The Swing …

Tony Armas had a very nice career, despite his horrific strike zone judgement. Whacking 30+ and 40+ home runs in the 80′s will keep you around for a while.

Marcos had the same strike zone issues as Tony. As a 23-year old taking a cup of coffee in the bigs, he showed some power like big brother Tony, slugging .355 even though he hit just .194.

But, he whiffed 12 times in 31 at bats and walked just once – just like big brother would.

The problem is that Marcos just didn’t have that same power in the minors to offset the strike zone issues. He never cracked the 20 home run barrier, and while he hit .290 in 1993 that was in the PCL.

Ah, well, but Marcos’ Pinnacle card showed his home run swing. His one home run swing. At least that’s what I’m sticking with. Marcos hit his lone home run in the 9th off of George “The Animal” Tsamis as the A’s were trying to come back after Joe Boever blew a 9th inning lead. This card shows Armas on a swing follow through against Minnesota. Sure, yeah. I’ll go with it.

Hey, you say, why was Joe Boever saving a game for the A’s in 1993? Where was the Eck?

Well…It was a wild one.

The A’s were up 8-5 in the top of the 8th. Kelly Downs pitched four excellent innings of relief after Ron Darling struggled in the 2nd, and the A’s teed off on Kevin Tapani and Mike Trombley.

Goose Gossage (yeah, he was still around) had already thrown an efficient inning with the three run lead and had one out when Chuck Knoblauch hit a double to deep right. After Dave McCarty popped out (figures, Twins fans say) Kirby Puckett singled in Knoblauch. LaRussa went to Rick Honeycutt, but Kent Hrbek hit a seeing eye single and Puckett went to third.

Eck had to come in, and it wasn’t pretty. Brian Harper singled and Gene Larkin doubled. Three more runs scored and the Twins were up 9-8. Blown save, Dennis Eckersley.

Carl Willis was toeing the slab in the bottom of the 8th. After an out Rickey! doubled. Mark Guthrie got an out, but then threw a wild pitch and then Tom Kelly decided to walk Ruben Sierra.

Kelly then turned to his closer, Rick Aguilera. Oh, it was ugly. Sierra steals second, and Lance Blankenship walked to load the bases. That’s was Blankenship’s entire offensive arsenal, the walk. Then Aguilera walked Terry Steinbach on a 3-2 pitch to drive home Rickey! Aggie then walked Troy “Scumbag Of The World” Neel on a 3-1 pitch and the A’s had the lead again. Kelly then brought in Tsamis to quell the damage and he got Kevin Seitzer looking to end the inning.

Boever then demonstrated not only why he wasn’t called into the game in the 8th and why LaRussa went to Eckersley.

Double by Pagliarulo, triple by Pat Meares, walk to Knoblauch, error Seitzer at third (who must be wanting to hide somewhere after whiffing looking with the bases loaded) and a single by Puckett chases Boever and gives the Twins as 12-10 lead. Mike Mohler comes in and Hrbek lays down a sac bunt.

You read that right. Kent Hrbek. But you must remember this was Tom Kelly, and near the end of Hrbek’s career. He had three sac bunts in 1993. I just never thought I’d read SAC – Hrbek in a box score.

Mohler walks Brian Harper intentionally and then gets Larkin to hit into a DP, and the Twins held a 12-10 lead.

Because Kelly burned through his pen the rookie Tsamis had to finish this one himself. Armas led off the 9th with his blast to bring the A’s within one. Mike Bordick singled, but Rickey! hit into a 1-6-3 DP! That hurt, because Brent Gates singled after that. Tsamis coaxed a pop fly out of Sierra to close out the win.

So what I’m saying is that this card pictures that home run. I can’t prove it, and I don’t have any evidence of it. But that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Not only is it a momento for Marcos Armas, it’s a momento of a game where two ace closers had to come into the 8th and blew leads, and the end of the game was left to Mike Mohler and George Tsamis.

Isn’t baseball fun???

Dwight Smith – 1994 Topps

February 5, 2012

Oh, What Could Have Been…

Most Cubs fans of my vintage know the story of Dwight Smith and Jerome Walton. They were rookies that excited the Wrigley faithful in 1989 with good performances and promise. Walton was ROY and Smith the runner-up.

