Dan Petry – 1991 Fleer

March 1, 2011

Never As Good As The First Time

This Ol’ Yeller card shows Petry as the Prodigal Tiger, returning after a stint as a California Angel.

His first stint was decent; he was a good compliment to Jack Morris. But he was always a finesse guy and vulnerable to the aging of his teammates defensively. He also gave up a lot of taters.

Petry had two pretty rotten years with the Angels after two pretty rotten years with the Tigers in 1986 and 1987. But nostalgia can be a driving factor in baseball decisions, so Petry was resigned by the Tigers for the 1990 season, leaving the Angels to wonder why they gave up Gary Pettis for him.

The Tigers used smoke, mirrors and Geritol to finish third in 1990. Petry did go 10-9 but had an ERA+ of 90 and walked more than he struck out. Neither is a good sign.

But Detroit saw 10-9 more than the other peripherals, so they resigned him for 1991. By mid-season, he was out of the rotation and in Atlanta, traded for non-entity Victor Rosario. That was the year of the Braves resurgence, and Petry was relied upon for veteran stabilization. He didn’t help much, and was soon moved to Boston for a used rosin bag and a box of sunflower seeds (also known as minor leaguer Mickey Pina). He finished the year with the Red Sox and then hung ’em up.

Both Detroit and Boston finished with identical records in 1991 (84-78). Petry was -0.4 WAR with Detroit and -0.5 WAR with Boston. Had either team not flirted with Petry they may have finished in second by themselves.

Baseball fans, players and executives are nostalgic. The sport leads itself to such wistful thinking of the days gone by. Yet baseball itself has no nostalgia, and decisions made partly because of nostalgia backfire. The game moves on. For most players in a city, it truly is never as good as the first time.

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