Rudy Law – 1983 Topps

October 31, 2011

“Strike? You Sure Blue?”

The internet was going gangbusters today. In fact, Twitter broke for a minute or five, so I found out. This is what happens when there’s a disturbance in the Kardashian universe. Well, that and Herman Cain’s issue and with the retirement of Tony LaRussa, plus all of the regular “Had soup. Was good. Need nap #yummy” tweets out there, it’s no wonder that the service was slow.

While I never really liked LaRussa’s methods when it comes to bullpen management, and unlike George Will I never thought he was a super-genius, I do have to respect his accomplishments in St. Louis. His two WS champs there are from teams that really were afterthoughts when the playoffs started.

He also wasn’t afraid to try something unconventional, like batting the pitcher 8th (which actually isn’t a bad idea if you put a decent OBP guy in the #9 hole) or his try in the 90’s to solve a woeful starting staff by partitioning the games out in chunks to a group of pitchers a night. Which also isn’t a bad idea if you have no ace.

LaRussa was never afraid to give a job to someone out of the blue. Witness Mr. Law.

The White Sox traded for Law at the very end of spring training in 1982, sending away a minor leaguer and Cecil Espy to the Dodgers for him. Law had an unusual career for LA. He was signed as an amateur free agent in 1975, but was fast tracked after hitting .386 at Lodi in 1977. He had a cup of coffee in LA during 1978, but didn’t make the show in 1979 (due to an injury, as he played just 72 games in Albuquerque).

If you recall, those Dodgers were rather stacked in the OF, but Lasorda gave the regular CF job to Rudy in 1980, which made Rick Monday a part-timer. But after a hot April, he cooled down pretty rapidly, and was on the bench most of August. He started about half of the games in September as the Dodgers tried (unsuccessfully) to chase down the Astros for the NL West pennant.

While didn’t have much power or patience, he had speed and played acceptable defense and could have been a bench player in 1981. But the Dodgers had other ideas – they imported Ken Landreaux from the Twins and also used Pedro Guerrero in center along with vets Monday and Derrell Thomas. It worked; the Dodgers won the series. But Law never saw time in the bigs – not even to pinch run in September.

Obviously, during the spring of 1982 it seemed that Law was blocked again as Ron Roenicke was going to be added to the OF mix. Meanwhile, over at White Sox camp, LaRussa was noticing that Ron LeFlore was losing steam quickly. Chet Lemon was the regular CF in 1981, but he was moved to Detroit for Steve Kemp. That pushed LeFlore to center, and he just wasn’t up to the task. So the Sox grabbed Rudy, and grabbed him cheaply.

At first, Law was a fourth OF and pinch runner, starting just five times in April and May. But as time wore on, it was obvious that LeFlore wasn’t cutting it, and was losing some bat speed as well. After a few starts in June, Law took over as the regular CF on July 1. While he still didn’t have a lot of patience or power, he did hit .318 and provided stability in CF. I think that helped Law relax and get acclimated before replacing a popular veteran player in the lineup.

(BTW, in looking at the defensive alignments for the Sox that year: One game it was Kemp / Hairston / Kittle and a few games it was Kemp / Baines / Kittle. Holy doubles in the gap!)

Law wasn’t a great player. He was useful, and filled a need. LaRussa found a role for him, and had a plan to make him the starter during 1982.

I still don’t like 12-man pitching staffs or one-inning closers, though.

 

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