Thursday, April 28, 2011

1984 San Diego Padres

A hard luck franchise
The San Diego Padres came to be starting in the 1969 season. Padres baseball is perhaps best known for Tony Gwynn and having arguably the worst uniforms in the history of the major leagues. One thing that is often overlooked is that when they were at their best, they came up against some of the best teams in the history of the game in the post season. Their best season as a franchise came in 1998 when they won 98 games in the regular season and made it to the World Series. Unfortunately, they came up against the best team of the 1990s record wise, the 1998 New York Yankees, winners of a then AL record 114 games, and got swept in the World Series.

1984 was their second best season, having won 92 games and made it to their first World Series as a franchise. It was just the second above .500 team in their history. They would, of course, lose to the team tied with the second best record of the 1980s, 4 games to 1 in the World Series. This was a solid young team that with some veteran leadership sprinkled in, that did little else in the 1980s.

Tony Gwynn
This was Tony Gwynn's third season in the big leagues. He is the most well known Padre and the 2nd to go into the hall-of-fame with a Padres logo on his hat. (Can you name the other?) He was the only player to play on both Padres teams that went to the World Series.

1984 was his breakout year. He was easily the best player on this team, leading the team in batting average and hits. He was also 2nd on the team in stolen bases and 3rd in RBIs. What put him on the national radar in 1984, was that he won the first of his eight batting titles and also led the league in hits. He ended up 3rd in the MVP voting.

Veteran Leadership
In 1982 and 1983, the Padres completed back to back .500 seasons. They were both very youthful teams and they came together in 1984. What may have helped was some of the veteran leadership brought in that had connections to the 1977-1978 World Series, both won by the Yankees over the Dodgers. Steve Garvey, formerly of the '77/'78 Dodgers, was brought in prior to the 1983 season. Garvey would lead the 1984 team in RBIs to go with a good .284 batting average. Prior to the 1984 season, a couple of former Yankees from those late '70s teams were brought in, Graig Nettles and Rich Gossage. They all had plenty of gas left in the tank. Gossage was probably the best pitcher on this team and solidified the bullpen. Nettles took over at third base from Luis Salazar who manned the position the previous season. This allowed Salazar to do what he did best throughout his career, be what I call a supersub, play many positions and be a 9th regular.

The Cards
We are only 4 players short of being able to complete this roster's checklist. 21 Players on this roster could be found in the regular Topps set in a Padres uniform. Ron Roenicke is listed here as he only played for the Padres in 1984, but his Topps card shows him as a Mariner. He did not have a card in the traded set. The Topps Traded set gives us 5 more players, including cards of Nettles and Gossage and two players in their rookie card year picked up from the Cubs, Carmelo Martinez and Craig Lefferts. Finally we get 1 more player from the Donruss (or Fleer set), the rookie card of outfielder Kevin McReynolds. McReynolds was also one of the key players to this Padres team, as he was 2nd on the team in RBI. He never gets a card in a Topps set until he shows up in the 1987 Traded set after he was traded to the Mets.

__ TO 455 C Terry Kennedy SDP
__ TO 380 1B Steve Garvey SDP
__ TO 693 2B Alan Wiggins SDP
__ TO 615 SS Garry Templeton SDP
__ TT 83 3B Graig Nettles SDP
__ TT 75 LF Carmelo Martinez SDP
__ DO 34 CF Kevin McReynolds (or FL 307)
__ TO 251 RF Tony Gwynn SDP

Starting Pitchers
__ TO 532 SP Eric Show SDP
__ TO 481 SP Mark Thurmond SDP
__ TO 277 SP Ed Whitson SDP
__ TO 644 SP Tim Lollar SDP
__ TO 778 SP Andy Hawkins SDP

Relief Pitchers
__ TT 43 CL Rich Gossage SDP
__ TO 290 RP Dave Dravecky SDP
__ TT 72 RP Craig Lefferts SDP