Then, kerplotz.

Walton was more of a mystery since he was 23 in 1989. But really he didn’t have that great of a year (1.7 WAR). Smith was 25, and had a 2.5 WAR. But Smith was a pure platoon player – he didn’t get a chance to hit lefties (only six starts in his CAREER) and when he faced lefties he was fairly mediocre.

You wonder if he was bad at hitting lefties because he was bad at hitting lefties or if he was bad at hitting lefties because he never got a chance (147 PAs out of 1987 career PAs).

By the time this card came out, Walton was gone, and Smith was a 4th outfielder / PH who saw a lot of time in CF (even though he was pretty average at best as a LF, but these are the Cubs, you know).

When I pulled this card, I thought it was apt for his career – you know – the baseball Gods throwing dirt in his face after a success. But looking at his stats for 1993, he was pretty darn good for a 4th outfielder.

He hit .300 with some moderate power and patience, putting up an OPS+ of 127 and an offensive WAR of 2.2 Of course, being a LF forced into CF when Willie Wilson couldn’t go (and the other options were Derrick May, Kevin Roberson or Sammy Sosa) he had an overall WAR of 1.6.

Still, a lot better than the bust that people thought he was. Not a star that Cubs fans hoped he would become, but a pretty good major league player.

Of course, this being baseball, things didn’t work out for Smith, again.

He signed with the Angels, and did not impress. The Orioles traded for him and he did OK there before the strike occurred. After play resumed the Braves snagged him for a bench role for two seasons (appearing in the 1995 World Series but not at all in the 1996 postseason), and he just faded out of the league after that.

So maybe the face of dirt metaphor is apt for Smith. Well, he did get a hit in the World Series in 1995, so it couldn’t have been ALL bad. Plus he got to sing the National Anthem before many games in his career. Plus his son, Dwight Smith, Jr. was a first round draft choice this past year.

Even with the dirt in his face, it seemed he brushed himself off nicely.

 

 

 

Jeff Conine – 1994 Pinnacle

December 19, 2011

Mr. Marlin? That’s ME!

Attention intarwebs.

I applied for and was accepted by the scholars and fine gentlemen at Bugs & Cranks to be their Marlins scribe for 2012. In fact, my first post for them is up. All Smitty asked me to do was ‘pay attention’ and that is what I will do. Someone has to down here.

Right now it’s snow bird season here in South Florida. It’s so fun driving in Palm Beach (and Broward) County trying to get from point “A” to point “B” during the mad convergence of quitting time, Christmas shopping, and the ending of the early-bird specials. That leads to plenty of time for scanning the radio, and at times I subject myself to sports talk radio down here.

I’ve got five sports yakkers on my AM presets. There is definitely a Noo Yawk vibe to them and during the fall it was all about firing Tony Sparano and the NBA lockout.I couldn’t listen to the yakkers and the minions that called in because it was inane prattling. I knew the Dolphins would stink – and they did. They could have dug up Bill Walsh to call the offense and Vince Lombardi to call the defense and they’d still stink.

Well, Sparano has been fired and the NBA is back (and the Heat-slurping by the local media has begun in EARNEST), which could have led to some talk on the local yakkers about the Marlins, but I really don’t think the Marlins big splashes have moved the needle.

Heck, the Panthers are probably the best (at least most improved and exciting) club in their conference and no one gives them a mention.

So after the signings? Zzzzz…

South Florida is more excited about Tebow than the Marlins. Which may be a good thing. Being all excited for a team that may finish 4th would mean the yakkers would be all over the ‘problems’ with them.

Much like the Dolphins, the problem is simple – they’re not that good.

However, I don’t think anyone here will notice until the Heat ends its playoff run. Which should be in the fourth quarter of the season…heh.

 

 

 

With That Form, He Was A Natural DH

The Brewers used to grow guys like this on trees. That was the perception anyway.

There was no difference in many people’s mind to players like Jaha, Joey Meyer, Rob Deer, Gorman Thomas, Mark Brouhard, Glenn Braggs, Greg Vaughn and the like. Big lummoxes that hit the ball far – and that’s all they did.

