I Didn’t Realize Milton Played Baseball??

“And I said, I don’t care if they lay me off either, because I told, I told Bill that if they move my desk one more time, then, then I’m, I’m quitting, I’m going to quit. And, and I told Don too, because they’ve moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels, and they were merry, but then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn’t bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire…”

Tim Foli – 1981 Fleer

October 21, 2010

“And Dat’s De Name Of Dat Tune”

Never liked him.

Never.

Not even as a kid, before I was tainted educated by Bill James. He didn’t take walks, didn’t hit for power, didn’t run. He had a temper, and undermined Karl Kuehl out of Montreal.

But man, look at this photo.

It was the same kind of cool as Robert Blake.

“Oh, Man. Another Pop Fly”

Ah, 1992 Fleer Ultra. If I recall, they started a trend using a card stock that was fancy-schmancy, but also had a tendency to curl. While this batch wasn’t as bad, some years the curl was quite pronounced.

This picture, taken very early in the 1992 season, looks to be at San Diego. Guerrero came in for Ken Caminiti during the top of the 3rd, after a balk. This may be the at bat where he hit a flyball to center. Or it may not be.

I had a friend from college send me an almost complete set of this Fleer Ultra (among other good things) but when I first saw it I was nervous because I thought the ’tile’ effect were cracks in the card. Ah…

This was also right in the heart of the junk wax excess era. But I’m not going to put this one in that category. Guerrero deserved a base card as a rookie prospect. He was a Rule V draftee, so the Astros had to keep him or lose him back to the Giants. And when he made the team, a card was in order for any later-season sets.

Did he deserve an Ultra? Well, the Ultra sets weren’t so special then. They didn’t limit them like Upper Deck did with the Fleer Ultra brand in the late 2000’s. (Well, that’s because UD wanted their base set to be 2319 cards or so, but that’s another story in of itself.) And yes, I do make fun of some companies giving cards to almost random individuals. But I really don’t like the ‘stars and rookies’ paradigm, either.

I collect because of the Juan Guerrero’s. This is about his only record of being in the bigs, besides one line in Baseball Reference.

There was a reason he was available as a Rule V draftee. He had a great year in AA, hitting .334 with 19 home runs. He had some legit minor league power. But he was 24 when he had his breakout, and in AA for a second season. That would have been a red flag to me.

The Astros kept him all year – and he played as a pinch hitter and during garbage time, not hitting or fielding well. He missed all of 1993 (injured?), went to the minors in a couple of years, then played independent ball.

And the minor league power didn’t translate, except for one day. In a game against the Pirates, before a cozy crowd of 13,836, Guerrero drew a walk for Al Osuna as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 10th. Art Howe double switched, putting Guerrero at short. In the 12th, he crunched a 2-1 pitch from Roger Mason out of the park for a game winning home run. The next day, he got the start at short and went 2-3 with an intentional walk.

Alas, glory was fleeting, as it usually is. He went back to the bench, though he made nine starts in August replacing Casey Candaele, Raffy Ramirez, and / or Andujar Cedeno at short when all of them were hurt or struck with incompetence over and about their normal lack of effectiveness.

 

 

Neal Heaton – 1989 Topps

October 21, 2010

Better Than I Thought, Still Not Good

You never drafted him, did you?

Whether you played APBA, Strat-O-Matic, or Rotiss in the 80’s, you stayed away from Neal Heaton.

Many times, it was warranted. He pitched for Cleveland, when Cleveland was awful without hope. (As opposed to this year, when they were awful but had young players with hope.) Even if Heaton was victimized by poor run support, poor defense, and lethargy, you didn’t want him on your team.

But he wasn’t that bad.

He had a great pedigree, coming out of the University of Miami, and didn’t spend much time in the minors. Of course, he was in the Cleveland organization which could have used any pitcher that could actually get major league hitters out on occasion.

And Neal could get guys out, on occasion. But not often enough.

He was moved to Minnesota first, and then traded  to the Expos that netted the Twins Jeff Reardon.

But freed from Cleveland, he didn’t do so hot in Montreal. Cool leg kick and all, he was 3-10 with a 4.99 ERA in 1988. So Montreal sent him to Pittsburgh for a warm body.

There he seemed to find himself. He was a valuable swingman in 1989, and in 1990 had a great start. On June 24, he was 10-2 with a 2.89 ERA. He was named to the All-Star Team.

But by the end of 1990, he was out of the rotation. He collapsed to a 12-9, 3.45 slate. After June 24, he had a 4.30 ERA, and with the Pirates back in the pennant race he was put in the bullpen. He didn’t appear in the playoffs. He was in the pen in 1991, and then traded for Kirk Gibson.

He was out of the majors by 1993.

I never really remembered Heaton as an Expo (until I got this card again this year), and not as a Pirate. He was always an Indian to me. An Indian during one of the awful eras of the Indians, and kind of the poster child of the bad Indians.

But he wasn’t THAT bad.

And, as you can see, he wore his stirrups the RIGHT way. So there’s that then!

