Oh, What Could Have Been…

This post by Night Owl inspired me to ponder if Steve Kemp was truly a better player than Tony Armas.

“You fool!” the rabble cries. “Armas hit a gazillion home runs! Kemp was an over-priced bum!”

Well, it ain’t as easy as that, jack.

Kemp’s career was derailed by bone chips and a terrifying injury where he was hit in the eye in batting practice by a ball struck by Omar Moreno. (It may have been the hardest hit ball Moreno ever struck, ironically – yes that’s a joke.)

Those bone chips took a lot out of his 1983 season, and his 1984 was derailed by the lingering effects of the eye injury. Before then, he was pretty nifty on offense. From 1978-82 he piled up 16.4  oWAR. Advanced metrics have him a sub-par outfielder, though. He was a pretty diverse player – decent average, decent power, decent patience.

Tony Armas hit a lot of home runs. That was it. He also was a plus defender at times, but those skills waned. He had lousy peripherals and if he didn’t hit a home run later in his career, he wasn’t helping the team. His total oWAR was 11.1.

Kemp, even with a truncated career, had a higher career WAR than Armas. Without the eye injury he probably would have been better remembered as an pretty good player.

So I can say that Kemp was a better player than Armas. And that’s the name of that tune…

Still Here…

Been crazy. I’m not going to beat myself up over it because why bother? It’s a blog about a hobby and real life happens. Such as:

1. Five straight work days of 7A calls for work.

2. Taxes and financial stuff.

3. Planning a trip back to MN to see the kids and the girlfriend.

4. Planning a work trip to a client.

5. Planning for the girlfriend to move down here.

6. Writing for Bugs & Cranks.

7. Stuff and things.

Basically, my brain has been dead. My finances aren’t in the best shape, but this was expected in the timing of the whole move down here.

So I chose Dave Hilton as my representation for the prodigal blogger.

The Padres had high apple pie in the sky hopes for Hilton. Frankly, though, they had a lot of high draft picks that rather much, um, kerplopped (well there’s that Winfield guy…) and Hilton was one of them. He basically became a AAAA-player that had enough holes in his game for big league pitchers to exploit and he was hampered as a utility guy because he didn’t play shortstop.

The Blue Jays gave him a shot to make the team in 1977 and he didn’t. Not making the team when guys like Hector Torres, Steve Skaggs, Dave McKay and Tim Nordbrook were hanging around had to hurt. So he went to Japan for a couple of seasons and was involved in an ugly series of events that cost him and manager Don Blasingame their jobs. (Not Hilton’s fault, but he was a pawn in the game of baseball…)

My appearances here may be spotty until I get my mojo hand back. Hopefully I won’t get DFA’d by my own blog.



Out Of The Park 13 Brings Back Memories Of The Past

I’ve been in and out of card collecting but I’ve always had a soft spot for baseball simulation games.

Ever since I first got my hands on (from a garage sale) of an old Sports Illustrated game recapping the 1971 season, I’ve fallen for games that simulate the workings of a ball game from a managerial perspective. Sure, it may be fun to play a video game simulation, but for me, it’s always been playing baseball as a manager that has made me tick. I’ve had several dice games and now several computer games. Last year, I bought Out of the Park 12 for my iPhone and play it almost daily even though I’ve pulled the plug a few times on a game (getting to 2015 with the Twins just seemed a bit, odd, since at the time the 2011 Twins were flailing).

Brantley was the star of my APBA team one year, and in playing Out of the Park 13 I was in deep nostalgia mode. And while I enjoy the computer game I had loaded on my laptop I have been knocked out by the robust features of Out of the Park 13.

This product allows you to do almost everything strategically in regards to baseball. You can manage the team, be the general manager, be the farm director, draft players, listen (or ignore) scouts, waive players, trade players, designate players for assignment, you name it. You are in control. El jefe!

You can even create fictional players and fictional leagues, which can be dangerous if you have an inflated ego.