RP Greg Booker

Other Players
__ TO 68 3B Luis Salazar SDP
__ TO 261 OF Bobby Brown SDP
__ TO 674 IF Tim Flannery SDP
__ TO 571 C Bruce Bochy SDP
__ TO 346 UT Kurt Bevacqua SDP
__ TO 94 SS Mario Ramirez SDP
__ TT 113 1B Champ Summers SDP
__ TO 647 OF Ron Roenicke SEA

OF Eddie Miller
__ TO 753 C Doug Gwosdz SDP
__ TO 38 RP Luis DeLeon SDP

RP Greg Harris

RP Floyd Chiffer
__ TO 224 RP Sid Monge SDP

__ TO 742 MG Dick Williams SDP

Thursday, April 14, 2011

1984 Detroit Tigers

Memories of a 10 Year Old
Joe Posnanski, one of my favorite blog writers, has a theory on his blog that most fans want baseball to remain the same as it was when they were 10 years old. It is the age when you really discover and start to understand the game. I think the key to this is that at about 10 years old, you start to look at the world a little differently. I have a 10 year old daughter and she is now aware of events that go on around the world and has an interest in what is going on outside of her immediate surroundings. She is concerned about what is happening in Japan and Libya right now. As a sports fan, she is more aware of the strategies that go into a game. Meanwhile, whenever I take my 7 year old to a game, he is more concerned about when the cotton candy vendor is going to come around. He has barely any idea what is going on in the game, but he can spot the cotton candy vendor all the way across the field and then proceeds to pester me for the next three innings wondering if he is going to run out of cotton candy before he gets to our section.

Anyway I ramble a bit, but I grew up in suburban Detroit and was born in late 1973. In 1984, I was 10 years old and 1984 represents baseball as the perfect way it is to be played. What a time to come of age as a fan of the Detroit Tigers. My dad took me to games at the old Tiger Stadium before this season, and much like my son now, I think I was more concerned with the concession stand. I had baseball cards from before this year, but I think I bought alot of them thinking I was getting real baseball gum. But in 1984, I started following every game on the radio (yeah every game wasn't on TV then) and learned more about the players and where they came from and their stats. Anyway, who knew that your hometown team doesn't win the World Series every year. In fact I am still waiting for them to come around again. I wonder if I had turned 10 in 1994 during the beginning of the Randy Smith era if I would've even cared about the Tigers. But the events in 1984 set me up as a Tiger fan for life.

How Good Was This Team?
This team was tied for the 2nd best record of the 1980s. Only the 1986 Mets were better with 108 wins and the 1988 Oakland A's also had 104 wins. Looking at all three rosters, it seems like both the Mets and A's had an all-star (or near all-star) at every position and a solid pitching staff from 1-5. Beyond the first 3 starters, the '84 Tigers really didn't have much. This may be surprising, but no player on this roster is in the Hall-of-Fame. Only the manager is in the Hall-of-Fame. There were issues all season trying to find a third baseman. But everything went right in 1984. They were an up and coming team for awhile. The core players mostly all came up together in the late 1970s and by 1984 were in the prime 26-32 age range, with Alan Trammell being the 2nd youngest of the starters, but probably the real team MVP. It seems that alot of these players may have had their best seasons career wise in 1983, but they were real close in 1984. Chet Lemon may have had his best season ever in 1984 and Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell probably had their 2nd best seasons. The bullpen with a one-two punch of Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez was lights out. The bench led by Barbaro Garbey, Ruppert Jones, and Marty Castillo was excellent.

