Ken Singleton – 1974 Topps

September 25, 2010

“Hello, Dad? I’m In Jail!”

Note: I do not think Mr. Singleton has ever been incarcerated. Even though he works for the Yankees, he is a very smooth and professional broadcaster now from what I have seen on the MLB network. So this is all in fun.

This is daylight and the card seems bleak because of the background. It’s either 20-year old middle school diamond or prison ballyard chic.

Even with the surroundings, Singleton had that LOOK – the look of a confident athlete.

Playing in Montreal, he put together a monster 1973. He scored and drove in over 100 runs, led the league in OBP and had an OPS+ of 148.

Montreal had three of the top OBP guys in the league in Singleton, Ron Fairly and Ron Hunt, and had Bob Bailey, who got on base and hit dingers and Hal Breeden slugged .535 off the bench. They could have scored a ton of runs.

But they were mid-pack in offense because the other guys (Boccabella, Foli, and Jorgensen) didn’t get on and Ron Woods didn’t have power and his low average offset his batting yet. Mauch was stubborn in platooning Jorgensen and Breeden and try as he might, Pepe Frias was even worse than Foli at the dish.

Same story with the pitching for the Expos. Steve Renko went 15-11 with a 2.81, and threw in a .273 BA with 9 RBI and 2 steals to boot. Steve Rogers went 10-5 with a 1.54 ERA after he was called up. Mike Marshall was insane (as usual) – throwing 179 innings out of the pen with a 14-11 record and 31 saves.

But…Balor Moore began his flameout at age 22 (7-16, 4.49). Mike Torrez’ control problems continued to manifest themselves (9-12, 4.46, 115 BB and only 90K in 208 IP). Ernie McAnally wore down. Bill Stoneman was done. The rest of the pen were mediocre, has beens, or never would bes.

The result was a 79-83 record and 4th place, but just 3 1/2 games behind.

So the 1973 Expos had a few issues, but everyone could see they were a team on the rise, right? And Singleton was the main offensive cog that would lead them to the new frontier. When they stole him from the Mets for Le Grande Orange, it was a coup d’etat. (Even if they had to take Tim Foli in the deal. I almost would have rather had a gaping void at short than Tim Foli, but that’s another card…)

1973 was a great year, as you can see in Singleton. 1974 would be better.

Er, no. His power dropped from 23 dingers to just 9. His average slumped to .276 to .302. He drew 30 fewer walks (but still had 93).  But the Expos were 79-82, 8 1/2 games back. A little hiccup, but with a couple more position players and a couple more pitchers, not to worry. Singleton was still the big cog.

He did have issues. He wasn’t fast and wasn’t a plus defender. He had back problems. Still, he was in his prime and produced lots of runs and was a solid citizen.

So, WTF did Montreal do?

They traded him – of course. To Baltimore. With Mike Torrez. For Rich Coggins and Dave McNally.

Sure, Mike Torrez was erratic and his control problems infuriating at times. But he would be a solid major league pitcher until the early 1980’s and went 20-9 in 1975. But he threw right and the Expos decided they needed a lefty.

In fact, after Balor Moore flamed out, the Expos had no lefties. And you need a lefty, right? YOU NEED A LEFTY! It’s a rule.

So let’s see – ah, Baltimore is calling. They have a lefty (McNally) who has won 181 games in the majors. Sure, he got hit a little bit harder last year than in the previous years, and threw a lot of innings during the 70’s. BUT HE’S AN EXPERIENCED LEFTY!

And the Expos weren’t fast, except for two players – Willie Davis and Larry Lintz. And Davis was older and on the block as well. But the Orioles were dangling this really fast guy who finished 6th in the ROY voting in 1973 in Coggins. He was an outfielder and he was FAST. And he played right field. Sure he slipped in 1974. But he was fast – you can’t teach that!

So the deal was made: Baltimore sent Coggins, McNally and a minor leaguer for Singleton and Torrez.

The grin on Earl Weaver’s face was noticeable from Gatineau to the Gaspe; from Chicoutimi to Quebec City.

You know the rest – McNally and Coggins don’t last the entire 1975 season due to injury and ineptitude. Torrez wins 20 (as I said) and then is dealt for Ken Holtzman and Reggie! Jackson. Holtzman then goes to the Yanks with a whole bundle of players for another whole bundle of players – included are Rudy May, Tippy Martinez, Rick Dempsey and Scott McGregor. May was then traded to…Montreal in 1978 in a package that included Gary Roenicke and Full-Pack Stanhouse.

So basically, the Orioles received Singleton, Martinez, Dempsey, McGregor, Roenicke and Stanhouse for players resulting from the deal that sent along McNally and Coggins – two players that were out of baseball by 1977. The sextet of players in the first part of the sentence were key cogs to the 1979 AL Championship Orioles.

Oh, and that 1979 season for Singleton? Just a 155 OPS+ and a runner-up finish in the MVP race to Don Baylor (only because of RBI’s – Singleton’s season beat Baylor in almost every key stat save that).

(Yes, George Brett or Fred Lynn really deserved to win the award in 1979, but hey…I’m on a roll…)

This brings us back to the photo in this card. Singleton has that calm, confident look. Perhaps he knows that in two seasons he’ll be on a team that won’t make stupid-ass trades and contend each year for a championship.

And I bet he saw they had a spring training complex that didn’t look like jail!

2 Responses to “Ken Singleton – 1974 Topps”

  1. Kerry Biggs Says:

    Ah, I remember that clip fondly from Liquid Television.

  2. Mick Kern Says:

    A fantastic look back at this era. An an Expos fan (still), it hurts.

    Great blog!!!! Hilarious, insightful, and perfect for baseball…and the music is bang on. Mudhoney, Butthole Surfers, R.E.M., etc.

    Nicely done.

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