Oh, Hello!

Hi, Scott Brow here. I just wanted to barge in to my action shot to tell you about Smed’s Spring Cleaning! There are some teams left and most again are ‘virgin’ and plenty of stuff from sets if you have a need to start a set or have a neighbor or kid or total stranger that wants to start one.

You see, my career didn’t amount to much. My ERA in the majors was 6.06, which in any era isn’t so good. And my ERA in AAA was 5.05 in over 500 innings. That’s why I need this gig, so I’m here to tell you about the Spring Cleaning. Look at the pages for what teams and sets are available and sign up!

Speculation?

Oh, if only card prices were published daily like the stock market prices, and archived for easy retrieval.

I wonder what the asking price for this card would have been in April, 1994?

As you remember, Rhodes hit three home runs on Opening Day in 1994, in Wrigley. Sure that wasn’t going to last, but at the end of April he was hitting .313 with a .996 OPS.

By the end of May, he was down to .249 with a .765 OPS.

He wound up at .234 with a .705 OPS and just a 0.4 WAR, having lost the starting center field job in the process in favor of Glenallen Hill. Now, an outfield of Derrick May, Hill and Sammy Sosa would probably cause the pitchers to sue the outfield for non-support on defense.

If you throw April out, Rhodes hit .201 with an OBP and SLG under .300.

Rhodes had an outstanding career in Japan afterwards, but here he is best known for that one game, and then the abject disappointment the Cubs had from May onward in 1994, all because of him.

I’m sure the speculative card collectors were buying up any Rhodes cards they could in April and by June they were unloading them. A price chart no doubt looked like the tulip bubble.

But had they done their homework, they probably would have realized that Rhodes wasn’t someone to really get excited about.

A. Rhodes had 259 at bats already in the big leagues. While not a huge sample size, there was enough of a record to see that his April would probably be anomalous.

B. Up until 1993, Rhodes hit just 14 home runs in the minor leagues after starting in rookie ball in 1986. In 1993, Rhodes hit 30 home runs in the American Association after being released by Houston. Regression to the mean was likely.

C. In 1993, while Rhodes was blasting home runs, he was involved in a three-way trade between the Yankees, Royals and Cubs. Rhodes, John Habyan and Paul Assenmacher were the principals involved. Of those, Rhodes was the only one who was a minor leaguer and he stayed a minor leaguer until September call-ups.

D. 1993 was Rhodes’ fourth year in AAA. That could explain his batting surge more than anything.

E. In 1993, Rhodes was in AAA while Kevin Roberson was called up after Candy Maldonado was deemed a failure. Maldonado was traded to Cleveland for Glenallen Hill. Meanwhile Roberson stayed up and Rhodes stayed on the farm.

Sure, it’s all hindsight. But Rhodes is why I never worry about April stats. The stats all come out in the wash in the long run.

 

Nice Try, Tom. Better Luck Next Time.

First, some housekeeping. I am finally, FINALLY, bindered up all my close sets. I have about 20-some cards that I thought I had (or may have had) that have gone missing. I attribute this to fat fingers on my spreadsheets, and a chaotic time in my life where my collection was in bits and pieces. So I may have to add them BACK on my want list at some point. No biggie, it’s not like they were 1951 Mantles or even a 1973 Johnny Bench card.

Second, I have a lot of doubles, parallels, relics, etc. that I want and need to get rid of before I decide what comes next. I am thinking of a good way to do this – I have a couple of ideas percolating. Yes, you may get some more 1988 Donruss out of it, but with that you also may get an auto or a numbered card you didn’t know existed. Stay tuned.

Now, on to this card. I like the first three Pinnacle designs (until they went overboard with the gold diamonds or trapezoids or rhombii or whatever). They were definitely a worthy contender that kept Topps and Upper Deck (and the rest) on their toes for a while.

Pagnozzi was the reason, I guess, that Todd Zeile moved to third. Pagnozzi was a heck of a defensive catcher in his prime, with a 1.0 and 1.8 WAR defensively in back-to-back seasons. But the man could not hit.

Take a look at his 1991, where on the surface it looks good with a .264 average. He only had 36 walks in 510 plate appearances, and had just two home runs. His OPS+ was only 89. Added to that 10 GIDPs and a 9 for 22 rate in stolen bases (Joe Torre, HOF manager, let Pagnozzi steal 22 times. He must have been huffing that season.) and you have player that scored only 38 runs and had just 1 WAR offensively.

