Posts Tagged ‘detroit tigers’

Any Player/Any Era: Tony Phillips for Baseball Past & Present

Any Player/Any Era: Tony Phillips for Baseball Past and Present:

A look at how Tony Phillips would have fared with the 1950 Cleveland Indians.

h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: Scott Fletcher

It doesn’t get any more white bread than Scott Fletcher, me thinks. There are so many generic “scrappy” middle infielders that Fletcher can get lost in history. However, I posit that Fletcher was perhaps the most “scrappy” middle infielder of all time, at least tangentially.

What does he like to do? Fish and golf – doesn’t get any more mundane than that (although I do enjoy both activities in moderation and as long as I don’t have to touch the bait).

The Imperials, his favorite musical group, are an American Christian outfit that started as a southern gospel quartet. The group did work with Elvis, recorded the theme song to the Daniel Boone TV show and were the first Christian group to use cordless mics, four individual microphones on stage (at the same time!) and a live band on stage.

What a hootenanny.

Fletcher’s favorite food is the exotic chicken, book is the bible and he would like to meet Jesus.

Well then. Hello Middle America.

Still, he had a pretty good stretch from 1983-1988. Aside from 1985, he was worth more than 2.6 WAR every year and averaged 3 WAR per season. He was rewarded with a pretty big contract in 1980s terms, becoming the first athlete in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to earn more than $1 million a year, according to Wikipedia.

Then, the following year, on July 29, 1989, he was traded by the Rangers along with Wilson Alvarez (who no-hit the Orioles, when I was sitting in the bleachers) and Sammy Sosa to the White Sox for Harold Baines and Fred Manrique.

He had a pretty fascinating career: was drafted four times and traded three times.

Still, the thing I find most fascinating is that he sold greeting cards door to door. This is even a thing? I guess nowadays people don’t sell anything door to door and travelling salesmen don’t really exist, but still, greeting cards? Were there no stores with soda fountains? Did his failure as a greeting card salesman lead to the rise of CVS around the country (there are five within three blocks of my house)? So many questions, so much Americana.

Scott Fletcher, IF, fisherman, golfer, chicken-lover, Bible-reader, greeting card salesman. I wonder if he ever earned a set of steak knives.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out on the Flip Side: Ruppert Jones

I’m pretty sure I picked this card out of the thousands I go through because I thought Ruppert was misspelled (it isn’t) and the name makes me chuckle. It probably makes me chuckle because of Family Guy, but, in my head, Ruppert is really Higgins from Magnum PI – the mind does funny things.

I figure I also liked the rather mundane factoid as well. He enjoys both karate and racquetball (presumably not at the same time). I don’t really like either. Karate wasn’t my thing and I’m not a fan of Martial Arts movies (unless it is Mortal Kombat or stars JCVD). Racquetball I enjoyed a little, but it reminds me of old fogies with short shorts and smelly socks. I also hate squash (the game, not the food, acorn squash soup is delicious).

Anyway, the reflexes and agility required by both enjoyed activities must have helped Jones during his career. In 1977, he made 465 putouts, the 27th most in a season ever. In a game on May 16, 1978, Jones recorded 12 putouts, thereby tying the major league record for putouts by an outfielder in an extra-inning game. He batted fourth in the contest, went 1/6 with two Ks and his average stood at .213. Former flip-sider Shane Rawley took the loss.

The following year, 1979, Jones recorded 453 putouts, the 44th most ever in a season. The man could track down balls (even though his defensive abilities seem suspect – 2.2 dWAR for his career).

Even before all that, Jones was the first pick in the 1976 expansion draft by the Seattle Mariners, after being selected in the third round of the amateur draft by the Royals in 1973.

His 1977 season made the Mariners look like geniuses. He went .263/.324/.454 with 24 bombs – he was worth 3.3 wins above a replacement player.

However things wouldn’t progress. Aside from his record setting put-out game in ‘78, his season was a disaster. But he bounced back and played well for the Mariners in ’79, finishing his career there worth 6 WAR.

He’d spend one year with the Yankees and then three with the San Diego Padres. He played his best ball for the Padres (7.5 WAR), but they granted him free agency after the 1983 season. He signed with the Detroit Tigers.

He appeared in just two games for the Tigers in the postseason that year, didn’t contribute much, but was part of a win in the World Series against the Padres.

The majority of his post-season experience came the year before this card was printed. He went 3/17, but walked 5 times for the Angels against the Boston Red Sox. And that would wrap his last real season in the majors.