 

 

 

“Which Way To The Sugar Shack, Duuuude?”

Codiroli definitely looks like he wants to grab his girl, his board and his woody and hit Surf Route 101.

He was a California kid, born in Oxnard and played baseball at San Jose State. But he wasn’t an A’s draftee. He was selected in the first round of the January draft by the Tigers, but was released after the 1981 season. The A’s scooped him up, and he was in the bigs in 1982 and a full-time member of the rotation in 1983.

But it wasn’t all groovy times and cool waves for Codiroli. While his record as an Oakland A’s pitcher was 38-40 (not bad for a team that ranged between mediocre and awful) he had high ERAs and only lasted two full seasons in the rotation.

Those Oakland teams were pretty much forgettable. After Billy Martin burned out an entire pitching staff by 1982, the A’s were left with a whole bunch of interchangeable parts, sort of like the IKEA of pitching staffs. Except Steve Boros and Jackie Moore couldn’t assemble them into a post-post modern sofa.

Really, could you tell the difference between Codiroli, Tim Conroy, Gorman Heimueller, Mike Warren or Bill Mooneyham? They came, they saw, they gave up four runs in 6 2/3.

Only Codiroli had the cool surfer dude look, though. Catch a wave, Chris, and you’ll be sittin’ on top of the world!


“Pass The Gravy”

Look at this physique. It’s one I can relate to.

This is something you see more in baseball than anything. (Well, in football you see this as well, but while Pat Williams has blubber, he also has the strength of a crazed rhino) In basketball there are some big men that are more big than anything, but you never see paunches in hockey, soccer, track and field, or other more athletic sports.

Even in golf, except for a select few, you don’t see too many beer guts.

Reggie Cleveland, immortalized by ESPN’s Sports Guy and now by his own namesake site, was a Canadian from Swift Current that had a decent career as an innings-eating starter for the Cards, Red Sox and others. I wonder if he played hockey, because Swift Current is one of those Saskatchewan towns that the grinders and muckers come from – the players Don Cherry loves!

After a lousy 1979 (if he wasn’t a vet, a 1-5, 6.71 ERA posting would get you on a one-way ticket to Spokane), he had a pretty decent 1980 season before winding his career up in 1981.

However, I think he enjoyed the beer and processed meat products in Milwaukee a bit too much.

Urp….

(Sidenote to end all sidenotes, or is this an endnote? IN 1979 Cleveland was involved in a game that had three non-pitchers pitch for the Brewers. I guess when three professional pitchers give up 15 runs in 3 innings, and it’s a couple days before September call-ups and you are in a pennant race, you do what you do. My question is if Gantner or Bando were on pitch counts!)

Matt Nokes – 1990 Topps

October 18, 2010

“No, This Is Not A Staged Photo! No, Really, It’s Not!!”

Yes, I’m collecting 1990 Topps. I bought a box of wax at a local card shop (my third favorite, only due to the fact it takes a 1/2 hour to get there since it’s in Roseville and I’m in Eden Prairie. Take a gander at the Twin Cities and you’ll see why it’s tough to get there…) along with others from the junk wax era. Of all of the 1990 sets, I like this one the least.

For some reason, the photos reminded me of the early Fleer sets with their lack of resolution and clarity. At a time when Score and Upper Deck were producing nice cards, and Donruss was going red (I like it, OK!) and Fleer was about to go yellow (I really like that – so shaddap) Topps came out with a clinker, quality wise.

In this shot, it seems Topps paid homage to their roots by staging an action shot. It is unique because it’s a catcher’s action shot ‘catching’ a foul pop, instead of a pitcher ‘pitching’. Nice try, but it’s still staged and a bit cheesy.

I’m sure some prefer the 1990 Topps to the other sets, but not me. Of course, I’m the guy that eschews chromes and relics and trades them like candy so I can get more, more, more commons and regular dudes. Like Matt Nokes.

(And I’m a guy who uses the word ‘eschews’ in a baseball card blog. I’m also a guy who really needs an editor. When I write client reports, I pore over them after the first draft. Here, though…I don’t care if I read like a dinglephwatt, I’m here for the moment…man. Though if some publisher wants to give me money, I could use an editor!)

Anyway…Nokes, a regular dude? “Hey, I remember him! He was good!” you say.

Well….

He had a great 1987. Of course, 1987 was the year of the ‘helium’ ball where everyone hit dingers. You’ll have real flukes once in a while, like Bert Campaneris’ 1970, but 1987  was definitely a juiced ball year.

Nokes’ season is an exhibit for the prosecution. 32 home runs in 1987. 36 home runs totals in 1988, 1989 and 1990.

He had 24 and 22 home runs in 1991 and 1992, respectively, but he was a decent hitter, for a catcher, with modest power.

The trouble is, he wasn’t much of a catcher. Most of the time, he had negative fielding runs for the year.

He didn’t even get a ‘Yankee bump’ because when he was Yank, they were pretty bleah. He was being phased out by 1993, when Buck Showalter got them over .500 for the first time in a while. Mike Stanley caught the majority of the games.