(Sidenotes to the 9 for 22 stealing stat – Pagnozzi in his career stole 18 bases and was caught 21 times – so the rest of his career he was 9 for 15. Torre didn’t have Jose Oquendo or Pedro Guerrero steal that much either. And even when the A’s stole a gazillion bases in 1976 not everyone joined in on the fun, as Larry Haney didn’t steal a bag, Gene Tenace was just five for nine, Ken McMullen was one of two and Billy Williams was four for six. So Pagnozzi attempting 22 steals that season is just, well, insane.)

1993 was the year that the end was beginning for Tom. Erik Pappas hit better than him and the vaunted defense backslid a bit. He started just 90 games, as opposed to 133 and 131 the two seasons before. He did miss a month or so, though, due to injuries, which happens to almost every catcher. Since this card clearly shows a play at the plate in Wrigley, and since Pagnozzi had a more limited schedule than usual, it should be easy to pinpoint this play.

Shall we? We shall.

Pagnozzi played when the Cards were in Chicago June 17-20 (the first games back after injury, he played in three games missing the 19th) and on September 20 and 22. I am thinking that this is from the first series (but you never know) so I’ll attack those games first. The runner at the plate looks to be African-American or a dark-skinned Latino, but of course I could be fooled there too. And the player looks to be safe, so I’ll see about the Cubs scoring a run on a single where a play at the plate could have occurred.

June 17 – A wild one. Pagnozzi goes 3 for 5 with 3 runs and an RBI in an 11-10 win. Ozzie Smith has six RBI (!!!) in the game.  Plenty of chances to have the photo snapped:

First inning – Jose Vizcaino scores from second on a line single to center by Ryne Sandberg. Definitely a possibility.

Eighth inning – Rey Sanchez scores from first on a double by Vizcaino. However, that doesn’t seem as likely.

June 18 – Cubs win 8-3 against Rene (“They paid me HOW much?”) Arocha. (Side note, the middle relievers for the 1993 Cards included Rob Murphy, Paul Kilgus and Les Lancaster. Yeesh.)  There are some likely candidates here.

Second inning – Sammy Sosa scores from first on a fly ball double to left by Rey Sanchez. Even though there were two out, a fly ball double to left doesn’t necessarily score the runner from first.

Sixth inning – Bob Scanlan (OK, I can yeesh the Cubs relievers too) hits a line out sac fly to left scoring Sosa. Possibly.

June 20 – Cards win 7-4 behind Pagnozzi’s 2-run homer and Geronimo “I Should Have Been Better Than I Was” Pena’s three RBI. Frankie Castillo was not impressing his hot wife that day. There is one possibility.

Second inning – Sosa scores from second on a Sanchez line drive single to center. There are two out though, so that’s not as likely as some of the others.

The first September game doesn’t help. Pagnozzi plays the 7th and the 8th as the Cards lose, plus it was a night game.

September 22 was a day game, and another wild one, an 11-9 Cubs win as they blister Tom Urbani and Arocha.

Second inning – Eric Yelding scores from second on a line drive single to center by Vizcaino. Maybe, but even though the background is blurred it looks sunny out there and the weather that September game was 71 yet overcast.

Sixth inning – Vizcaino scores from second on a single to right by Tuffy Rhodes. There was an E9 on the play. Could the E9 have occurred as the ball eluded Pagnozzi and hit Vizcaino? Could it? Nope, the newspaper account clearly states that Whiten bobbled the ball at second, allowing Rhodes to go to second, hence the error.

But the Tribune game stories may yield the answer. So I’ll go back to the June games and check.

The June 17 writeup was all about Turk Wendell’s debut start in all of it’s licorice chewing and tooth brushing glory.

The June 18 game story is all about Eric Yelding and some defensive plays.

The June 20 game story is all about how lousy the Cubs were playing at home. Geez, some things never change.

So those game summaries don’t give us a clear outcome.

My best guess? It’s Vizcaino scoring. His 1994 Pinnacle card (which I  found online) shows that he wears those wristbands and used tape. Not as much as his throwing hand, but he may have taped up his glove hand.

So I bet that’s the play at the plate in the very first game Pagnozzi was back at the dish for the Cards, where Sandberg slapped a single to center and Vizcaino beat the throw.

Sure, why not?

“So When’s The Meat Raffle?”

“Yeah, I’m thinking of building a new ice house this year. Gonna have double-decker bunks, a built in cooler and a cubby for the Coleman.”

