Rookie Pitchers – 1976 Topps
September 11, 2010
Just Who Are These Guys, Anyway?
Ah, the old school rookie cards. Let’s dissect this one, shall we?
Steve Grilli earned his place here with 6 2/3 of fairly effective relief for the Tigers in 1975. Well, effective if you don’t count the six walks. But for a 57-102 team, that was effective. Grilli was 11-4 with 12 saves for Evansville in AAA in 1975. Control was an issue in the minors as well, and that’s what killed his career.
He did pitch two full years in the bigs for the Tigers, but was rather much the forgotten man in the pen, appearing in 66 games. He made it back to the majors in 1979, but is now more famous as the father of draft semi-bust Jason Grilli.
Craig Mitchell was the A’s #1 pick in the secondary phase of the June 1973 draft (it could take PhD. dissertation to explain the various and sundry regular and secondary January and June drafts in the old MLB format). Mitchell made one start for the A’s in 1975 (and was rocked), but with a loaded staff coming back he only made one appearance in 1976.
Then everyone fled the A’s. But Mitchell stayed in AAA – not a good sign. At age 23 he spent that summer in San Jose, only gathering another cup of coffee. After three jolts of September java, he saw the bigs no more. A closer look at the ’77 A’s saw a decent staff (Blue, Langford and Medich were big league starters, Bair, Coleman, Lacey, Torreabla and Guisti were a pretty darn good pen), but they had trouble at the back end of the rotation.
Mike Norris was recovering from an arm injury, Mike Torrez was traded early for Dock Ellis, who flamed out (I think Dock didn’t want to be in Oakland – he magically had a 2.90 ERA for Texas after a sale in June). Jim Umbarger bombed. Stan Bahnsen cursed Chuck Tanner for ruining his arm with the White Sox earlier. Paul Mitchell went from highly regarded to craptacular. There was room for Mitchell, but he stayed put. And stayed put in AAA in 1978 and 1979. That was it. Well, giving up 74 runs in 44 innings in Ogden will kill a career…even in the PCL!
Jose Sosa probably should have been given a regular card in 1976. He pitched 47 innings for the Astros, and while they weren’t high leverage situations he definitely was in the mix for 1976. And if I am not mistaken (I could be) with almost 2 1/2 months of service time and 47 innings he wasn’t a rookie in 1976. Plus, he was a cousin of the Alou brothers, and I am sure they could have made that a splash on the back of a regular Topps card.
He made the big club out of the gate in 1976, but got mashed by the Big Red Machine for five runs in one inning in his first game. He gave up just one more run in 6 1/3 innings, but was sent down in early May to Memphis. He either pouted or there was something wrong, because he got blasted in the IL that year. Back for three ho-hum appearances at the end of the year, he went back to the minors in 1977 and 1978 and hung ’em up.
George Throop happened upon the scene at the wrong time and place and hurt his arm to boot. While there is certainly room for good arms no matter what the circumstances, George hit the Royals right when they were gunning for pennants and they didn’t have time to nurse a prospect to health in the bigs.
After a great summer in Omaha in 1975 (despite the humidity, bugs and the fact that you’re spending your early 20’s in Nebraska) Throop got into seven September games for the big club. There was definite room for him (and maybe Bob McClure and Mark Littell) on the staff – the Royals traded Nelson Briles and Lindy McDaniel was done.
Littell made the team, but Steve Busby got hurt and the Royals scrambled for pitching, getting Tom Hall and Andy Hassler during the season. McClure made another cameo late in the year, but no Throop. He pitched only a few games in Omaha. He HAD to have been hurt.
He came back, pitching in the minors and making September cameos in 1977 and 1978. At least he got to jump on the pile when they clinched the division. He made the club out of the spring in 1979, got hit hard in four games, was traded for a PTBNL to the Astros (the Royals didn’t have time to mollycoddle a marginal reliever – they were going to be in a RACE, man…), was sent down to Charleston, got called up and whacked around, was sent down and called up again, and then pitched well in July and August until August 21. He gave up two runs in two innings to the Mets (a ground for a benching then – the Mets were AWFUL) and that was it.
And I mean, IT. He didn’t pitch at all in 1980 or beyond. I can’t find anything else about him except his father and grandfather founded and ran a quite successful concrete business in Pasadena.
What’s remarkable is that of the four pitchers listed here, three didn’t pitch in organized ball in 1980. Grilli lasted until 1981. By 1982, they were all gone – part of the endless parade of names and faces that baseball churns through. People complain about the churn of players through a team now – it’s the same as it ever was. The elite stay, the fringe come and go.