(Sidenote: Stanley, Nokes and Jim Leyritz as the catchers. You wonder why the Yankees pitchers didn’t revolt!)

So Nokes is remembered for his rookie year, and that’s about it. He did parlay that into a nice career, length wise, but he was one of those flukes that happen all of the time in baseball.

Which is another reason to love the game!

 

Steve Renko – 1981 Fleer

October 17, 2010

The Epitome

Let’s see:

1. Blurry

2. Off Center

3. Unintentionally comedic pose

4. Error on the back (it says batting record, not pitching. I think all 1981 Fleer say that)

It’s the epitome of early Fleer (and Donruss, but Fleer mostly)!

Thad Bosley – 1987 Topps

October 17, 2010

You Da Man, Thad! You Da Man!

Some people love stars.

I like guys like Thad Bosley.

While I am a sabremetric geek, I can’t help but like players like Bosley, Casey Candaele, John VanderWal, Mark Loretta, and the like.

Pesky bench hitters. Super scrubs. Guys who aren’t anchored to one position, or at least can play first and the outfield without much issue.

I liked Thad before he was a Cub. The name “Thad” was unusual enough. I remember him as an Angel (his first card was of youthful exuberance and hope), and know he was part of the Bobby Bonds deal. After some time with the White Sox, I lost track of him. I stopped collecting in high school and didn’t read the transaction agate every day, just most days.

I do remember when the Cubs called him up in 1983. He hit .292 with a great OPS+ and the Cubs sent him DOWN in 1984! (Of course, that was a pretty good team.) However, Thad came back up and hit well off the bench for three seasons. But the Cubs needed a catcher. Casey Stengel said you need a catcher or all you’ll have are passed balls (or something like that).

So they packaged Thad and the immortal Dave Gumpert and sent them to KC for Jim Sundberg.

It did make sense. Jody, Jody Davis played 149 games in 1986. They were going to do to him what Durocher did to Randy Hundley. Except it was worse, because they played Davis in that many games for a team that went 70-90! Steve Lake was the nominal backup, but he was released during the year.Keith Moreland actually started the second most games behind the dish. This is why Cub fans imbibe.

(Disclaimer: I am a recovering Cubs fan – I am on step 3. I’m glad that the Cubs yanked most of their games off of WGN so I’m not tempted to relapse up here in the Twin Cities.)

But they got some sense and needed a backup that could actually play catcher. (Moreland was a DH, but in 1987 he was placed at third when the Cubs dumped Ron Cey.) Sundberg was a good fit. Thad headed off to the Royals, and I sadly said goodbye. He hung around for a while but washed out in 1989-90 with the Rangers. I think everyone washed out with the Rangers until 1995 or so.

He also wore cool stirrups.

Thad was a unique player in that he wasn’t all consumed by the game. He had interests in poetry, music and inventions. He thought baseball, no doubt, was a game, and it was easy money.

And it wasn’t work…

Oh, let’s do another one of that…

Because real work turns you into…

(And if you’re wondering if I kind of stretched something to post those videos…you are right my friend.)

“Every Day, It’s The Same Thing…”

I mean, really. Every day. I have to help shag the balls and then get them back to the batting practice pitcher. Home, road, spring training, playoffs. It doesn’t matter. Same ol’ same ol’.

You’d think they’d have a better system. But I have to lug around this jug that used to hold our sunflower seeds and get the balls all rounded up. Why? Just so that Hrbek, Gladden, and Puckett can hit them again? Well, at least some of those guys hit them out into the stands. It’s guys like Newman, Larkin and Ortiz where I have to keep chasing them. Oh, and Knoblauch. Damn rookie. Doesn’t know his place. I mean, I’d like to stuff him in this jug.

Do the starters have to do that? I don’t see Morris or Anderson out here day after day. Oh sure, they come in once in a while but normally they’re in the training room watching Oprah, Sally Jessie or the Bold & The Beautiful. Maybe Santa Barbara.

Erickson and Tapani come out here usually to laugh at us. Hah, hah. Well, next time they laugh and TK puts me in with the bases loaded, and it’s one of their messes, that’s 3 ER for their slate. That’ll cost ’em $10K because old man Pohlad won’t stand for high ERAs.

Usually, it’s me and Guthrie and Leach out here. Wills does his part too. I never see Aguilera. He’s “got to be ready”. Well, I was the big money man too once, and I still came out  during BP. I shagged balls every day when I saved 40 for the Phils in 1987, and I hit the ball better than Jeff Stone. Yeah, that year I won a friggin’ Cy Young award and we went 80-82. Don’t blame me that voters thought Hershier and Ryan had bad years only because of their W-L record. I saved 40 out of 80 wins! Without me, we may have finished last. Or fifth. I know Tekulve had a great year too, but I got the saves man.

And I shagged balls too.

Now, I’m here, being Aguilera’s slappy, trying to keep West away from me in the bullpen. Shagging balls, all the damn time.

Now go away from me…