Now Here’s A Professional Hitter

The term “professional hitter” is normally reserved for a pinch-hitting specialist, or a contact hitter.

You know the guys: Manny Mota, Jose Morales, Dave Magadan, Steve Braun, the Iorgs, Rance Mulliniks, John VanderWal, et. al.

Seemingly it’s a guy who can come in off of the bench and line a sharp single to right. Of course, that’s just perception, and while that is valuable, since these ‘professional hitters’ don’t have a lot of power or patience for the most part – their value is in their batting average.

It’s funny, because I heard someone refer to Greg Dobbs as a ‘professional hitter’ but not Matt Stairs.

But I present to you a guy who was a consummate professional hitter.

Charles Theodore Davis

2,435 games played – 1,186 in the OF, 1 at 1B, 1 at P (! – June 17, 1993 – 2 scoreless innings with only one blemish – he hit Jose Canseco with a pitch as he mopped up during an Angels 18-2 loss to Texas.

Chili was a decent OF early in his career. He played a lot of CF and RF for the Giants, but seemed to fall off of the defensive cliff at around age 28 or so.

So he became almost a full-time DH starting in 1990.

In fact, after 1990 he played just 10 games in the field and 1,126 as a hitter.

His OPS+ was 127 during his DH days. Not shabby at all.

He hit for power – he didn’t give away at bats. He played every day if asked.

Professional hitter!

Tim Raines – 1987 Topps

October 30, 2010

The Rock

Tim “Rock” Raines should be a no-doubt-about-it Hall Of Fame player. Let us hope the voters have sense.

I am posting this guy because there are some ‘rocks’ that helped me recently with completing some sets. Thanks to BA Benny, Emerald City Gems and Nachos Grande for their help, and I know of another package coming. I’ve tentatively updated my want list summary, and the detail will be emailed out to a couple of folks and others who would like it next week.

BUT…I have completed Topps 2008 Series 1 & 2, 2007 Topps Update and 2009 Topps Update!

But after arriving back in town this weekend I have no time to rest as the sports world collides with the Halloween madness for those of us with two adorable moppets that want to trick-or-treat forever.

Todd Simmons – 1989 Fleer

October 29, 2010

There Were Way Too Many Cards Per Set In The Junk Wax Era, Vol. 5

Todd Simmons. Go to Go ahead. Type in his name.

What pops up?

His minor league stats.

This guy never made it.

Of course, he’s not the only one to get a card that never made the bigs, but most of those may have been on ‘rookie prospect’ cards, ‘#1 draft pick’ cards or ‘Team USA’ cards. Not just a regular ol’ common with no special mention of anything about his rookie-dom.

Let us see what I can put together.

Simmons was a 4th round pick in 1984 by the White Sox from Cal State Fullerton. He pitched well in the NY-Penn league but got rocked in the Midwest League. In 1985, he was in the Padres organization. He was part of the huge Lamarr Hoyt trade that netted the Padres a fat slob with a drug problem, Simmons and another minor leaguer in exchange for Ozzie Guillen, Bill Long, Luis Salazar and Tim Lollar.  (Hoyt did have a good year in 1985, but he was out of baseball after 1986 thanks to being arrested three times.)

Simmons pitched well in Reno in 1985. He moved to the pen and was lights out in AA Beaumont in 1986, and then was promoted to Viva Las Vegas and struggled a bit in the high desert altitude. But ERA in the ‘old’ PCL were something to ignore.

He pitched fairly well in 1987 and 1988 in Las Vegas. I don’t know if he was called up and didn’t play (I’d love to find the list of players on a roster that never got into a game…I keep searching…) but he never made it into a big league game.

But obviously Fleer thought he had a chance, so they gave him a for-real big league style card with no indication that he was a ‘prospect’ on the front.

That off-season, the Padres went to work re-tooling themselves after cratering in 1987 and rebounding in 1988 under Jack McKeon. They jettisoned Stan Jefferson, Jimmy Jones, Lance McCullers, Chris Brown, Keith Moreland, Andy Hawkins, Ed Vosberg, and Dickie Thon from their 1988 team. When Fleer went to production, Simmons may have still been a ‘contender’.