As you know, baseball isn’t so black and white. None of those aforementioned players were that similar, really, but perception of course beats reality two falls to a submission.

Jaha was a DH that played first because the Brewers always seemed to have someone WORSE in the field (like Kevin Reimer). The thing was, he wasn’t a three-true outcome guy like Deer. He could hit for average as well and didn’t always just go “MONGO CRUSH”.

His big problem was injuries. He had more than his fair share. Jaha really only played three full seasons in the bigs and in two of them, he had WARs of 3.4 and 4.6. He didn’t come up to the bigs until he was 26, but again it was due to injuries that stalled him in Class A for three seasons. Jaha’s career was ‘what could have been’, big time.

His best season was 1999, when he mashed the ball for Oakland in their first year of their renaissance. That team crushed 235 home runs, and Jaha was second on the team with 35 (behind Matt Stairs with 38). His OPS+ was 152, one behind Jason Giambi. With guys like Jaha, Stairs, Giambi, Tejada, Ben Grieve (before he went south), a young Eric Chavez, Olmedo Saenz, and Tony Phillips’ last gasp, the A’s went 87-75 and were fourth in the AL in runs despite being 13th in batting average.

What was more impressive was that the home park of the A’s was a horrible hitters park. They had the third best ERA in the AL and had an ERA+ of under 100 and gave 52 starts to Jimmy Haynes and Mike Oquist.

Oh, and they had horrid offensive players like AJ Hinch, Ryan Christenson and Jason McDonald eating a lot of ABs.

Oh, oh, and in a park that required good defense due to the parks quirks, the A”s were…well…defensively challenged. Jaha, Giambi, Grieve, Stairs, Saenz, Phillips and Scott Spiezio were less than stellar. Ok, that’s kind. Grieve’s DWAR was -2.o and Stairs had a -2.6 DWAR. Jaha still was the DH, because if you but him or Giambi out in right or left…well…um, do they make a DWAR that low?

Jaha got MVP votes, made the All-Star team, and was on his way to big things. He signed a big time contract.

And of course,  injuries wiped out his career – the same injury problem that derailed his ascent.  And when Oakland really started to make their move in the AL, he was gone.

Who knows, without his injuries, maybe Jeremy wouldn’t have needed to slide!

Hojo Joins The Old Man’s Expansion Team

First, thanks much to Play At The Plate and YOOOOGE thanks to Oh NO! for their contributions to the Spring Cleaning booty. I am putting together some packages tonight and tomorrow for shipment. FINALLY!

Second, I’m saddened that Harmon Killebrew passed away. I remember that I used to have his 1972 card. Used to. Long gone. Sigh.

And now…Hojo’s sad tenure with the Rockies.

Expansion teams follow two schools of thought – one is to grab the young players and build them, and the second is to grab vets for name recognition and hope for the best.

The Rockies were in their second season in 1994 and I’m pretty sure they went for the latter. In 1993, they wheeled out the decaying corpses of Dale Murphy, Bryn Smith and Bruce Hurst. For 1994, they tried their luck with HoJo and some others.

None of their eight regular position players were under 27. In fact, of their top 14 position players, the only players under 27 were Vinny Castilla (26) and Roberto Mejia (22). Otherwise, it was a case of Danny Sheaffers and John Vander Wals on the bench.

Not many of those bench players had much left – and HoJo definitely didn’t. His OPS+ was 77 and he had a negative WAR in 1994.

It wasn’t but 1991 when HoJo was a holy terror. 4.1 WAR, 145 OPS+ and 38 home runs.

The mighty fall, and fall quickly.

Alas, Poor Donnie Baseball…

Was there a better player with worse luck in baseball history?

Through 1989, he had an OPS+ of 144, accumulated 1300 hits (by age 28), had a WAR of 33.1, was an MVP (undeserved but he was in the team picture), won five gold gloves (sure, its reputation, but he was a decent first baseman). He could be expected to play 10-12 more seasons, in New York, and get 3000 hits and 300 home runs while batting over .300. He’d be a lock first ballot HOF player.

