Norm Charlton – 1996 Topps Stadium Club

April 6, 2011

Is He Still On The 60-Day DL?

Answer: No, he’s not Greg Hibbard.

This card, along with the Tony Womack card and other featured recently, will be available in Smed’s House Cleaning. Probably next week is when I start it up. Remember, pick a team, or take a chance and pick the doubles + non-baseball team cards, and get free cards (including relics or parallels or short prints for each team) for just a modest price of crap you already want to give up and a wee bit o’shipping. Of course, you may get some crap, too, but it’ll be DIFFERENT crap! Even the most controlling of team controllers can’t help but to open a grab bag assortment of cards for that ONE you may need.

Norm Charlton was a Nasty Boy, and later an ace reliever, but he’s best noted for his long stints on the DL followed by unlikely comebacks.

The Reds traded him to Seattle for Kevin Mitchell, and right on time, too. Though Mitchell was not that durable, Charlton broke down after 34 games. He was a free agent, and even though he would miss 1994 the Phillies signed him, and signed him for 1995.

So much for patience. Charlton went 2-5, 7.36 as the top lefty in the pen. That was just in 25 games, too. So he was excused. Meanwhile, Seattle, suffering with Bobby Ayala as their closer, snapped up Norm and he pitched lights out for the Mariners. In 47 2/3 innings, he only gave up 23 hits, 16 walks and whiffed 58. The tale of two seasons went like this: -0.9 WAR for Philly, 2.1 WAR for Seattle.

That led to another contract, and in 1996 he was just OK. 20 saves, 7 blown saves and 8 holds as Mike Jackson and Ayala also cleaned up the messes.

In 1997, Norm was making about $3 million. As a relief pitcher, he put up a total dog of a season. The Mariners ran him out there 71 times, and he rewarded them with a jetliner ERA (7.27, no doubt a big tribute to the hardworking folks at Boeing), a -2.4 WAR, 11 blown saves, and the return of Ayala as the closer. Still, the Mariners finished first in the West.

(Of course, to reward Lou Piniella’s confidence in Ayala, Bobby had a 1-10, 7.51, -2.1 WAR as the closer in 1998).

Charlton signed with Baltimore, and didn’t do so well and was released. But Atlanta picked him up late in the year and he pitched well. So Tampa Bay went and nabbed him for 1999. He pitched OK, but still wasn’t the Norm of old.

The inanity of the early Devil Rays is definitely illustrated in the signing of Charlton. Whilst the Marlins and Rockies built with younger players, and the Diamondbacks went for broke with valuable vets, the Devil Rays emulated the 1962 Mets in building with old, washed up vets.

A second year expansion team that has seven of their top 15 batters and six of its top 10 pitchers over 30? Disaster with a capital D. No, this wasn’t Charlton’s fault, but a 25-year old young lefty could have done what Charlton did.

Norm left Tampa and signed with Cincy again. He finally broke down, lasting just 2 games. Finally, he was done. He probably had been hurt somewhat over the past few seasons, but sucked it up and pitched.

But he wasn’t done. Nope. Back to Seattle. Back to Lou Piniella. And while he wasn’t a major contributor to the 2001 Mariners, he pitched well. And with that, he took leave of his career, going out without regret, or thankfully without injury.

With all of the arm ailments and setbacks, it would be easy for someone like Norm to just say, “Screw it, I’ll count my money.” But as much as we complain about baseball players being soft and counting their money, guys like Charlton, who made millions, still try to come back and play time after time. It’s the same reason Mike Hampton kept trying to come back. He HAD the money. He didn’t HAVE to pitch. He wanted to.

That says something.


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