I’ve been playing the 2012 Marlins (since I’m now in Florida) and have been impressed with the options for game play. At times, the options seem a bit overwhelming, and until you get used to it navigating around is intimidating. One thing that is still an issue is navigating away from a player back to a team roster but that may be that I haven’t seen the hot button yet. (There are a lot of buttons and options everywhere – which is good and bad).

The only other quibble is the message that pops up between batters which distracts the eye, but that’s a quibble.

The actual game play is robust and inclusive. If you want to get hyper-granular, you can do that by going pitch-by-pitch and forcing pitchers to warm up. But you can also take a more relaxed view. You can simulate games or portions of games and have the system play them if you desire.

The neat part is the GM mode. You negotiate contracts, send players up and down, trade them, release them, the whole works.

At any rate, Out of the Park 13 is well worth the money and will give you weeks and months of enjoyment! It’s highly recommended for a baseball junkie who wants more than a simple video game.

Now, I’ll see if I can create the 1987 version of Mickey Brantley. The Marlins could use him!



Riddle Me This…

Does this look like the man that could ignite an entire community against him?

Wait, don’t answer that…

I’ve Been Away

Sorry I’ve been silent a bit:

A. That work thing. It’s going to get intense soon. With that comes some dialoging with our friends in Bangalore. 7AM conference calls, hello!

B. I’ve been thinking hard about re-tooling my collection to see if I can get some money from some of it (my Bowmans and maybe my Opening Days) and scaling back purchases for a while thanks to temporary budget crunches thanks to some increases in costs and an upcoming trip back to Minnesota.

C. The Bugs & Cranks writing thing, which led to a re-broadcast on the Huff Post. (Yay for me!)

D. Just contemplating the meaning of life, liberty and pursuing my happiness.

So I give you the Opening Day starter for the 1993 Marlins, and more wackiness will ensue.

Is This The Card That Started It All?

I remember too much, it seems. My ex says that I never had a purge button in my brain. As I get older, I find that I may not have as sharp and clear of a memory of certain events if overwhelmed by information, but I still remember scads of stuff. Most unimportant and trivial, yet that’s my modus operandi.

I do recall receiving some baseball cards in 1972. I recall opening packages at my grandparent’s house in Ladoga, Indiana. I can look at my 1972 binder and remember who they were, for the most part. (Tony Perez, John Bateman, Ray Culp, Glenn Beckert, Joe Grzenda, among others….)

I also remember being a total idiot in the late 70’s  (not the first nor last time, albiet to be honest I was just a kid) and gave away some of my older cards like this one to get some of the current set that I was chasing. I wonder if Mike Finney still has them??? Or maybe I gave them to Todd Newkirk?? (They both moved out of town by ninth grade, and I don’t know where they are now. Not that it really matters, but it may be cool to see that my first 1972 Ted Kubiak is out there, somewhere…)

What I expressly remember is seeing this card back in 1972 as part of my first few packs and wondering about why Scherman stuck a finger out of his glove. Mind you, I was all of 6 1/2 so I didn’t have much of a frame of reference, but I thought this was wild and mysterious. Of course, I then started to do it in T-Ball. I then saw a glove that had an opening for an index finger but it wasn’t my size. I never did get one, and I think I stopped putting my index finger outside of my glove after a while.

The way I played the field, though, my glove was mostly a decoration anyway.

Because he was amongst the first players I ever received in a pack of cards, I always tried to follow Scherman. Yet it was hard in the pre-internet, pre-cable TV days. The Tigers weren’t big in Indiana, and by the time I really started to pay attention they were abysmal and Fred as on the move to Houston and then Montreal. Scherman’s last card was in 1976 and I really started my first wave of collecting with the 1977 set and he didn’t warrant a card as the Expos released him in mid-summer.

This card did catch Fred in his maj0r-league peak. He was the relief ‘ace’ for that bunch of Tigers, but of course being a Billy Martin employee meant you had to be up from some wacky stuff. Even though Fred had saved 19 games by mid-September 1971 he was called into the relieve Joe Niekro in the first inning of the second game of a double header against Baltimore and finished the game! Just a few days later he started game two of a doubleheader and pitched a complete game win. Then he went back to the pen, of course.