Then, his back started acting up. And by acting up, I mean, “HOLY FREAKIN’ COW I CAN”T MOVE”. My backs done that a couple of times, but I can’t imagine either trying to play baseball through it – or living with it day after day.

Because of the back problem he  couldn’t play every day, couldn’t hit for power, couldn’t field as well. He. Just. Couldn’t.

The Yankees couldn’t do much either when he was around. For an organization that prides itself on championships and winning – for a city that unfairly denigrated fine players like Roy White, Bobby Murcer and tarred a reasonable second baseman like Horace Clarke with a stain of loser-dom just because the Yanks were scuffling during the majority of their careers – Mattingly was about the only revered player that never won anything.

Hal Chase he wasn’t. (Though Chase was popular with the fans – or at least written that way – probably by sportswriters who were cut in on some of his nefarious deeds…)

And of course, the last year he plays, the Yanks make the playoffs. Mattingly’s season was sub-par but he shone in that series in Seattle. Don went 10-24 with a home run in the five-game loss. Then, he retired before 1996.

Of course, 1996 was the year the Yankees became THE GD, MFN’ YANKEES that many of us love to loathe.

He then spent time in the organization, and was the bench coach to Torre and many thought the heir apparent. But Joe Girardi got the job and Mattingly became a Dodger coach and now manager (and looks really, really weird in Dodger blue).

And now, he’s the manager of the biggest clown car in Major League Baseball. With all of the issues revolving around the Dodgers, Mattingly probably is going, “Hell, at least under Steinbrenner he wanted to win and had money, and could pay his bills.”

He’s also got a first baseman that’s hitting like Alvaro Espinoza, an over-matched rookie in left, a third baseman who had elbow surgery and then got a staph infection, a double play combo that are stretched thin defensively (Jamey Carroll, starting shortstop?), no bench, a closer with a complex, a young stud of a closer-in-training that they had to send down, and a counted on lefty reliever on the DL thanks to ‘anxiety disorder’ (and a 11.57 ERA).

Somehow, he’s 19-20 with that team. But that’s a baptism by fire and brimstone.

Um….WTF?

Can someone please tell me what is going on here?

Someone?

Anyone?

Does Showalter know about this?

And more importantly, how did the Yanks go 88-74 with a rotation Jimmy Key, Melido Perez, Jim Abbott, Kamieniecki, and Bob Wickman (with the occasional side order of Mike Witt, Domingo Jean and Sterling Hitchcock among others – Buck used 12 starters in all), and a pen where Steve Farr was the closer and the others around were Rich Monteleone, Steve Howe, Bobby Munoz and John Habyan? How does that happen?


A Whirlwind

This weekend had everything – good, bad, indifferent.

I am almost, ALMOST done sorting for Spring Cleaning and will be ready to ship once I get some boxes, etc. I have the 2009 UD set to finish sorting for doubles and then a lot of the junk wax and excess 2007 Topps to sort through.

So, with not a lot to say, I leave you with Benito Santiago in a fantastic, yet maddening, pose. Out? Safe? What’s happening there?

I’m Greg Olson…No, Not The Pitcher

The catcher…you remember me? Yeah, I somehow played in an All-Star game. I was the regular catcher for three years and split time in the fourth. Then some kid named Lopez came along…

I’m from Edina, Minnesota, which is right near to where Smed lives. No, we’re not cake eaters…at least not me. I like pie.

Anyway, my career was pretty short in the majors. The minors, that’s another story.

The reason I’m here is to tell you to zoom over and claim one of the last teams or sets in Smed’s Spring Cleaning. The Indians are available as Nachos will step aside if someone nabs ‘em.

Do it, or I’ll run ya over like I did Jimmy Kremers and Kelly Mann. Catchers of the future…right….

“Yes, Smed. I’ll Get Right On It…No Problem!”

Hi, Cal Ripken here.

I just wanted to remind you to sign up for Smed’s Spring Cleaning. There are some good teams and sets left. Start a set, get a bunch of parallels, shiny or relics for your team, or just see what’s in a grab bag. Email Smed at smedindy@gmail.com and claim your team today!

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