He came back in 1987 but couldn’t buy a base hit. He played another year in Japan before hanging it up and focusing on Karacquete, a new sport that never quite caught on.

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Baseball Daily Digest Radio with Joel Henard and Albert Lang Tape From yesterday

Baseball Daily Digest Radio with Joel Henard and Albert Lang taped from yesterday for your mind’s enjoyment. Download it and see if we got the future of the play-offs correct. Also, some prospects for you to check out in the Arizona Fall League and we slammed the Red Sox and other squads for being too reactionary.

Have a listen!

Baseball Daily Digest Radio with Joel Henard and Albert Lang will air at 7:00 PM TODAY

Baseball Daily Digest Radio with Joel Henard and Albert Lang — all thins play-offs and a roto look ahead.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Schoolboy Rowe/Chris Pittaro

pittarpobpittarpfrlontWe’ve grown lazy as a society…it’s clear. Just look at what we call athletes and celebrities who are dating one another, you can see it in the inventiveness (or lack there of) of our nicknames. We’ve had two LTs in the last 20 years and typically just shorten names to V-Jax, or D-Jax, etc.

Quite simply (and I think I’ve written this before), I long for the days of players like Schoolboy Rowe who liquefied greenies and chewed tobacco. In short, when men were men and pitchers hit like Babe Ruth (well not exactly). According to Wikipedia, Rowe got the nickname while playing for a men’s team as a 15-year-old. Now that is how your earn a nickname!

You have to admire the back of Chris Pittaro’s card for more than just Lynnwood Thomas Rowe’s nickname. We get a nice factoid on Rowe’s career and the history of the Detroit Tigers as Rowe was the first Tigers pitcher to hit a grand salami.

Rowe was actually a very good hitter by non-Micah Owings-standards. Rowe hit 16 HRs – that’s tied for the 15th most all time with Jim Kaat and Jim Tobin.

He wasn’t just Ryan Howard with the bat, he had a little Ichiro in him — only 56 pitchers have ever won 20 games and also hit over .300 in the same season. Rowe is one of them. He did it in 1934, and, while that is a looooong time ago, most of the seasons occurred before 1900. In fact, the feat has only happened 11 times since Rowe did it — most recently by Mike Hampton in 1999.

Speaking of the number 16 — Rowe once tallied 16 consecutive wins in 1934, which is tied for the 12th longest streak of consecutive wins. Not surprisingly, Old Hoss Radburn had 18 consecutive victories in 1884. Meanwhile Clemens had 20 consecutive wins from 1998-1999. I don’t remember this being a big deal at the time, perhaps because I was an Orioles fan and hated Clemens, but it is pretty cool and one underrated Clemens non-bat throwing/country music singer mistress factoid. When you look at win streaks that were contained in just one year, Rowe’s streak is the 7th longest in history.

Schoolboy really lived up to his name as his best seasons happened while he was relatively young. During the 1934-1936 seasons, Rowe was 24-26-yeards-old respectively and averaged 20 complete games, a 3.87 ERA, and 1.28 WHIP. He would win 62 games over those three seasons. Unfortunately, like many of his generation, he missed significant time during peak years for World War II. In the season directly before the war, Rowe pitched 199 innings and posted a 2.94 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. In the season after his military service, Rowe pitched 136 innings and posted a 2.12 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.

No longer a schoolboy, Rowe would call it quits three years later at the age of 39 and would die at 50. His life in professional baseball spanned some 24+ years, his life outside of baseball about 26 years.

As for Chris Pittaro, he was an infielder who had less HRs than Rowe. In fact he never hit a major league HR. He’d only play one year in Detroit and get 68 major league plate appearances in 1985. He was traded to Minnesota the following year and would play sparingly over the next two seasons before leaving major league baseball for good. If only he had an Edna on his side…

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Frank Williams/Eric King/Danny Gladden

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Man, the ’80s were different times. We’re only talking 23 years, but the world sure has changed.

For instance, Frank Williams had to work construction in the off-season. Could you imagine a player with decent major league experience being employed as something other than a “baseball player?” I wonder what his taxes looked like.

By the time this card was printed, Williams had pitched parts of three seasons for the Giants, totaled 231.2 innings, and posted a 3.22 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Sure his K-rate declined every year (from 7.70 to 6.66 to 5.68) but he was worth 2.1 wins above a replacement player – not bad for a construction worker.

By 1989, Williams would have a pretty decent MLB line: 3.00 ERA, 471.2 innings, and a 1.38 WHIP. Unfortunately, a car crash would end his career and send his life spiraling out of control. He would die of a heart attack at 50 in 2009.