In 1972 he gave way at times to Chuck Seelbach after some struggles, and then when John Hiller made his miraculous comeback from a heart attack he was just a lefty reliever trying to make it in the crazy world of baseball. After the Expos released him in 1976 he didn’t catch on anywhere, but found a spot in the Pittsburgh chain in 1977 and had a so-so year in Columbus before hanging ’em up.

Except for those seasons when Billy Martin made him the ‘closer’ (as it was then) there wasn’t anything special about Scherman. Yet he always was someone I remembered and still look up from time to time. Was he my first one? You always remember….

This Card Is A Total Tribute…

Not only is it a tribute to the 1963 design, but look at the helmet and the collar on the shirt.

That’s a total tribute to the 1970’s Topps airbrushing. Gotta love the uneven striping and the blue shadow on the red helmet.

Well done, Topps…



What Color Is That Anyway?

Now, I’m no artiste, nor a photographer, but I have a question.

Everyone knows that the Mariners (and Brewers – who also had many hats airbrushed in this style) colors were blue. Not sky blue or turquoise but blue blue.

So why did Topps hang this whatever-you-call-it color on several M’s their first year or two?

Did they just not care about the M’s that card over card the colors (and logos) were mismatched?

Wait, don’t answer that.

Pagan’s claim to fame was being part of the ginormous Yanks / O’s trade in 1976 that Orioles out of Rick Dempsey, Scott McGregor and Tippy Martinez (hard to think of them as anything else but Orioles) along with Rudy May while the Yanks rented Doyle Alexander, Ellie Hendricks and Grant Jackson and also acquired a punching bag for Billy Martin (Ken Holtzman). While the Yanks won the 1976 pennant the trade was a swindle.

He also was a hard thrower who eschewed the national sport of Canada (hockey) to play baseball. Coming from Saskatchewan that was a big ol’ deal. As an original M he struggled but seemingly put it together after twirling a 3-0 shutout against Oakland in mid-May. But he undid that work by seeing his ERA raise two full points in a month (hard to do) and then being dumped to Pittsburgh for a PTBNL which turned into Rick Honeycutt, after which he was sent down by the Pirates. He pitched one game for Pittsburgh in late September and that was it.

All we have now is this…with whatever the hell color it is? Any one have the Pantone number for it?

You May Remember Him…

I bet you’ve seen this pic around (or one similar to it). Hilgendorf was the Indians pitcher brained with a folding chair during the infamous “10 Cent Beer Night” riot in Cleveland.

Did you know that despite the pro-wrasslin’ style injury (without the benefit of it being a break-away chair) he pitched in the very next game against Texas?


Sometimes When It Goes, It Goes Fast…

Baseball’s a game of micrometers. Not inches, not even millimeters.

One small, itsy bitsy thing can spell the difference between success and failure.

Allen is living proof that the thin line separating a strike and a ball can dictate how a career arcs.

Lloyd was a #1 pick of the Angels in 1968 and zoomed up the ranks quickly. By 1971, Allen, then 21, was the relief ace for the big club. That was no small feat, as Mel Queen, Eddie Fisher and Dave LaRoche were also around and having excellent seasons. Had those California Angels totally cratered on offense (a familiar lament) they could have really made noise in the AL West.

Allen regressed a bit in 1972 but so did the entire bullpen. In fact, the 1972 Angels had 16 saves as a team (and remarkably just seven holds and only 10 blown saves) as manager Del Rice trusted his starters to finish what they started. Still, at age 22 Allen could be tabbed as a rising flamethrowing star (if anyone paid attention to any other Angels pitcher besides Nolan Ryan, that is…)

There were troubling signs, though. In 1971 Allen whiffed 72 and walked 40 (eight intentionally). In 1972, Allen struck out 53 and walked 55 (five intentionally) in 9 2/3 fewer innings.

