, Mel Rojas…

1990-96 – ERA+ 133. 8.8 WAR

Signed a big contract with the Cubs after that.

1997 – 0-6, 4.64. Traded by the Cubs to the Mets with Brian McRae and Turk Wendell for Lance Johnson, Mark Clark and Manny Alexander. Basically, a – our gunk for your gunk.

1998 – ERA+ 70. WAR -0.9.

1999 – 14 innings. 28 runs.

That sound is a career plunging into the abyss.

 

If You Only Knew, Marty. If You Only Knew…

Sorry, this be crooked as well. It was late and my scanner was tired.

The Braves renaissance (thank you spell check) started when Bobby Cox started to become a real GM and built his teams around young players – trading stop gap vets for youth and drafting intelligently.

Marty Clary could have joined Smoltz, Glavine, Pete Smith, and Steve Avery as a relatively young pitcher on the first of the glory years staffs.

Clary was probably termed a disappointment to the Braves. He was a 3rd round 1983 pick that spent four seasons in Richmond with only a 1987 September call-up to show for it, and was sent down for a fifth to begin 1989. In his only major league start, on October 3 of 1987, he gave up 9 hits and 6 runs in 4 1/3 to the pennant winning Giants. You could probably think that Clary was thinking about using his Northwestern education instead of chasing his baseball dreams, but with the Braves staff in disarray, he probably thought it was worth a shot to keep at it.

The call came for Clary in mid-1989 and after a rocky relief outing he joined the rotation with a flash – a four-hitter that he won 2-1 over the Reds. He was so impressive in that game that after the Braves took the lead 2-1 in the top of the ninth Russ Nixon let Clary finish the game instead of turning the game over to their closer, Joe Boever. (In retrospect, good call, Russ!)

Clary replaced Zane Smith in the rotation and for the rest of 1989 he was the ‘old man’ of the starting staff. Avery, Pete Smith, Smoltz and Derek Lilliquist were all 22 or 23, and Clary was 27.

But Marty had reason to smile for this card. 1990 was going to be a great year. He broke camp and was in the rotation to start the year.

Well, um…the smile didn’t last long.

Young pitching has its ups and downs. Pete Smith and Lilliquist struggled, but Cox had the presence of mind to get Charlie Liebrandt to help steady the kids, even though Liebrandt started on the DL.

Clary made seven starts as part of the initial rotation. After an 8-4 loss to the Phillies he stood at 1-3, 5.30. With Liebrandt back, Clary was out and sent to the bullpen.

In July, due to the struggles of others Clary was back in the rotation. He pitched 14 1/3 innings in relief in June, and had a 3.77 ERA. However, he allowed 5 of 7 inherited runners to score and gave up 27 hits. Yikes.

July was even more of a disaster. In six July starts, he went 0-5 with a 5.45 ERA. After one horrible August start (9 runs, 7 earned in 4 2/3 against San Diego) he was yanked from the rotation with a 1-9 record. Of course, the very next game he pitched he lost, leaving his 1990 record as an unsightly 1-10. From the he was the mop-up man and then the forgotten man in September. The Braves released him and he hung around in the minors for a few years but then he was done. He probably had some sort of injury – his minor league career has a couple of holes in it after his release.

The smiles of 1989 turned into the frowns of 1990. But Clary rebounded personally, at least, and is now a physical therapist in Powdersville, SC.

 

The Thighmaster?

Or is he reliving his days as a defensive back for Tulane? What’s going on Gene?

Gene Harris was one of the gazillions of Expos pitching prospects that emerged in the late 80′s (and also one of the way too many pitchers named G. Harris at that time as well). It was fabulous for me, because I got to see many of them in Indianapolis.

Harris had some raw talent. He got on the prospect map after a darn good 1988 in Jacksonville, and then was part of the Mark Langston deal which also netted the Mariners Brian Holman and some big tall goofy looking dude named Johnson. Dunno what became of him. (Heh…)

In the majors, Harris had some issues with command. Case in point, his 1990 season in Seattle. 38 innings, 43 K’s, 25 unintentional walks, 5 home runs. The K’s are great, but the walks and homers aren’t good for a relief pitcher.

