Dave Tomlin – 1975 Topps

December 9, 2010

“Got Nothin’ Better To Do, Might As Well Keep Playin'”

Don’t know if that was an actual quote or not, but it was apt for Tomlin.

And now, Tomlin’s keeping in the game, as he’s been the manager of the GCL Red Sox for the past few seasons.

Now this card was taken right as Tomlin was trying to establish a foothold for himself in the bigs. As you can see from the wonderful airbrushing job (featuring a yellow / gold cap in a color not previously known to Pantone or Crayola), Dave was on the move in 1974.

He started his career in the Reds organization as a 29th round draft pick in 1967. Now, the draft was a toddler back then but a 29th round was still seen as roster-filler more than legit prospect. But if you’re lefthanded and pitch well you can move up, and by 1971 Tomlin was in Indianapolis in AA.

He was there in 1972, and 1973. It just so happened that the Reds were loaded, though he did have a cup of coffee in 1972 and was up for a longer stint in ’73. He did pitch in the 1973 NLCS against the Mets, but not well – when he came on the scene in the third Sparky had already used Ross Grimsley and Tom Hall. Tomlin gave up five hits and three runs in 1 2/3 as the Mets stunned the Reds 9-2.

The Reds had a good problem to have – too many prospects. They also had Bobby Tolan, who had been injured quite a bit in his career and was coming off of an awful season (.555 OPS and an OPS+ of 57, and that was his age 27 year) but still had ‘potential’. But he was in the way of Griffey and Foster, and the Reds needed some starting pitching depth.

So they reached out to everyone’s favorite NL West punching bag, the San Diego Padres. They had fleeced the Padres into giving up a valuable Fred Norman for two fringe players and cash. Now, they came calling again, dangling a ‘proven veteran’ hitter, Tolan for one of their starting pitchers. Yes, we know he went 8-18 with a high 4 ERA, but we’ll take Clay Kirby off of your hands, please.

Tomlin was thrown in to sweeten the deal as well.

You’d think that the Padres, with all of their problems, would clamor for a pitcher of Tomlin’s history. He’s a living, breathing lefthanded pitcher.

Nah, they tried Rich Troedson first before summoning Tomlin from Hawaii. Then they sent him down after some struggles for Rusty Gerhardt. Tomlin did get called up and finished the year in San Diego.

For the next three seasons, Tomlin was a solid contributor for the Padres. But he always seemed like the lefty afterthought. In 1976, he was 0-1 with 1 blown save in 49 appearances. No holds. His one loss was the one game he started. He was thrown in there in case of emergency, which happened often enough whenever Randy Jones didn’t pitch.

After a good 1977 season, Tomlin was sent back to the Reds in a roundabout way. He was moved to Texas for Gaylord Perry, and Texas then sold him to Cincinnati. So basically the Reds financed the deal to get Perry out of Arlington. Odd.

1978 was the beginning of the end, though (or so it seemed). One look and you go, hey, he was pretty good, he was 9-1. Well, um, his ERA was 5.78 and his WAR was -2.7. The Reds only finished 2 1/2 back (after a furious rally at the end), so you draw some conclusions there. He was, in the parlance of the game, a lucky duck when it came to W-L. He only vultured one of his wins, though and only pitched poorly in another win – his last one of the season.

He rebounded a bit in 1979, but his 2.62 ERA was clouded by 12 unearned runs. In mid-1980, he was struggling again and the Reds cut him.

Yes, he’s a lefty, but a 31-year old journeyman lefty should think about his options, right?

Well, it seems Dave’s only option was baseball. After tasting big league life for 6 seasons, he spent from 1981 through 1987 in exotic locales like Syracuse, Indianapolis and Wichita, with a return trip to  Hawaii for two seasons thrown in there. He appeared in 261 minor league games in those seven seasons, and made it back to the bigs for 14 total games with Pittsburgh and Montreal.

Now he wasn’t a star, but certainly spending six more years in the minors wasn’t worth it for those 14 extra games? Well, I guess it was!

At the end of 1987, and another year in Indianapolis helping the Expos youngsters prep for the bigs, he was finally done. He seamlessly moved into a role as a minor league pitching instructor before landing the GCL managerial job.

My only remaining question is this.

Tomlin was traded in late 1973. He went to Spring Training with the Padres in 1974 and spent 4 months up there in San Diego. WHY THE HELL DIDN’T TOPPS GET A SHOT OF HIM IN A PADRES UNIFORM??


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