Right before Spring Training, the Padres sent Simmons and Jim Austin to Milwaukee for Dan Murphy. Murphy pitched 6 1/3 innings for the 1989 Padres. Austin made it to the bigs and had a one-hit wonder year in 1992 before injuries (I gather) got the best of him.

So what happened to Todd Simmons? Why was he on a single card? Remember, Fleer had ‘prospect’ cards as well.

(Gotta love the name “Brad Pounders” – too bad he never made the bigs. In fact, he didn’t play at all in 1989 after being part of the purge of 1988 – traded to the Mets for Rich Rodriguez and didn’t even make their minor league squads.)

Jerald Clark had 15 at bats for the 1988 Padres – and he just got this card. Simmons got a for real card. Wha? Simmons was on a prospect card himself in 1988. Only one prospect card to a customer?

Anywho, the staggeringly mediocre Brewers didn’t keep Simmons in the majors and sent him down. On June 29, though, he was packaged with Lavel (I hit .395 in El Paso once, so I have to be good, right? Right?) Freeman and sent to the Rangers for Scott May (not the hoopster, IU fans) and minor leaguer Mike Wilson.

They don’t have the splits for the 1989 American Association, so I don’t know how well they did in respective places, but I tell you this was a non-trade if you ever had a non-trade.

Simmons was a combined 4-8 with a 5.58 ERA as a reliever in the AA, which was NOT a hitter’s league (except in Denver). He was gone from organized ball after 1989.

Freeman, just two years after his .395 season, hit .238, which INCLUDED Denver. In 1990, he hit .214 for Toledo and that was that for him.

Mike “Tack” Wilson was at the end of a long minor league career. He hit .267 combined for Denver and Oklahoma City, then hit .220 for AA Hunstville in the Oakland chain in 1990, and that was it except for a year in independent ball.

May lasted until 1991 in the Brewers minor league organization, then made it back to the bigs briefly for the 1991 Cubs.

Still, that doesn’t give me any reason as to why Fleer gave a real, honest-to-goodness card to Simmons and left Clark on a prospect card.

The only reason I can see was that Fleer was playing a numbers game – needing to fill the set and Simmons had a photo of him taken during a Padres spring training game. That and no other company thought he was worthy of a card, so Simmons would have been an ‘exclusive’ or something.

Heck, who knows. All I know is that it…





Bo Jackson – 1991 Score

October 28, 2010


A. How many kids hurt their knees trying to do this?

B. A good craftsman never blames his tools.

C. Bo, bats don’t grow on trees. (Oh, wait….)

D. Should we be celebrating failure because someone does a unique thing after said failure? I mean, when Goldman Sachs imploded did their executives break their limos in two?

E. There will be this for now and evermore:


Bob Welch – 1989 Topps

October 27, 2010

“Sentimental Gentle Wind, Blowing Through My Life Again”

Much like the musician Bob Welch, the pitcher Bob Welch is much better than you remember.

Bob Welch, musician?

Yes, he was in Fleetwood Mac pre-Lindsay Buckingham, and had a hand in some of their finest work (that no one heard, of course). “Sentimental Lady” was the big tune, and he re-did that for his first solo record. That record also featured:

Ok, it’s kind of a stretch, but Bob Welch isn’t someone who jumps out at you anymore – not as musician or pitcher.

He did win 27 for the 1990 A’s, but of course I could go out there every five days and break even with that offense (he got 5.1 runs per game to work with).

I think a lot of it comes from his time with the Dodgers. He seemed to be the hard luck story.

In 1983, he had a 2.65 ERA, a WAR of 4.5 and went 15-12 thanks to LA scoring 3.3 runs per start.

In 1986, he went 7-13, even though his ERA was 3.28 and his WAR was 4.5 as well. The Dodgers scored 3.2 runs per start.

He also didn’t shine in the post season – where you can undo a great season with one bad start. Well, undo in the mind of the public and the wags. Baseball’s post season is somewhat like the top 8 finishers of a marathon running a series of sprints right after they finish.

But he won 211 games, had an ERA+ of 107 (that would have been better had he not spent those last two seasons in Oakland), and was a quality pitcher for almost all of the 80’s.

