Balor Moore – 1975 Topps

December 16, 2010

I’ve Seen This Movie Before…

The first card I saw on the first pack I ripped of the 2010 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects was the green Strasburg. It seemed like only yesterday that grown men were foaming at the mouth over the chance to get one of the first #661 cards.

I sat back and wondered, haven’t I seen this before? Well, maybe not the mega-hype, but the young flame thrower flaming out before his time.

(Note: Strasburg could come back better than ever – or not…)

Baseball history is littered with players that had a short burst of success at a young age, and then a fast crash due to injury or dereliction or worse. It’s a trend that started back in 1876, when Joe Borden signed a rich (for the time) three-year contract after he hurled a no-hitter for Philadelphia in 1875 as a rookie. There was hype and hope that Borden could carry the Bostonians to the first NL title, and he started the season in style, winning over the same Philadelphia club he left in the first NL game.

In 1877, Borden was the groundskeeper for the team, and then they bought his contract out. The first example of sunk costs in professional baseball!

In the early 1970’s, north of the border, there was a lot of hype and hope for Balor Moore. The Expos drafted Moore in the first round of the June 1969 draft from Deer Park, Texas. He was a lefty that threw gas and had a great curve. A perfect storm of pitching prospectitude, as it were.

He definitely showed he was more than ready for professional baseball. In 88 innings in the Gulf Coast and Florida State Leagues, Moore was 9-1, giving up 10 runs total, and only four earned. That’s an 0.41 ERA.

The next year, he again started in the FSL and dominated in three starts. The Expos had some issues on their major league staff and reached down for Moore to replace guys like Joe Sparma, Carroll Sembera and Gary Waslewski, who had already proved they weren’t worthy of wearing the tri-colors.

He didn’t do that well, starting two games and giving up 14 hits and 8 walks in 9 2/3 innings. Still, he got his feet wet. He was dispatched to AAA Buffalo, who moved during the season to Winnipeg. He scuffled a little bit in AAA, but a 19-year old lefty was expected to scuffle a bit in AAA.

The next year was kind of lost for Moore. He struggled in Winnipeg (2-11, 6.33) and then Uncle Sam wanted him. He spent some time in the Army but was released in time for the 1972 Spring Training. Well, what was Spring Training thanks to the strike of ’72.

Moore started the year in the minors again, but he had cleared his mind and let his talent take over. He dominated the Eastern League and made his 1972 big league debut on June 26. He was still struggling a bit, but after falling to 2-5 with a 5.01 ERA in late July, he was dominant the rest of the season.

Playing for the woebegone Expos, he went 7-4 with a tidy 2.76 ERA and 110 whiffs in 101 innings and gave up just 75 hits. He pitched back to back shutouts in September, and his best performance was against the soon-to-be NL champion Reds on August 23. Ron Woods drove in six runs to help Moore to an 11-0 win, and Moore held the Big Red Machine to just four hits and a walk. He whiffed Tony Perez twice and George Foster three times that day.

He had a bit of a setback in 1973, as his control and command escaped him from time to time. What happened was that the big league staff asked him to supplement his fastball and curve with a slider. That messed him up for a bit, and is a valuable lesson. If it’s not broken – don’t fix it.

He had an untidy 7-16 record with a 4.49 ERA, and had a brief demotion to AAA. He still didn’t allow many hits at all, just didn’t have the command he once had.

Mark Fidrych, another flame-out, famously hurt his knee in Spring Training which led to his arm woes as it affected his motion.

Same thing here for the most part. Moore hurt his ankle in 1974, which threw off his mechanics, which made him even wilder. He pitched 13 2/3 innings in the bigs in early 1974, walking 15 and whiffing 16. But he also came down with arm trouble. The Expos sent him down and he struggled even more in AAA, and then his elbow went ka-powie.

He had surgery, struggled in AAA again, and was sold to the Angels. The Angels sent him to Salinas, and then he spent all of 1976 in El Paso. A former phenom threw 141 innings in AA, racking up a 5.55 ERA and walking more than he struck out.

Still, the Angels saw glimmers, and after another detour to Salinas, he got back to AAA in 1977 pitching well in relief (albiet with the same control problems). He got back to the bigs for the first time since 1974 appearing in seven September games. A 3.97 ERA is deceiving, as he gave up nine unearned runs and seven home runs.

Finally, in 1978, he spent the entire season in the big leagues. Toronto purchased his contract and he spent 1978 and 1979 with the Jays as a swingman. He still had some control problems but at least he could be counted on to stay in the bigs and not get his head totally caved in. In 1980, his control issues became chronic, and a trip to the minors didn’t solve it. He was released after the minor league season was over, scuffled his way onto a couple of AAA rosters in 1981, and that was it.

Now Moore didn’t have nearly the hype Strasburg had. There was no mechanism for Moore’s hype to generate huge buzz in 1969. The baseball draft was a strictly agate-type thing, and the Expos weren’t much of a consideration for the meager national baseball broadcast schedules. In CANADA, though, there was some hype, but it was muted and polite since it wasn’t hockey or lacrosse or curling.

And he didn’t have some loutish buffoon of an announcer call him a weenie for having an elbow twinge.  Moore probably did his best to pitch through any twinges, and it cost him dearly. But if Moore didn’t pitch, he wouldn’t have kept his job either. He was caught. At least the Nationals know that Strasburg is an investment. The Expos didn’t have that much invested in Moore – there was someone else in the pipeline. Heck, Moore probably got more chances because he was a first round pick with a great season under his belt, but he was just another young lefty back then.

Frankly, TINSTAAPP is true. There is NO such thing as a pitching prospect. Prospects can be derailed in one pitch. There are only hopes and crossed fingers.



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