The Perfect Card For The Mariners Of The 80’s

My friend at Emerald City would agree, no doubt.

In this, we find Matt Young, head down, getting an earful from…someone. Meanwhile, the catcher (Kearney?) looks to the bullpen for help.

I don’t think it’s Dick Williams. I think it’s Phil Regan, the pitching coach, that’s telling young to keep the ball down, throw strikes and don’t get so cute out there.

Since it’s a blurry shot, I can only guess at where – but it’s a road day game. Young was in the rotation, then yanked, then became the ‘closer’.

Could this be May 17, 1986? Young as the starter in New York? Put back into the rotation after pitching seven shutout relief innings of Milt Wilcox (he was still active?), Young gave up five hits, three walks, and two homers in 1 2/3. Though only two of the eight runs he gave up were earned, he no doubt was told, “I don’t care if they’re all unearned – they still count!”

Young gave up a grand slam to Dave Winfield (Mr. May strikes again!) and solo shot to Gary Roenicke (back-to-back jacks) before his untimely exit. And while Alvin Davis’ error prolonged the inning, Young walked the bases loaded in the second before the error.

Sure, that may not be the game in question, but for the Mariners, it’s fitting to have their “Leaders” card in the 1987 series depict such an event.

Hal Lanier – 1987 Topps

November 30, 2010

“Son, I Am Disappoint”

Hey, Hal….lighten up will ya? It’s a baseball game! It’s not like you’ve busted you 15-year old for staying out until 2AM and then puking in the hostas. I mean, this was taken in 1986 – your team WON the NL West and then gave the Mets all they ever asked for in the NLCS – playing one of the most exhilarating games ever.

There are words for that expression: dour, taciturn, laconic, poopy-pants.

But at least he wasn’t laughing…

“Don’t Push Me Because I’m Close To The Edge…”

Something about this, in all of its airbrushed (I think) glory makes me think that Mr. Jackson is a badass. But now I think he’s a badass for Jesus.

Jackson’s last couple of years in the bigs were unsettled. He had some pretty excellent years in relief up in Canada, but after a 7-8 mark with 10 saves and a 3.56 ERA in 1984, the Jays let him go in the Spring of 1985. He signed with Baltimore, went to the minors, and then was moved to the Padres in the Alan Wiggins deal. He finished the year in the majors going 2-3 with 2 saves and an excellent 2.70 ERA.

However, at the end of spring in 1986 he was released and that same day signed with the Twins. He must have been hurt because he didn’t make his season debut until late May, then basically was the end of the bullpen, pitching in just 28 games, mostly of little or no consequence.

He then field for free agency, but he probably was colluded out of a job – and was forced to take a minor league deal in mid-season with Milwaukee. That was a disaster as he gave up 19 hits in just 8 1/3 innings. I don’t have to really tell you about the rest of the stats given that one, do I?

So he may have been a bit elusive, but I can’t say for sure that this is an airbrush job. He’s wearing a grimace and has his hat on backwards (at a glance, it seemed he could be wearing a skullcap or a Kangol – quite the edgy urban thing in 1986 but I think it’s just a backwards ball cap).

I don’t really know why he bounced around. Toronto got rid of him after his age-30 season. He did blow 7 saves but had 6 holds and did a nice job of preventing inherited runners from scoring. He also got a nice raise (probably an arbitration deal) and that may have contributed to his release. Owners were pretty clumsy in their dealings with players – hence the three huge collusion rulings.

I did find a little blurb in 1986 about Jackson being close to signing a contract on February 1, after he filed for arbitration. I also found something that leads me to believe he’s a minister working in Alabama.

But the countenance on this picture is a man who is not to be trifled with – who has been battered by the Lords of baseball and won’t take it and is depending on THE Lord.

Pat Corrales – 1987 Topps

November 11, 2010

Paulie Walnuts!

God, I miss the Sopranos.

Corrales resembles Paulie Gaultieri. I wonder if Pat ever got lost in the Pine Barrens?

Corrales was a backup catcher (a lifer in Backup Catchers Union #242 – no doubt controlled by Paulie Walnuts). And like most backup catchers with a long career (which means you didn’t complain about playing behind guys like Johnny Bench and Tim McCarver), you automatically qualify as a coach / manager. And so, Pat was the manager for Texas, Philly (where he holds the distinction of the only manager to be fired while his club was in first place, as not even the Big Stein or Chris von der Ahe did that!), and Cleveland as you see.