Gene was more down than up for Seattle, and then after a rough start in the bigs in 1992 was sent to San Diego for a minor leaguer. He spent some time down in Vegas and then finished the year strong for the Padres.

The Padres were going through on of their periodic house cleanings, and there was an opportunity for Harris in 1993 to be a solid contributor. He did that and more, winning the job as the closer. Sure, it was a closer for a 61-101 team, but the alternatives at the beginning of the year were less than stellar. Three members of the bullpen (Kerry Taylor, Mark Davis and Roger Mason) went 0-15 that season.

San Diego was still jettisoning expensive parts and Gary Sheffield was one of the parts to go. He was sent to Florida and in return one of the young players the Padres received was Trevor Hoffman. Now Hoffman had a story already. He was a converted infielder who just started pitching in 1991 and was already in the bigs. He also was the brother of former Red Sox shortstop Glenn Hoffman.

People were abuzz over Hoffman’s potential. The Marlins had Bryan Harvey, and they thought they didn’t need Hoffman. The Padres were collecting youngsters and thought Hoffman would be a good compliment to Harris.

Harris did save 23 games, but had eight blown saves and wasn’t exactly the next Goose Gossage or Rollie Fingers. Heck, he wasn’t really the next Butch Metzger. Wait, yes, yes he was…anyway…

The next year Jim Riggleman, the manager, had Harris start out as the closer.

I think the words I’m looking for are ‘unmitigated disaster’.

Harris was credited with four save opportunities. He had no saves, and three blown saves, and no holds. He gave up eight walks and 21 hits in 12 1/3 innings. (One save situation wasn’t a blown save, nor a hold, since he pitched 0.0 innings but didn’t blow the save. Fun!)

He sealed his fate in San Diego, though, when he complained about being used for a multi-inning save against Pittsburgh on April 12. The Padres were up 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth. Andy Ashby is cruising, and gets two quick outs. But he gives up a single to Jeff King and Riggleman waves in Mark “Well Removed From His Cy Young Days” Davis to face Orlando Merced. Merced walks on a full count, and so with runners on first and second and two out in the bottom of the eighth, and his team clinging to a 2-1 lead with the heart of the Pirates lineup at the plate, Riggleman waves in Gene Harris, the closer.

Dave Clark grounds a single to right, and King scores. Orlando Merced goes to third. (Yes, Tony Gwynn was playing RF, and that may be a big reason why the less-than-fleet Pirate runners got two bases on that single.)

Al Martin grounds a single up the middle, scoring Merced.

Don Slaught grounds a single to right, scoring Clark.

Harris got pinch-hitter Jerry Goff to end the inning, but a 2-1 lead turned into a 4-2 deficit, and Rick White closed out the win for the Pirates despite a double by Billy “Without” Bean.

From what I remember (and in reading an article a few days later by Buster Olney who was the Pads’ beat writer at the team), Harris was unhappy. But not with how he pitched, but that Riggleman used him in the 8th, as the closer. It was the first time I ever heard of a pitcher being upset because he came in too early during a save situation. And he let Riggleman have it in the media. Of course, Harris didn’t tell Riggleman he was upset before spouting off, so that went over well.

A few days later, Olney reported that Trevor Hoffman was going to be the closer “for now”.

Soon after, Harris was sent to Detroit for Scott Livingstone and some other guy that I don’t care to look up. OK, it was Jorge Velandia. See, not worth the effort. Then he was taken off the Detroit roster and signed by the Phillies then traded by the Phillies to Baltimore for Andy Van Slyke.

That’s how far Van Slyke had fallen. Traded for a guy with a fragile elbow and an attitude problem on his fourth team in two years. Harris barely pitched for Baltimore, tried to come back with the Reds, Pirates and Mets, and was last seen pitching in Norfolk in 1998.

I think the lesson is clear. Ok, lessons.