Willie Hernandez - Cy Young & MVP
The final piece of this puzzle came in the last week of spring training. The Tigers traded long time player Johnny Wockenfuss and probably the only player of value to come through their farm system in the 1980s, Glenn Wilson, for Willie Hernandez and Dave Bergman. This trade made the bullpen lights out as Willie Hernandez was probably the best pitcher on this team. He would win MVP and Cy Young. I think what won him both of these awards is that the Tigers were close in 1983, and it did appear that he was the final piece in the puzzle. Plus it was noted that he only had one blown save for the year. His statistic line looked like this 32 saves, 1.92 ERA, 112 strikeouts in 80 games. He led the league in games pitched and games finished. I think the 32 saves is deceiving as the Tigers weren't in that many close games for the season. But was he really good enough to win both awards? I ask this question because the stats don't seem that eye-popping and he had a very average career besides 1984 and maybe 1985.

Here are the players in order who received Cy Young votes:
Dan Quisenberry - led the league with 44 saves, and a had a sub 3.00 ERA
Bert Blyleven - pitching for a last place team went 19-7 with a sub 3.00 ERA
Mike Boddicker - led league in wins with 20 and ERA with a 2.79
Dan Petry - went 18-8, best starter on best team, best season of his career
Dave Stieb - actually finished 7th in the voting, led the league in WAR, but only had 16 wins...this was significant in 1984

I would say Hernandez probably was the best pitcher, he did what he had to do and had a sub 2.00 ERA. Actually I probably would've voted for Boddicker, but not a bad choice.

Now for MVP
Kent Hrbek - not sure why he would've finished 2nd, even going with traditional stats, he was 7th in batting average, 7th in RBI
Eddie Murray - awesome season, .306-29-110 and led league in OBP
Don Mattingly - led league in hits, batting average, doubles, and OPS+, although nobody knew what that was then, also had 110 RBIs
Kirk Gibson - the Tigers leader in runs scored, 2nd in HR and RBI
Tony Armas - led league in homers and RBI with 43-123, best season of his career
Alan Trammell - finished 9th, led Tigers in OBP
Cal Ripken - if you buy into Bill James win shares, he was the league leader beating out Hernandez by 13 win shares...finished 27th in MVP voting...I could rant about win shares but maybe I will save that for another post

What may have given Hernandez this award is that no one stood out. Armas led the heague in HR and RBI, but has an awful batting average and the perception that Fenway helped. I think Eddie Murray may have been the best overall player, but the Orioles fell from World Champions to 5th place in the division, so they were ignored in award voting.

The Cards
18 players on this roster could be found in the Topps set in a Tigers uniform. Dave Gumpert was in the minor league system in 1984 but did appear on a Topps card. Another 7 could be found in the Topps Traded set, including the before mentioned MVP/Cy Young winner, Willie Hernandez. The only player on this roster with a card in a non-Topps set was Mike Laga. Laga had the least number of plate appearances for a position player on this team. He had been a member of the Tigers since 1982 and would go on to play for the Cardinals and Giants ending his career in 1990. This is his rookie card. He would only have one more card, in the 1987 Topps set showing him as a badly airbrushed member of the Cardinals.

__ TO 640 C Lance Parrish DET
__ TT 11 1B Dave Bergman DET
__ TO 695 2B Lou Whitaker DET
__ TO 510 SS Alan Trammell DET

3B Howard Johnson
__ TO 333 LF Larry Herndon DET
__ TO 611 CF Chet Lemon DET
__ TO 65 RF Kirk Gibson DET
__ TT 36 DH Darrell Evans DET
__ TT 41 UT Barbaro Garbey DET
__ TO 14 IF Tom Brookens DET

Starting Pitchers
__ TO 147 SP Dan Petry DET
__ TO 195 SP Jack Morris DET
__ TO 588 SP Milt Wilcox DET
__ TO 174 SP Juan Berenguer DET
__ TO 457 SP Dave Rozema DET

Relief Pitchers
__ TT 51 CL Willie Hernandez DET
__ TO 95 RP Aurelio Lopez DET
__ TO 536 RP Doug Bair DET

Other Players
__ TT 59 OF Ruppert Jones DET
__ TO 42 UT Johnny Grubb DET
__ TT 66 RF Rusty Kuntz DET
__ TO 303 UT Marty Castillo DET