I don’t know if he could sing or play guitar. That’s this one:


The Gun That Shoots Fast Doesn’t Shoot Long (Except For Nolan Ryan and Bob Feller)

Mr. Beckett had a fastball. And it was a major league caliber fastball. However, much like Vladimir and Estragon, many wags were waiting…waiting…waiting…

By the time he appeared, everyone was gone, really.

Now, he wasn’t as extreme as Steve Dalkowski or Bill Bene, but he was a bit wild. However, Baseball America luuurrrved hard throwers, so he was a top 50 prospect before his full season debut in 1991. The bonus, as you see, was that he was a lefty flame thrower.

Then he went 2-14 with an 8.23 for low-A Charleston. 115 hits and 117 walks in 109 1/3 innings.

In 1992, for Waterloo, 140 walks in 120 1/3 innings. Was his eyelid stuck open? Garters on backwards?

In 1993, for Rancho Cucamonga, 2-4 with 4 saves and a 6.02 ERA. 83 2/3 innings, 93 walks. But for some reason, he was a top 100 prospect again for 1994 according to Baseball America.

Well, that was rather much obliterated in 1994. At Wichita, he had a pedestrian 1-3, 5.85 stat line with 40 walks in 40 innings. Then he was promoted…to Las Vegas.

The PCL was not kind to Robbie.

23 2/3 innings, 27 hits, 39 walks, 36 runs, 31 earned runs.

The bloom was off the rose. Beckett went back to AA in 1995, and put on waivers in 1996. The Marlins snapped him up, but then tried to move him off the 40-man and the Rockies snagged him.

He did finally meet the majors, but in 7 games his line was a bad start:

7 9 10 10 10 8

He still had the heat. 8 K’s in 7 innings. But 10 walks and 9 hits, plus 3 dingers? Yikes.

Beckett, at least from the numbers, never adjusted or changed. He threw hard, gave up walks, and had high ERAs. And when he cut down the walks, he gave up more hits and home runs.

Damned if you do…damned if you don’t.

Could Beckett have resulted from less hype and more instruction? Could he have adjusted? Did having his face on a card as a 17-year old kid hurt his development?

Who knows.

But for almost 10 years, he kept banging his head the same wall – throw hard and let it all hang out.

There’s a very select few that can survive doing that…

Paul Byrd – 2007 Topps

October 26, 2010

“Look Into My Eyes…You Are Getting Sleeeeepy!”

The Topps photographer needs to back off a bit here. But Byrd seemed to hypnotize managers into keeping him around.

In 2006, Byrd was the veteran presence, and he had a winning record (10-9) but a high ERA (4.88) and was only 0.3 WAR. All that for $7 million!

While collectors were opening Series 2 packs and seeing Byrd put the voodoo on them, he was having his last good full season. 2.1 WAR, 15-8 record with a 4.59 ERA (ERA+ of 99). He was probably a bit lucky, but he was definitely a steadying presence as Cliff Lee (yes, THE Cliff Lee) and Jeremy Sowers (yes, THE Jeremy Sowers) were found lacking, and Jake Westbrook was hurt for some of the season. The Indians won the division thanks to great pitching by Sabathia and Carmona, and good performances by Byrd and Aaron Laffey “Taffey”.

Stats aside, Byrd was quite valuable, and probably was good in the room and taught those young-ins a thing or two about pitching.

Sabathia, Lee, Carmona, and Westbrook have done alright for themselves.



Young & Hungry

I’m in the midst of my conference season – at another one today in Baltimore. Tomorrow I have an RFP to respond to and a report to get drafted – and then a conference call and a presentation. That’s all before the schmoozing, the flight, the panel discussion, the schmoozing and then another flight before Halloween festivities.

I do not remember Sutcliffe this thin, nor do I remember him without a beard.

And for all of the hype about “The Red Baron”  – his ERA plus was only 98, and to be honest, his Cy Young season of 1984 was due more to Harry! Caray! than anything else.

Now, he’s a beloved figure – an icon for the Cubs and a decent analyst.

However, in 1980, when this photo was taken, he was young and hungry.

Yes, he was ROY in 1979, but as Mike Marshall said in his Master’s Thesis: “Baseball Is An Ass”

In 1980, he was 3-9 with a 5.56 ERA. His WAR was a -2.3.




Other words you can find in Roget’s Thesaurus.