A. Don’t look like a dork on your baseball card.

B. If you are not a ‘proven’ veteran, don’t complain to the manager how you are being used out of the bullpen when there’s a guy ready to take your place that can hold the job for…oh…15 seasons or so.

 

 

 

 

Smoke ‘Em If Ya Got ‘Em

You knew that was coming, didn’t ya.

Reynolds, the outfielder, was always vaguely disappointing to me. He had some speed, but not a lot of power. He had decent batting averages but didn’t walk a lot. He was an OK outfielder but not good enough to play center on a regular basis.

I think the reason he’s memorable is his name. Of course, it’s the same as the maker of Camel and other brands of the finest cancer delivery products known to man.

It’s funny that RJ Reynolds has a prominent values link on their corporate website. From what I’ve read and remember in the 80′s and 90′s the tobacco companies were stamping their feet and yelling on how their product was perfectly safe and it was a sheer coincidence about lung cancer and emphysema rates among smokers. There was one shill who was always featured in the USA Today editorial pages as a corporate toady. Of course, John Boehner has his elbows deep in the tobacco lobby – I wonder if his orange skin is related to his packs a day habit.

Like Kramer…

 

 

Mike Maddux – 1990 Topps

February 24, 2011

“He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother.”

So on we go..

You know, Greg may have a lot of things. Cy Youngs, Gold Gloves, MVP votes, All-Star appearances, a World Series Ring, 355 career wins, accolades and laurels.

But I’ve got something he ain’t got.

A bitchin’ ‘stache. Greg couldn’t grow a mustache if you pumped 3,000 liters of testosterone and Rogaine into him.

Look at that mustache on me, boy…

Smooooooth. He’ll be singing this song until he dies…

 

Say, Mr. Wetherby, You Gettin’ Any From Miss Grundy?

I don’t think he liked the question.

I do remember the dulcet tones of Skip Caray mentioning Wetherby on the rare occasion that Russ Nixon would rouse from his slumber and point at him to pinch hit. My summers were spent playing softball, enjoying beverages, and watching as much baseball as possible on WGN, WTBS and ESPN.

Jeff puts the ‘non’ in ‘non-descript’. He lasted all of 52 games and 55 plate appearances in the majors. Of those, he only took the field nine times and started just twice, even though he was up from June 7 until the end of the season. He was promoted from Richmond even though he was hitting .268 with one homer in 50 games.

The second of those two starts, August 16 vs. the Cards, Wetherby went 2-3 with a triple and a steal before being lifted in the ninth for Dale Murphy. Jeff had two of the five hits for the Braves against Ted Power & Co.

Wow, what a screwy game on that August night in St. Louis. Ted Power starts for the Cards, and Whitey Herzog does his LaRussa impression in the ninth, throwing Costello, Dayley and Worrell in there to pitch to one batter each. (Though Whitey was known for doing weird things like that before…ok they were weird then, not now.)

The five hits for the Braves were the two by Wetherby, and one each for John Russell, Tommy Gregg and Marty Clary, the pitcher.

The winning pitcher was Frank DiPino (6-0). The losing pitcher was Jim Acker (0-6).

Also appearing in the game, for your dining and dancing pleasure, were such luminaries as Ed Romero (Braves starting SS), Denny Walling (pinch hitting for the Cards, as usual), Oddibe McDowell (leading off for ATL despite a .648 OPS), and phailed phenom Jim Lindeman (sporting a nifty .122 average, so he was just a defensive replacement).

Back to Wetherby – when this card was yanked from the wax and the gum scrapings cleaned off of it (1990 Topps has a tendency to collect the gum for some reason), he was already gone from the Braves organization. They dispatched him to Cleveland for Tommy Hinzo in a move that had absolutely nothing to do with them winning the NL Pennant.

Wetherby hit .313 in Colorado Springs, then played a little in Rochester for the O’s in 1991 before ending his career with the Mariners’ organization in 1991 and 1992.

No word on if he’s bald and wearing tiny glasses now. Nor even if he’s terrorizing Jughead by insisting Miss Beazley serve veggie burgers.

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