SS Doug Baker

C Dwight Lowry

2B Scott Earl

UT Nelson Simmons

DH Rod Allen
__ DO 491 UT Mike Laga DET
__ TO 356 SP Glenn Abbott DET
__ TT 80 RP Sid Monge DET

RP Roger Mason

RP Bill Scherrer

SP Randy O'Neal

RP Carl Willis

Minor Leaguers
__ TO 371 MN Dave Gumpert DET

__ TO 259 MG Sparky Anderson DET

Sunday, April 10, 2011

1954 Philadelphia Phillies

The Haves and The Have Nots
I am placing a post about each team in any given year based on how far they went in the playoffs and then by their overall record for the season. In 1954, the league champion only went to the World Series, so aside from the first two team, these are all in order of how they finished record wise for the season. Last week I covered the Milwaukee Braves, who had an 89-65 record. That is even better than a 90 win team in the 2010 season, as they played 8 less games, and they essentially finished 6th out of the 16 teams. This week we get to the Philadelphia Phillies, who finished 14 games worse with a record of 75-79. They are the first '54 team with a losing record. And that 14 games represents the divide between winning teams and losing teams. So it appears that there were some great teams and then some not so great teams, with not a lot in the middle.

The 1954 Phillies were trending downward. They were halfway between appearing in a World Series in 1950 and finishing in last place every year between 1958-1961. Expansion in 1962 probably saved them from making that 5 years in a row. This may explain why they were a slightly below .500 team in 1954. This team was led by pitching, and most specifically pitcher Robin Roberts, who led the team with 23 wins and had a sub 3.00 ERA. Offensively, this team was carried by center fielder Richie Ashburn and second baseman Granny Hamner.

The Hometown Team
What started on the side project of making a checklist for the ultimate 1954 set, even though I own zero of these cards, was this entry at the Phillies Room on the 1954 Topps cards. If you haven't paid attention to that blog, Jim has been putting up a review of every Topps set since 1951 showing the Phillies that are in each set. A conversation came up on how during the era when Bowman was in existence, the star Phillies players were not found in the Topps set. My argument was that Bowman was based in Philadelphia, and they may have got preference for signing exclusive contracts with players because they were the hometown team. I started this side project to see what an ultimate set from 1954 may look like, as 1954 is probably my personal favorite design of these early sets. As we are finding out the Bowman-Philadelphia connection really may not be the case at all. Bowman did have a better selection of current players that were probably more in demand in 1954 for most teams.

Starter and Hall-of-Fame/All-Star Scores
Exclusive players to a set are in italics.

Topps Regulars (4): Granny Hamner, Willie Jones, Richie Ashburn, Herm Wehmeier (shown with the Reds, split time between Phillies and Reds, getting more playing time with the Phillies)

Bowman Regulars (12): Smokey Burgess, Earl Torgeson, Granny Hamner, Willie Jones, Del Ennis, Richie Ashburn, Stan Lopata, Mel Clark, Robin Roberts, Curt Simmons, Murry Dickson, Steve Ridzik

Topps All-Stars & Hall-of-Famers (1): Richie Ashburn

Bowman All-Stars & Hall-of-Famers (4): Richie Ashburn, Smokey Burgess, Granny Hamner, Robin Roberts

For a Phillies fan...there is really no reason to buy Topps cards in 1954. The only player of any significance that appears only in the Topps set, Herm Wehmeier, is shown in a Reds uniform. Topps picks things up by showing 8 minor players and coaches that do not appear in the Bowman set. Johnny Lindell who appears in only 7 games, all as a pinch hitter, appears in both sets, and represents the only Phillies player in the Bowman set that is not considered by definitions as a regular. Topps had the opportunity to add some regulars, as neither set had starting shortstop Bobby Morgan, outfielder Danny Schell (I have him listed as the right fielder, but Del Ennis led the team in appearances in both left and right field, so I put Ennis as the left fielder), outfielder Johnny Wyrostek, starting pitcher Bob Miller, and relief pitchers Jim Konstanty and Ron Mrozinski.

