So you probably can’t read the back of this sweet 1988…

So you probably can’t read the back of this sweet 1988 Score Mickey Tettleton (#269 of 660), but it has some interesting factoids:

  1. He was benched for “hot-hitting rookie Terry Steinbach,” who hit .271/.326/.420 for his career (25.4 bWAR), while Tettleton hit .241/.369/.449 and was worth 26.6 bWAR.
  2. He was named All-College World Series center fielder, but hit just .333 in losing the series.

Of course, the card misses out on some rather more interesting tidbits of Tettleton’s career/life (not that they had the advantages Biff Tannen did).

As an Oklahoma native, Tettleton, whose nickname is Fruit Loops (which he claimed were the source of his power), was named after the great Mickey Mantle — both were switch hitters. 

The craziest thing to me is that the A’s straight up released Tettleton during Spring Training in 1988. At that point, he had a .221/.324/.354 line in 844 plate appearances. Sure, he was injured a bit, but, from 84-87, of catchers with 800 plate appearances, Loops had the 12th best OBP. 

The Baltimore Orioles, fresh off a 67-95 season in 1987 that featured Terry Kennedy playing awfully and Floyd Ranford faking it poorly, pounced on Loops. He didnt get in a ton of games for the O’s in 88, but easily outshined Kennedy and Carl Nichols with a .261/.330/.424 line. His 2 fWAR was the same as Rick Dempsey and tied for 12th on the year. 

The following year began an eight season stretch off 100+ games, during which Tettleton put up a .245/.382/.471 line and averaged 26 HRs a season. Unfortunately for me (a Little League switch-hitting catcher) only two of those seasons were with the O’s, as the birds sent him to Detroit for Jeff Robinson in 1991 (as they didnt expect him to accept arbitration and didnt want to pay him more than $1 million)*. Robinson put up -0.5 bWAR for the Orioles before being released in the off-season. Tettleton put up 13.7 bWAR for the Tigers. The Orioles didnt finish higher than third place until 1996, when Chris Hoiles hit .258/.356/.474 (Roberto Alomar had a .411 OBP that season).  

*Instead, the Orioles acquired Glenn Davis (coming off a 93 games played season) and Dwight Evans. Davis appeared in just 185 games for the Orioles over three seasons. All he cost was $9+ million and Steve Finely, Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling. Evans cost just $800,000, but played just 101 games in one year for the O’s (albeit he was excellent).

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