Jim Eppard – 1989 Topps

February 22, 2011

You Had One Wally Joyner…Why Another?

You remember Wally Joyner. Wally World, and all that.

Joyner had modest power – totally inflated by the Superball of 1987, but really his power wasn’t what you required from a first baseman. However, he had other skills on offense besides hitting singles.

Eppard was a Joyner clone, except he also played left field.

I guess he wasn’t a clone at all. He was kind of like Joyner’s cousin.

Joyner’s slow cousin from the OTHER side of the family.

Eppard could rake singles all over the park in the minors. Once in a while he hit a double when he was feeling randy, but otherwise it was singles. He didn’t strike out much – didn’t walk much. He’d been a great #2 or #9 hitter (AL) if he was a middle infielder. But he wasn’t.

He played the ‘power’ positions. And yes while you can survive as a team without plus power at the power positions (see Mark Grace, Keith Hernandez or Wade Boggs), the player in question needs to compensate in other ways – getting on base and playing defense.

Eppard was up for most of 1988, being a pinch hitter and playing left and first on occasion. This was after a 1987 where he hit .341 in the PCL at age 27.

Of course, a cynic would say he was 27, and the PCL is a hitter’s haven, and he had 33 doubles, 3 triples and 3 homers and the rest singles.

What role could he play for the Angels, realistically? Joyner was at first, Downing the DH, Chili Davis in right. Tony Armas was in left but he still had some power. Eppard replaced Bill Buckner when the old man stopped hitting. George Hendrick was still wheezing around. Basically, he was there to pinch hit for Schofield or McLemore. Zzzzzz….

I don’t think roster construction was a strength of Cookie Rojas as a manager. There was no one on the bench that could supply some pop off the bench, no one to really play as the fourth outfielder that wasn’t old, and when they tried to force McLemore into the lineup, they moved Johnny Ray to left because Lord knows they needed another slappy in the lineup. (Ray’s defensive performance in left almost leads you to believe that a statue could have done just as well. I’d also like to see how much weight Devon White lost during the season playing between Armas / Ray and Davis.)

That wasn’t Eppard’s fault, per se. On the right team, with the right manager, he could have been a valuable asset.

Eppard wasn’t with the big club much in 1989, then hooked up with Toronto for 1990 to play first at Syracuse and be sure McGriff and Olerud didn’t get hurt. He hit .310 with limited power (of course) but had a .374 OBP (decent). In 1991, he was back in the Angels chain playing for Salinas.

Wait, you say, Salinas is in the California League. You would be right. Eppard went to Class A after being in the majors in 1990 (briefly but he was). He had a great OBP and hit .339, but had just three home runs.

In Class A.

One more year in Indianapolis, one year in St. Paul in the Northern League, and then it was off to the coaching ranks.

For the past eight seasons, and again in 2011, he was the hitting coach for the Salt Lake Bees in the PCL. That’s a good role for him. Obviously, he woke up hitting .300 so he knows the mechanics of hitting, and if he can communicate it to young players then all’s the better.

But hopefully he can give some advice to the players in AAA about being stuck in an organization where you are stuck behind players that you have no chance of moving besides injuries. Well, that and let’s hope he doesn’t give Mark Trumbo any shanks so he can ensure Kendry Morales can’t play first!

 

 

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