Tom Qualters
I am not sure of Tom Qualters role on the Phillies in 1954. He appeared in one game as an 18 year old in 1953 with the Phillies. I don't see him listed as a player in the military, and there is no record of him playing anywhere, majors or minors. He shows up again with a minor league record in the Phillies system in 1955 and 1956, and then appears again in the majors with the Phillies in 1957. 1954 appears to be a mystery, but he gets a card in the Topps set. His last appearance in the majors was with the Phillies and White Sox in 1958.

__ BO 31 C Smoky Burgess PHI
__ BO 63 1B Earl Torgeson PHI
__ TO 24 2B Granny Hamner PHI
__ TO 41 3B Willie Jones PHI

SS Bobby Morgan
__ BO 127 LF Del Ennis PHI
__ TO 45 CF Richie Ashburn PHI

RF Danny Schell
__ BO 207 C Stan Lopata PHI

RF Johnny Wyrostek
__ BO 175 OF Mel Clark PHI

Starting Pitchers
__ BO 95 SP Robin Roberts PHI
__ BO 79 SP Curt Simmons PHI
__ BO 111 SP Murry Dickson PHI
__ TO 162 SP Herm Wehmeier CIN

SP Bob Miller

Relief Pitchers
__ BO 223 RP Steve Ridzik PHI

RP Jim Konstanty

RP Ron Mrozinski

Other Players
__ TO 78 SS Ted Kazanski PHI

IF Floyd Baker

3B Jim Command
__ TO 51 PH Johnny Lindell PHI

C Gus Niarhos

RF Stan Palys
__ TO 212 SS Mickey Micelotta PHI

PH Stan Jok

RP Bob Greenwood
__ TO 236 SP Paul Penson PHI

RP Karl Drews
__ TO 108 RP Thornton Kipper PHI

Minor Leaguers
__ TO 174 MN Tom Qualters PHI

__ TO 127 MG Steve O'Neill PHI

MG Terry Moore
__ TO 183 CO Earle Combs PHI
__ TO 247 CO Eddie Mayo PHI

Sunday, April 3, 2011

1954 Milwaukee Braves

Milwaukee Braves 2.0
The second season the Braves play in Milwaukee after moving west from Boston leads to an 89 win season. This was 3 games worse than the previous season, but no cause for alarm as they were on their way to winning the World Series in 1957 and the NL Pennant in 1958 with largely the same core of players. The offense was led by third baseman Eddie Mathews who slugged 40 home runs and 103 RBIs. The pitching was led by 21 game winner Warren Spahn.

Hank Aaron - The true home run king?

A 20 year old Hank Aaron made his debut on this team, chipping in 18 home runs. He had solid mid-20 HR seasons the next two season, but broke through with a 44 home run season in 1957. I was almost thinking that this may have been the card that saved Topps as he does not have a card in the Bowman set (more on that later) as it is probably one of the most iconic cards in the history of Topps, but I think in 1954 this card wouldn't have been as sought after as it would be in later years.

Speaking of Aaron, I was watching MLB Network yesterday and they had on a show called the "50 Most Memorable Moments in Baseball History". Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's record in 1974 came in second. The moment when the actual current home run record was set by Barry Bonds came in at something like 42. This seems really odd to me. I know Barry isn't the most well liked guy in the game and there is the whole steroids issue nobody making these lists probably wants to touch, but I wonder if Aaron breaking the record being more "memorable" having something to do with the fact that in 1974, there were no round the clock baseball networks, or even sports networks. The ratings were probably WAY higher than they were for Bonds home run on just that alone. It has also been rerun for the last 40 years with Aaron running around the bases and the two hippy guys running up and patting him on the is burned into most fans memory. I wonder if in twenty years if there still be that big of difference in how the two home runs are remembered.