Here’s the question:

The Dodgers lost the pennant by a skosh in 1980. Sutcliffe won the ROY award in 1979. Sutcliffe started 10 games. He pitched one shutout, but even with that shutout he had a 7.94 ERA in 10 starts.

If Sutcliffe wasn’t the 1979 ROY, would the Dodgers have won the 1980 pennant?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to watch Monday! Night! Football! and have some Appetizers! and Beverages!

“Yep, That’s A Baseball”

Ron could catch them. He didn’t hit them very often, but he definitely could catch them.

After a madcap week of traveling, and more to come:

Thanks to Night Owl, Rhubarb Runner, and Crinkly Wrappers for some good stuff I got on my return. I have some others who promised, and I have a few want lists to update and send out. I’ll do that after I return next week.

Until then:

What, No Airbrush??

Kevin Coffman was traded from the Braves to the Cubs in the Jody, Jody Davis deal in very late 1988. I don’t know if the Braves catchers were drunk, stoned or dead (but it being a Chuck Tanner managed team…odds are…oh, wait Russ Nixon managed the team in the last part of the year – but it wasn’t like he was Billy Martin or even Larry Bowa), but it’s not normal to trade someone like Davis for two quasi-prospects in late September during a season where both teams were going nowhere fast.

Ozzie “My Dad May Be Why I Have A Job” Virgil and Bruce “Eggs” Benedict were the catchers for the 1988 Braves, a robust and stalwart squad that gallantly won 54 games while losing 106. But hey, two were rained out! So there’s that! Davis was traded on September 29, and he started for the Braves on September 30 and October 1, leaving Benedict to start October 2.

It may have been an injury to Virgil, but he finished the game on September 29 behind the dish and pinch hit twice. So maybe the Braves were scrambling for something or other to change their trajectory?

After the season, the Braves got rid of Virgil, along with  Juan Eichelberger, Rick Mahler, “Dead” Jim Morrison, Jerry Royster, Chuck Cary, Ed Olwine, and Albert Hall. Many of those filed for free agency, but I don’t think the Braves foamed at the mouth sign them.

The next year was another heinous year in Braves land, but except for the stalwart Dale Murphy (though he had a bad OPS+ of 89), Lonnie Smith (OPS+ of 168 and a WAR of 8.7. Who knew?), Benedict, Davis and the Zombie Darrell Evans, at least it was a younger team of suck.

The rotation was Smoltz, Glavine, Lilliquist, Pete Smith (all 22 or 23), and either Zane Smith (traded to Montreal after a tough luck 1-12 record) or Clary. So perhaps Davis and Benedict were helping the pitchers along – and Blankenship and Coffman (the alleged subject of this essay) were expendable.

The Cubs, meanwhile, needed pitchers. They have needed pitchers since Miner Brown, Ed Ruelbach, Orval Overall and Jack Pfiester retired. So why not grab Blankenship and Coffman?

They did give up a folk hero (thanks to Harry! Caray!) but thanks to four years of abuse in the mid-80’s Davis was a mere shell of his old self, and Damon Berryhill was the new kid on the block. They also had these kids in the minors – Rick Wrona and Joe Girardi (heard of him?) that could easily replace Davis and Jim Sundberg. So, for whatever reason, the Braves dangled Blankenship and Coffman, and the Cubs said, “WTF? What do we have to lose now?”

It’s not like the denizens of Wrigley Field would boycott the place.

Blankenship didn’t pan out – he pitched just 22 2/3 innings for the Cubs from 1988-90. He did start a late season game in 1988 – in place of Mike Harkey.

Coffman didn’t pitch for the Cubs in 1988, nor in 1989. He did show up in 1990, and was rather much a disaster from stem to stern.

He then drifted through the  minors for a while.

And the few readers I have left, are screaming “GET TO THE POINT!”

Well, the point is this:

I would have thought that a late September trade was enough notice for Topps to get their airbrush artists off of the bong and back to work to paint Coffman in Cubbie Blue and not Braves…um….gray with red and blue.

I mean, they’ve DONE WORSE! I sent Cards on Cards a whole bunch of airbrushed wonders, and they wuss out with Coffman?

For shame, Topps, for shame.

As far as Kerry’s challenge, maybe Juan Pierre 2007? The back of Brad Mills’ 2010 Astros card?