This card is bittersweet, no doubt, for the Corrales clan. This was the infamous SI cover 1987 Indians.

I don’t think Corrales was totally to blame. While the Indians were 84-78 the year before, and scored the most runs in the AL, there had to be concerns about the staff and the defense. Cleveland totaled -44 fielding runs and committed the most errors in the AL in 1986. Their ERA was 12th in the AL, and the staff had guys who were on their way out (Phil Niekro, John Butcher, Jamie Easterly, Jim Kern, Dickie Noles), injury prone (Ernie Camacho), or never going to be a championship winning pitcher (Scott Bailes, Ken Schrom, Don Schulze, Neal Heaton) and guys that never fulfilled their potential (Greg Swindell, Brian Oelkers, Jose Roman).

So what did the Indians due to shore up their pitching and defense between 1986 and 1987? Well…

They signed 33-year old outfielder and lifer in AAA Casey Parsons.

They signed failed Pittsburgh prospect Doug Froebel.

They signed fossil Rick Dempsey (who played with Charlie Manuel, Dean Chance, Ron Perranowski, and John Roseboro for the 1969 Twins).

They signed Kurt Kepshire, Dennis Lamp, Ed VandeBerg and traded for Jeff Kaiser.

During the spring, they released Kepshire and Lamp (who somehow kept finding jobs until 1992), and signed Steve Carlton.

So for the worst defense and a shaky pitching staff – they added two AAA outfielders, a catcher who played with Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison, two journeyman lefties, and an old, crafty lefty (notice the trend…YOU GOTTA HAVE A LEFTY!!!!)  that had a 5.10 ERA at age 41.

“Remain calm! All is well!”

You know the story – some of the hitters regressed, big time (Snyder, Bernazard, Hall, Bando, Thornton), the pitching totally imploded (a 5.28 ERA as a team – no one who pitched over 100 innings had an ERA+ of over 100), and the defense was still lousy (first in errors, next to last in DPs, and -48 fielding runs).

I don’t know if Corrales was an accessory to the crime, or a main ringleader, but the complacency shown by the Indians brass was astounding. It was as if they said, “Hey, if everyone does what they did last year, or improves, we’ll be OK. And we’ll magically get better in fielding and those crafty vets will carry us through!”

Yeah, and Paulie knew the way out of the Pine Barrens…

Jim Gantner – 1987 Topps

November 6, 2010

Outlier

Jim Gantner, an oddity.

No, not for the specs (they turned into sunglasses during the day as other cards show), or the 80’s porn stache (c’mon…)

He was a Brewer his entire career.

Now, you say, “But, but, but…before free agency….”

Still rare. Think about it…these players played for at least two teams:

Harmon Killebrew, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Honus Wagner, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Joe Morgan, Tris Speaker, Nap LaJoie, Lefty Grove, Babe Ruth, Hank Greenberg, Ron Santo, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, etc. etc.

What’s even rarer is that Gantner stayed with the same team with below average production. He only had an OPS+ of 88. He didn’t walk much, didn’t have power and wasn’t a plus in the stolen base department.

Yes, he was versatile, kind of the poor man’s Don Money. Maybe his nickname should have been “Small Change?”

Ha, ha…ha…

Anyway…

He really wasn’t THAT versatile. He was a good second baseman, not so good third baseman, and rarely played short.

But he stayed with the Brewers for 17 seasons – a fan favorite because of his Wisconsin roots. (He’s James Elmer Gantner, that name alone exudes cheese…)

The Brewers seemed to fall in love with some players like this – Gantner, Rick Manning, Charlie Moore, Roy Howell. For some reason, Milwaukee was reluctant to break up that 1982 team and they lingered way too long with some of those guys.

Still, Gantner was affordable, a fan favorite, and they could have done worse, really. He also was rarely the millstone.

Take the 1988 Brewers, somehow they went 87-75. Gantner had a 84 OPS+ as the second baseman.

Better than BJ Surhoff, Greg Brock, Dale Sveum, and Jeff Leonard. When your 1B and LF can’t hit, and you finish over .500, you’re lucky.

So, here’s to you, James Elmer Gantner. I hope you are enjoying the land of cheese curds, Summerfest, and giant spiders.

Wait, what did I say?

Giant spiders??

Yes, Giant Spiders!