By the way, the number one most memorable moment was Bobby Thomson's home run in 1951 for the Giants. He just so happens to also play for the 1954 Braves.

Johnston Cookies
Johnston Cookies was a Wisconsin based company that issued baseball cards in bags of cookies. I am pretty sure with my crack research that this company is not around to this day. They produced a nice set of Milwaukee Braves cards from 1953-1955. In 1954 the cards measured 1-3/4" x 3 1/2" and in good condition are very white. I am not a Braves fan, but I really wish I had this set as it is very attractive. This set allows us to pretty much make an entire set of 1954 Milwaukee Braves. Between all of the sets, there are only two Braves who don't have cards. We even get cards of the teams trainers and doctors. Players who only have cards in the Johnston Cookies set are noted with (BJ) in the checklist below.

r and Hall-of-Fame/All-Star Scores
Exclusive players to a set are in italics

Topps Regulars (11): Del Crandall, Eddie Mathews, Johnny Logan, Hank Aaron, Bill Bruton, Andy Pafko, Warren Spahn, Gene Conley, Dave Jolley, Ray Crone, Bob Buhl

Bowman Regulars (10): Del Crandall, Joe Adcock, Danny O'Connell, Eddie Mathews, Johnny Logan, Bill Bruton, Andy Pafko, Lew Burdette, Jim Wilson, Ernie Johnson
Topps All-Stars & Hall-of-Famers (5): Hank Aaron, Del Crandall, Gene Conley, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn

Bowman All-Stars & Hall-of-Famers (3): Del Crandall, Eddie Mathews, Jim Wilson

Finally, a team that Topps has a big advantage over Bowman with as they beat them in both scores. Eddie Mathews was the big name for the Braves in 1954, and he is in both sets, but Topps has the only cards for top tier hall-of-famers Hank Aaron and Warren Spahn. Chet Nichols, the fifth starter for this team, is the only regular who doesn't have a card in either set, but you can pick up his card in the Johnston Cookies set.

__ TO 12 C Del Crandall MLN
__ BO 96 1B Joe Adcock MLN
__ BO 160 2B Danny O'Connell MLN
__ TO 30 3B Eddie Mathews MLN
__ TO 122 SS Johnny Logan MLN
__ TO 128 LF Hank Aaron MLN
__ TO 109 CF Bill Bruton MLN
__ TO 79 RF Andy Pafko MLN

Starting Pitchers
__ TO 20 SP Warren Spahn MLN
__ BO 192 SP Lew Burdette MLN
__ TO 59 SP Gene Conley MLN
__ BO 16 SP Jim Wilson MLN
__ BJ 16 SP Chet Nichols MLN

Relief Pitchers
__ TO 188 CL Dave Jolly MLN
__ BO 144 RP Ernie Johnson MLN
__ TO 206 RP Ray Crone MLN
__ TO 210 RP Bob Buhl MLN

Other Players
__ TO 53 2B Jack Dittmer MLN
__ TO 165 OF Jim Pendleton MLN
__ BJ 27 UT Catfish Metkovich MLN
__ BO 201 LF Bobby Thomson MLN
__ BJ 24 C Charlie White MLN
__ TO 231 IF Roy Smalley MLN
__ TO 68 C Sam Calderone MLN
__ TO 181 1B Mel Roach MLN

RF Billy Queen
__ BJ 13 PR Sibby Sisti MLN
__ TO 141 RP Joey Jay MLN

RP Dave Koslo
__ BJ 11 RP Phil Paine MLN
__ BJ 15 RP Charlie Gorin MLN

__ BJ 40 MG Charlie Grimm MLN
__ BJ 28 CO Johnny Cooney MLN
__ TO 176 CO Bob Keely MLN
__ BJ 31 CO Bucky Walters MLN
__ BJ 49 TR Dr. Charles Lacks MLN
__ BJ 50 TR Joseph Taylor MLN