“Sure…yeah…love to. We won’t be playing in October, so we can hit the pheasant opener. And then swing up for the last part of moose season. The ducks will be there after that. And then after Thanksgiving I’ll get my muzzle-loader out.”

“Yeah, that jerky was great, wasn’t it.”

“Well, I gotta go take BP. After the game let’s hit Manny’s. They have a double porterhouse and I’ll get some loaded mashed potatoes.”

 

“I Got This Gripped Right? Right? Gosh I Hope So.”

His eyes seemingly taking a last furtive glance at the ball, and his expression of worry, it was easy to create the tag line for this post.

We need more knuckleball pitchers! There are only one or two scuffling around still in all of organized ball, and that’s not enough!

It was always fun when Candiotti came to the mound. Though maybe not as fun for his teammates. They tended not to score runs for him. The worried look on his face also probably was due to the fact that the Dodgers scored just 2.8 runs per start for him in 1993!

The 1987 Indians (with both Candy AND Phil Niekro) were awful, leading to Tom’s 7-18 record. The  1992 Dodgers couldn’t score against an American Legion team and Tom went 11-15 and had a 4.6 WAR.

The 1995 Dodgers had a winning record, but Tom went 7-14 even though his ERA was better than Ramon Martinez (17-7).

I think the catcher’s cabal took an oath against Tom – no run support when he pitches.

And now, Tom spends his time bowling. He’s a member of the International Bowling Hall of Fame, and I guess averages over 200 in leagues in Scottsdale. I wonder what grip he uses…

 

“And Now Let’s Hear From Todd Stottlemyre…

Something tells me that the above shot wasn’t taken during this interview.

I never liked him, and that was irrational. I mean, he never was on an arch-enemy team of mine (well, he was a Cardinal for a few years but LaRussa’s evil enough to give everyone else a pass), nor was he really dickish about things. I just didn’t like him.

I feel for his dad, even though Mel was a Yankee. But he was a Yankee when the Yanks were mostly irrelevant and forgotten, which only happens once every six decades or so. (The bad Yanks teams of the 80’s and 90’s were never forgotten – thanks to George Steinbrenner.) Stottlemyre, like Bobby Murcer and Roy White, toiled in relative obscurity. Now he may not have been a Hall-Of-Famer, but start his career in 1994 instead of 1964, and give him surgery on his rotator cuff, and who knows how many he could have won.

Todd’s brother Mel Jr. had a brief major league career, but has followed hid dad’s footsteps as a pitching coach and was the D-Backs pitching coach until he was whacked with AJ Hinch and demoted to minor league pitching coordinator.

Todd had a longer career than his Dad, and pitched in more post-season games. And he was part of one of the most insane post-season games I’ve ever seen.

You may remember it – October 20, 1993. Blue Jays at Philadelphia in Game 4. It was a damp and rainy night. Tommy Greene gives up three runs in the first. Stottlemyre counters by walking in a run and then giving up a bases-clearing triple to Milt Thompson. Down a run, Stottlemyre leads off the second with a walk, and after two outs tries to advance to third on a single by Robby Alomar. He’s out, and I think Todd goes a bit berserk if I recall.

He doesn’t get composed until Greene singles and Dykstra homers. He’s pulled for a pinch hitter in the top of the third when the Jays rally, and is replaced by Al Leiter, who gives up the lead and more, leaving with the score 12-7 Philly in the fifth. It’s 14-9 going to the top of the eighth, and Mitch Williams happens. Well, before then Larry Andersen gives up a single, a walk and a double to make it 14-10. Williams, though, is less than unhittable, and the big blows are by Rickey (no last name needed) and Devon White.

The inning ends with a 15-14 Jays lead, and they hold on for the win. That’s the only game Stottlemyre pitches in this World Series – at least it was memorable.

I don’t know why I didn’t like him – it’s kind of irrational really. Maybe it was his temper.

But who said baseball was a rational game, anyway?

 

It’s Snowpocalypse! No, it’s Monday…

I know it’s tough on travel, but I can’t help to chortle at the massive panic out in the East. Our airport here in the Twin Cities was closed during our mid-December blizzard but it was only shut down for a brief amount of time.

The problem, of course, is the wind and the blowing snow. But why is it taking so freakin’ long for the NYC area airports to re-open? You would think the FAA and the airlines would have contingency plans if they’re shut down, especially if folks are just connecting there.

Anyway, as an operations guy, I marvel at the hub-and-spoke system and always think on how it could be improved. But really, it’s the cheapest way to get from “A” to “B”, even though it seems counter-intuitive to fly from Minneapolis to Atlanta to get to El Paso. But hey…

What does any of this have to do with Larry Walker? Well, he’s Canadian, eh? They know snow. He’s pictured as an Expo.