He needed to throw strikes. He didn’t.

Pitching five times for the Angels in 1973, he was mostly a mess. The worst of it was a game against Cleveland, his penultimate Angel appearance, where Buddy Bell and crew tattooed him for five runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Sent to Texas as part of the Mike Epstein / Jim Spencer deal, the Rangers were hoping he could solve their myriad pitching woes.

No such luck.

Given a start in his first game for Texas (because, why not), he gave up seven runs in 2 2/3 innings to Cleveland. Because, why not throw him back in there against the team he just was crushed by?

His next start was against Baltimore and he lasted 3 1/3 innings giving up seven runs.

His third start as a Rangers was against Texas. Two hits, two walks, one out, four runs.

Banished to the bullpen, he was clobbered by Baltimore again (three runs in 1 1/3 innings), gave up two unearned runs in an inning against Minnesota, and then ‘earned’ another start for Texas. The Royals clubbed him for six runs in 2 2/3, where he gave up five hits and walked five. His mark for the season at that point was 0-3, 14.40.

On July 3, the Rangers got stomped by Chicago in game one of a doubleheader. Allen relieved Pete Broberg in the second and lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up six runs (four earned) and his ERA dropped to 12.52. On July 7, he allowed the last seven runs (three earned) as the mighty Milwaukee Brewers crushed Texas 17-2 in one of David Clyde’s starts.

The next day, success, finally! Allen pitched three scoreless innings in the second day of a doubleheader.

That earned him another start, with predictable results. Allen was lit up by Detroit, giving up six walks and four runs (only one earned) in 1 2/3 innings as the Rangers lost 14-2.

His line for Texas from the trade to that point? 24 innings, 40 hits, 46 runs, 30 earned runs (16 UN-earned runs, boy that was a bad team on all fronts), 28 walks, 14 strikeouts.

He didn’t pitch for a month (disabled list?) and when he returned he calmed down a bit. He had three pretty rocky outings in September but had seemed to find something. Then came his last appearance of the year, on September 24. Billy Martin was now in charge instead of Whitey Herzog, but the team still stunk to high heaven. Still they had some fight in them as was shown on this night. Down 6-2 after Broberg was beat up by California, Texas scored seven runs in the top of the ninth off of Clyde Wright and Aurelio Monteagudo (I juts love typing that name) and held a 9-6 lead. Bill Gogolewski started the ninth in fine style, retiring Mickey Rivers and Ken Berry. Winston Llenas walked and Bob Oliver singled him to second.

Martin hands the ball to Allen. Facing Tommy McCraw, Allen uncorks a wild pitch then walks the vet. He then walks Richie Scheinblum to score Llenas and then walks Charlie Sands to score Oliver. Martin hooks Allen and Jackie Brown comes in. Lee Stanton doubles off of Brown sending Allen and the Rangers to yet another defeat. I can’t imagine how that clubhouse was after that loss.

It was an awful end to an awful year for Lloyd. 0-6, 9.42, 73 hits and 69 runs (again, tons of unearned runs) allowed in 49 2/3 innings, with 44 walks and only 29 strikeouts.

Incredibly, Allen doesn’t spend time in the minors and breaks camp with Texas in 1974, spending three months there before being waived by the Rangers and claimed by the White Sox with a 6.55 ERA. Over the next two seasons he pitches sporadically for Chicago and spends time in AAA for the White Sox and Cards. Lloyd had a good year in 1976 for Tulsa (11-6, 2.81) but never gets back to the bigs thanks to injuries (it looks) and ends his career after a lackluster year at Iowa in 1979.

From just looking at the numbers, Allen seemed to lose command of the strike zone between 1971 and 1973. He threw some wild pitches but not an alarming amount and wasn’t a headhunter. Strike one became ball one, and then of course it all snowballs from there. You get a rep for being wild, you don’t get the calls, and then you either walk people or groove fat ones.

The strike zone’s wafer-thin lines never seemed so big for Allen.