 

 

Tim Raines – 1987 Topps

October 30, 2010

The Rock

Tim “Rock” Raines should be a no-doubt-about-it Hall Of Fame player. Let us hope the voters have sense.

I am posting this guy because there are some ‘rocks’ that helped me recently with completing some sets. Thanks to BA Benny, Emerald City Gems and Nachos Grande for their help, and I know of another package coming. I’ve tentatively updated my want list summary, and the detail will be emailed out to a couple of folks and others who would like it next week.

BUT…I have completed Topps 2008 Series 1 & 2, 2007 Topps Update and 2009 Topps Update!

But after arriving back in town this weekend I have no time to rest as the sports world collides with the Halloween madness for those of us with two adorable moppets that want to trick-or-treat forever.

“Which Way To The Sugar Shack, Duuuude?”

Codiroli definitely looks like he wants to grab his girl, his board and his woody and hit Surf Route 101.

He was a California kid, born in Oxnard and played baseball at San Jose State. But he wasn’t an A’s draftee. He was selected in the first round of the January draft by the Tigers, but was released after the 1981 season. The A’s scooped him up, and he was in the bigs in 1982 and a full-time member of the rotation in 1983.

But it wasn’t all groovy times and cool waves for Codiroli. While his record as an Oakland A’s pitcher was 38-40 (not bad for a team that ranged between mediocre and awful) he had high ERAs and only lasted two full seasons in the rotation.

Those Oakland teams were pretty much forgettable. After Billy Martin burned out an entire pitching staff by 1982, the A’s were left with a whole bunch of interchangeable parts, sort of like the IKEA of pitching staffs. Except Steve Boros and Jackie Moore couldn’t assemble them into a post-post modern sofa.

Really, could you tell the difference between Codiroli, Tim Conroy, Gorman Heimueller, Mike Warren or Bill Mooneyham? They came, they saw, they gave up four runs in 6 2/3.

Only Codiroli had the cool surfer dude look, though. Catch a wave, Chris, and you’ll be sittin’ on top of the world!

Thad Bosley – 1987 Topps

October 17, 2010

You Da Man, Thad! You Da Man!

Some people love stars.

I like guys like Thad Bosley.

While I am a sabremetric geek, I can’t help but like players like Bosley, Casey Candaele, John VanderWal, Mark Loretta, and the like.

Pesky bench hitters. Super scrubs. Guys who aren’t anchored to one position, or at least can play first and the outfield without much issue.

I liked Thad before he was a Cub. The name “Thad” was unusual enough. I remember him as an Angel (his first card was of youthful exuberance and hope), and know he was part of the Bobby Bonds deal. After some time with the White Sox, I lost track of him. I stopped collecting in high school and didn’t read the transaction agate every day, just most days.

I do remember when the Cubs called him up in 1983. He hit .292 with a great OPS+ and the Cubs sent him DOWN in 1984! (Of course, that was a pretty good team.) However, Thad came back up and hit well off the bench for three seasons. But the Cubs needed a catcher. Casey Stengel said you need a catcher or all you’ll have are passed balls (or something like that).

So they packaged Thad and the immortal Dave Gumpert and sent them to KC for Jim Sundberg.

It did make sense. Jody, Jody Davis played 149 games in 1986. They were going to do to him what Durocher did to Randy Hundley. Except it was worse, because they played Davis in that many games for a team that went 70-90! Steve Lake was the nominal backup, but he was released during the year.Keith Moreland actually started the second most games behind the dish. This is why Cub fans imbibe.

(Disclaimer: I am a recovering Cubs fan – I am on step 3. I’m glad that the Cubs yanked most of their games off of WGN so I’m not tempted to relapse up here in the Twin Cities.)

But they got some sense and needed a backup that could actually play catcher. (Moreland was a DH, but in 1987 he was placed at third when the Cubs dumped Ron Cey.) Sundberg was a good fit. Thad headed off to the Royals, and I sadly said goodbye. He hung around for a while but washed out in 1989-90 with the Rangers. I think everyone washed out with the Rangers until 1995 or so.

He also wore cool stirrups.

Thad was a unique player in that he wasn’t all consumed by the game. He had interests in poetry, music and inventions. He thought baseball, no doubt, was a game, and it was easy money.

And it wasn’t work…

Oh, let’s do another one of that…

Because real work turns you into…

(And if you’re wondering if I kind of stretched something to post those videos…you are right my friend.)