And he’s a Hall Of Famer.

“Oh, there’s the Coors Field Effect!” “Oh, there’s the steroid era!” “Oh, Oh! He had injuries.”

Yes, his time was shortened. And yes, Coors field helped inflate his counting stats. But OPS+ is normalized for park and era. And his career OPS+ is 140.

He was a plus (+96 fielding runs) fielder and had a fantastic arm.

Of course, he could have become a true household name had not the strike interrupted 1994.

There are others who should be in the HOF before Walker: Alomar, Raines, Blyleven, Santo, Whitaker, Larkin, and Trammell. And I hate that game of “if X is in then Y should be in” because it keeps lowering the lowest common denominator. Over time, that could potentially lead to “if Duane Kuiper is in the HOF, then Tom Veryzer should be as well.”

So I’ll just say Walker, some day, should be in the HOF. He’d be a better player than at least 1/3 of the current HOFers.

BTW, I got this card about 16 years too late to redeem whatever I was supposed to redeem on the back. C’est la vie and all that rot.

 

The Bomber

Say what you want about Giambi – the ball could really jump off of his bat.

It’s funny that there were so many parallels to McGwire. Notice that he’s a 3B here – just like McGwire was when he was first a prospect. He also had a brother that played a major league sport whose career was rather ignominious (Dan McGwire – rotten QB and Jeremy Giambi – SLIDE DAMN YOU!) and brief.

Giambi played 3B when he first came up in 1995 and some in 1996, but not again except for a brief appearance in 1999 in a wild, woolly game with Kansas City. You could probably guess that it would be slow-pitch softball with Blake Stein and Dan Reichert pitching. It wound up a 13-11 Oakland loss when the Oakland pen (namely Billy Taylor and Chad Harville) blew a three-run lead and then gave up a game winning blast to Jermaine Dye. Giambi was inserted at third because Oakland lost the DH after pinch hitting and pinch running  like crazy late in the game. He was only in there for two batters.

Aside from Tony Phillips and Randy Velarde, that was a team of plodders. Giambi, Eric Chavez, John Jaha, Matt Stairs, Ben Grieve, Olmedo Saenz, Mike MacFarlane and Scott Spiezio didn’t win any foot races at all.

Oh, and attention Dusty Baker – those base cloggers finished fourth in the AL in runs scored, despite being 13th in batting average and stolen bases.

In honor of Giambi, and a gift for you on Christmas, here’s one of the best power trio rock songs ever:

 

Nitwits, He’s A Hall-Of-Famer

Yes, there were a preponderance of home runs hit during Mr. Bagwell’s era in baseball. There have been peaks and valleys of all kinds of stats since Henry Chadwick started to record games in his notebook.

There have also been a preponderance of idiots voting for the Hall of Fame. Usually it’s on the Veteran’s Committee, but then there’s Bill Conlin and his ilk who feel they have to ‘defend the game’. Whatever, dude…

Without advanced metrics, it’s difficult to compare one era to another. There are many Hall-Of-Famers that I’d love to crowbar out because they were put in out of ignorance or cronyism. The fact that Ron Santo is not in the HOF, and Tim Raines and Robby Alomar are waiting, and Pete Browning and others from the old AA aren’t in, and guys like Fred Lindstrom are in says it all.

I read on one of the blogs I subscribe to that some doofus wasn’t going to vote for Jeff Bagwell, for some reason or another. You know, there are some guys like Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire where I can see a glimmer of a coherent argument against their inclusion. (But it falls flat – players have tried to ‘enhance’ forever and the real enemy of the integrity of the game was and IS gambling, lest the game devolve into NASCAR / WWF / Lingerie Football.)

But Bagwell? C’mon man…

He could flat our rake.

He stole 202 bases.

He was a plus fielder at first.

And, for the sanctimonious about you who decry free agency and what it has done for team identity (never mind that players used to move around a lot anyway), he played his entire career for the Astros.

I can’t undo the past mistakes of the HOF, but what I can do is point out idiotic asinine arguments.

Bagwell’s a Hall-Of-Famer. QED. And if he doesn’t get in, he can join Santo, Browning, Raines, Alomar, etc. on my HOF.

 

Oh, Yeah, He WAS A Top Prospect

As I got back into the card game this year, I saw some of the rookies that Topps had given rookie cards to. Now, of any sport, baseball is a total crap-shoot. You just don’t know how players will react to each level, from rookie ball to the big leagues.