My hope is that Williams — wherever he is — gets to relive August 24, 1984. On that day, Williams recorded two relief wins against the Mets. Not a lot of people get to win a game in the majors, let alone two in one day. Congrats, Condolences.

I didn’t realize Williams’ tale was so tragic when I began this flip side. If you were thinking of someone who might have a dangerous motor vehicle accident (*ahem* Jeff Kent), you might have guessed it was Eric King. Like Williams, King was a construction worker in the off-season. Also similarly, King earned 1.5 WAR in his first season (going 11-4 with a 3.51 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 138.1 innings in 1986).

eric king backeric king frontHis next three seasons would show promise, but, ultimately, be pedestrian (3.90 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, just 5.4 K/9). However, he’d pitch real well in 1990 and 1991 (earning 5.3 WAR) and securing a million dollar payday (let’s hope there was no motorcycle clause in his contract). It was an odd career for King as he’d be out of baseball after the 1992 season. In all, though, he was part of some fascinating trades that included the likes of Matt Nokes, Bob Melvin and Cory Snyder. He’d retire with a 3.97 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 4.8 K/9 in 863.1 innings.

While it’s clear being a construction worker was a common occupation for ’80s ballplayers, apparently so was a love of motorcycles. Like King, Danny Gladden (who would later become a memorable golden retriever-like Twin) was a fan of motorcycles. He took it one step further by “[enjoying] competition water skiing and motorcycle racing.” I presume he took part in them, but maybe not.

gladden backgladden frontNot surprisingly, Gladden played the game with, what I remember to be, reckless abandon. He averaged 27 SBs and 11 caught stealings from 1984-1990. During that time, he would post a .277/.332/.385 slash line. Still that didn’t quite live-up to Gladden’s promise. He got to the majors late (becoming a full time player in 1984 at 26). That’d be, quite possibly, his best year as well: .351/.410/.447 in 86 games. He’d earn 3.4 WAR that season.

I was way too young to remember Gladden as a Giant. What I remember: Gladden was the Twins version of Lenny Dykstra. Gladden’s play in game seven of the 1991 World Series will be forever cemented in my mind: he stretched a bloop into a double en route to scoring the winning run on Gene Larkin’s base hit in the bottom of the 10th inning of Jack Morris’ game. When he was rounding first, his hair flying, you could almost see him revving his engine.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Aurelio Lopez

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I love Community – the show, not the sense of itSeñor Chang is one of my favorite characters, but really so are Jeff, Troy, Abed and Chevy Chase. Incidentally, I am from Chevy Chase, MD — it’s a rocking little town.

But enough about a deliciously hilarious show – seriously watch the paintball episode! I cant think of a better nickname for a relief pitcher beside Señor Smoke — with all the Lincecum-pot jokes, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a movement to nickname him Señor Smoke instead of (Jevon Kearse, er) the Freak…

Did Lopez really live up to his nickname? Probably not so much– he averaged 6.28 K/9 for his career and only struck out over 100 batters in one season. Sure he was a reliever, but you’d hope for a higher K-rate, at least. What he did do: throw a ton of innings — topping 115 IPs in four separate seasons, almost entirely in relief (he started one game across those four seasons).

Unfortunately, we’ll never really know whether he deserved the nickname because he wouldn’t become a full time player until he was 29 — so there is definitely a possibility his career could have been much more than it was. But he did accomplish some neat feats: he finished seventh in Cy Young voting in 1979 and was an All-star in 1983 – the year before he helped the Detroit Tigers get to and win the World Series. In that same world championship season, Lopez pitched 137.2 innings in relief — good enough for 32nd most all time.

However, before all that, in 1980 he won 13 games in relief, good enough to tie for the 29th most in a season in baseball history. He shares the spot with some immortal relievers like Al Hrabosky, Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage.

Set aside the World Series and the records, Señor Smoke had a statue erected in his honor in his hometown of Tecamachalco, Puebla.

But – perhaps – the coolest thing about Lopez: the Detroit rock band Electric Six named their 2005 album, Señor Smoke in his honor, according to Wikipedia.

An eclectic nickname for an eclectic career!

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Keep, Trade or Drop (VI)

Time for the latest edition of the game show that is sweeping America like Who Wants to be a Millionaire did back in 1999, which was the year of Ivan Rodriguez, the New York Yankees and Livin’ La Vida Loca. You guessed it, Keep Trade or Drop (KTD). Continue reading