Some, of course, were no brainers (Heyward, Bumgarner) and some, well, look silly now (Brent Dlugach anyone?) but the prospect game can make everyone look like total aces or total idiots, even in the same year.

Brooks Kiseschnick was going to be the ‘real deal’. He was the 10th overall pick in the 1993 draft, played well in AA in 1994 and played quite well in Iowa in 1995. An .865 OPS for a 23-year old in the old American Association was nothing to sneeze at.

He made the club out of spring training in 1996. He was on his way.

No wait, this is the Cubs, and they had a preponderance of outfielders that weren’t totally horrid. In fact, their OF was pretty decent in 1995 (Luis Gonzalez, Brian McRae and Sammy Sosa with good contributions from Ozzie Timmons and Scott Bullett off the bench – all with OPS+ over 100). There was no need to rush Kieschnick, but there he was, on the opening day roster.

And he sat. For two weeks, all he did was pinch hit. Then he was sent down. And yes, he slumped down there in Iowa. But if you were young, did everything you were asked, and made the club out of the spring, and then was just pinch hitting before getting sent down, you’d probably be a funk too.

Even in September, when the Cubs were hapless and there was no need to play Gonzo or McRae or heck, Sosa every day, Brooks started just four games. Still, when given the chance, he was a masher. He didn’t get the chance.

This is why the Cubs are the Cubs.

In 1997, Timmons and Bullet played their way off the team, and Kieschnick again made the opening day roster. This time, he got more playing time. He started 13 of the first 16 games and at the end of April was hitting .295 with a .523 SLG.

In May, he slumped. Who doesn’t slump? By May his average was down to .200, and the Cubs sent him down. By this time, McRae and Sosa weren’t playing well (Sosa did hit 36 home runs, but his OPS+ was just 99) and other youngsters like Doug Glanville and Brant Brown had nowhere near the potential that Kieschnick did.

He got a September callup, and made only four starts again. The Cubs, it seemed, had already moved on. But while his batting average was down in Iowa, he had power. He could be quite useful.

He would try to be useful for the Devil Rays, though. Kieschnick was taken in the expansion draft. Then he got hurt, and spent 1998 in rehab assignments.

An expansion team should have a slot open for a young-ish power hitter, right? No, Bubba Trammel was enough, so while they had room for a Dave Martinez and Paul Sorrento and a Herb Perry and a Quinton McCracken and a  Terrell Lowery and a Randy Winn that had an OPS+ of 71 and was 9 for 18 in stealing bases, Brooks was sent to the minors, then LOANED to the Angels’ AAA team. That’s never a good sign.

At age 27, he was consigned  to a life as a AAAA player, even though he never got a real chance. So why not just let it rip?

His slugging percentages from 2000 – 2002: .527 / .508 / .540. His total major league at bats from 2000-2002? 58, with the Reds in 2000 and the Rockies in 2001.

But something was cooking in Charlotte in 2002. He went to Spring Training with Cleveland and was cut and the White Sox signed him for AAA in May. Kieschnick was a dual threat in college, and so, with nothing else to lose, became a P/DH that year. He slugged .540 and compiled a nifty 2.59 ERA with a 3/1 K/W ratio.

Milwaukee signed him in 2003, and gave him a chance to make the team. He was sent down initially, but came back up in May to stay. He was an excellent PH / DH / LF hitting .300 with seven homers. As a pitcher, he was a work in progress – a 5.26 ERA. But it wasn’t a bad debut and it’s not like the Brewers had any hot prospects burning up the organization.

He pitched much better in 2004, but was beset by arm woes and had two stretches on the DL. He pitched in AAA in 2005 for the Astros, was battered around, and that was it. He still could hit, though, and you just wonder what would have happened if the Cubs weren’t the Cubs, and he didn’t get hurt in 1998 and then the Devil Rays weren’t acting like the Cubs-South. Both teams thought speed was the key, and later realized that guys like Glanville and McCracken can’t put nearly the runs on the board with their legs as Kieschnick could have with his bat.

Some teams are of the mindset where they don’t care about tomorrow. That can work for the Yankees, but the Giants tried that philosophy and it wasn’t until they got some youth in there (Cain, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Sanchez, Posey, Sandoval) that they started to turn the corner. Some teams are perennials about promises, mostly false hopes, but promises nonetheless.

That tortured paragraph is to set up this great Rick Nelson video, from his Stone Canyon Band days: