Monday, September 24, 2012

Sure, they can manage, but were they players?...Part Three: The AL West.

              Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
            Scioscia spent his entire 13 year playing career with the Los Angeles Dodgers. A two time All Star, Scioscia was known as a consistent catcher who called a good game and was trusted by his pitchers.  He caught Fernando Valenzuela's no hitter in 1990 and was behind the plate when Orel Hershiser broke Don Drysdale's consecutive scoreless innings record. If you asked him, he would probably say his greatest achievement was winning the World series in 1981 and 1988. However, if you ask me, his greatest achievement was actually being the only Major leaguer to appear on "The Simpson's" twice, in 1992 and 2011 (The only other player turned manager to be on the show was Don Mattingly).
Eric Wedge, Seattle Mariners
            Wedge came up in the Red Sox system as a catcher and played very little for Boston in the early '90s. Then he played one year for the Colorado Rockies and ended up back in Boston. Absolutely an undistinguished playing career.  However, he did become a good manager, winning the AL manager of the year award in 2007 for the job he did for the Cleveland Indians. I mention this mostly because it's almost the same as the next manager on the list...
Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics
                    While Wedge was winning the AL Manager of the year award in 2007, Melvin was winning the NL manager of the year award for the Arizona Diamondbacks the same year. As a player, Melvin was mostly a back up catcher (again, another catcher) who did hit 11 homers in 1987 for the Giants.  He was the back-up for Bob Brenly ...although, it should be noted, he only hit .199 that year. It turns out being a mediocre catcher for mostly sub par teams is an excellent pedigree for being a good future manger.
Ron Washington, Texas Rangers
              The catcher streak is broken with Ron Washington, who was mostly a back up second baseman and shortstop in the '80s, mostly for the Twins. In 1982, he had 451 at bats, hit 5 homers and drove in 39.  That would be his peak. His playing time decreased over the years, until he was traded in 1986, just in time for the Twins to start their World series run the next year. Oh well, he's managed the past two AL pennant winners, and unlike the previous two mangers, I actually remember owning his baseball card...that's something, right?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sure, they can manage, but were they players?...Part Two: The AL Central

                       So, now on to the AL Central, an eclectic bunch to say the least...well, as far as baseball managers go, that is.  We have the first appearance of a legitimately good player...hell, let's start off with him then, shall we? 
Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox
                   Ventura, a three time gold glove first baseman and two time All Star, put up some pretty impressive numbers in his career, which was spent mostly with the WhiteSox and the Mets.  Other than his steady fielding and dependable hitting, he's known for two things; for  a walk-off, would be Grand slam in a 1999 NLCS playoff game against the Diamondbacks.  I say "would be", because because the Mets only needed one run for the win, and his teammates tackled him before he got to second, so it was ruled a single.  The other was several years earlier as a member of the White Sox, when he was plunked by a Nolan Ryan pitch, and decided to charge the mound.  Big Mistake, and Ventura knew it about two steps in . The next 30 seconds featured a middle aged Ryan punching the top of Robin's head. 
Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers
                    Although he has led two separate teams to pennants; the 1997 Marlins ( World Championship) and the 2006 Tigers, Leyland never actually played in the Majors, although he does get extra points for looking like Captain Beefheart's younger brother...
Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins
                 Gardenhire  was an infielder for the New York Mets for the years previous to their would-be dynasty of 85-88.  He was decent enough for those early '80s teams, but, alas, he was let go before the  good times started.  As for his Twins, they've gone back and forth between good and bad, lately...maybe he can be a delayed Buck Showalter, and leave the team just before they win it all for the first time since 1991...just kidding,'re great...
Manny Acta, Cleveland Indians
                     Another manager who never made it to the bigs, lingering in the Astros farm system for a half dozen years.  He was managing the Washington Nationals for a few years 'til he was fired and then hired by the Indians.  The Nationals are headed to the playoffs, while the Indians...well let's hope they keep their high draft picks, and hey, at least they're not the Royals.
            Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals
               When I was doing research, I was assuming New Yost was somehow a relative to "Eddie Yost", who played mostly for the Senators in the '40s and '50s , and was nicknamed "the walking man", because he led the AL in walks six times.  I knew him mostly as the third base coach for the Red Sox in the late '70s, early '80s.  Turns out, Ned's not related.  He was just a nondescript catcher who played for the Brewers, Expos and Rangers in the '80s...I have his Brewers card somewhere...oh well... 
            So that's the AL central.  Next post will be, of course, The AL West...see you then...


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sure, they can manage...but were they players?...Part One: The AL East

                         When you see a manager get tossed out of a game, or go to the mound to talk to his pitcher, do you ever wonder "how good was this guy as a player"...or moreover, "did he ever play in the bigs at all?...Now some of them are obvious to anyone who has watched baseball for at least 20 years or so.  Others?...well ...that's what I'm here to write about.  I'm trying to do this as quickly as possible, as this is the time of year that managers get canned (Don't worry, Bobby V, you're safe for now). I 'm going to put this into six parts; one for each division, that way I don't have to cram all the information into one blog entry.  I'll also put them out every other day, so as to make sure, as I said before, these guys are still managing. So anyway, here it is, the list of managers as players Part one; The AL East:

Bobby Valentine, Boston Red Sox
                   Bobby V was actually a pretty decent player, coming up with the Dodgers in the early '70s, starting in the infield for almost a full season in 1972.  In 1973, he was batting .302, before suffering an injury that would make him a part time player for the rest of his career.  Truth be told, as a player, he was most famous for being part of that 3 team deal, later dubbed the "Saturday night massacre", that sent him to the Mets, Dave Kingman to the Padres and Tom Seaver to the Reds.  Hang in there Bobby, at least until I publish this in the morning.
Joe Girardi, New York Yankees
                Chicago native Joe Girardi came up with the hometown team in the late '80s, but it wasn't until he was traded by the Rockies to the Yankees in the mid '90s where he made his mark.  As the starting catcher for the 1996 and 1998 championship squads (eventually losing his job to the better hitting Jorge Posada), Joe also caught Dwight Gooden's no hitter in 1996, and David Cone's perfect game in 1999.  After getting his third ring that year, he went back to the Cubs and earned his one All Star appearance in 2000.  Lord knows where his midwest accent went...
Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles
              Buck never made it to the majors, mostly because he was a first baseman in the Yankees system during the Don Mattingly years.  In the minors, he got the nickname "Buck", because apparently,  he like to walk around the locker room buck naked. Good luck getting that visual out of your head...
Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays
                 Maddon also never played in the majors, and, unlike Showalter, who at least made it to AAA, never made it past "A" ball as a catcher.  People are willing to overlook this for a guy who keeps his team in contention, despite having a payroll that is smaller than the left side of the Yankees infield (A-Rod and Jeter, though I am exaggerating but only a little).  Plus, he's a pitchman for something on T.V.  Must not be that effective...can't remember what for...
John Farrel, Toronto Blue Jays
              Farrell was a pitcher for the Indians and later the Angels, who had a rather mediocre 36-46 lifetime record.  However, he did go 14-10 with a 4.24 ERA in 1988, and 9-14 with a 3.63 ERA in 1989.  Those don't sound like impressive numbers, until you realize how bad those Cleveland teams were.  Trust me, the Albert Belle, Omar Visquel and Manny Ramirez years were waaaayyy far in the was Jacobs field.  Must of sucked being on those bad Indian teams in the '80s, AND have to play in the "mistake by the lake" known as Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
           So there you have it, the AL East.Coming Wednesday, the AL central...see ya then...


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Billy Martin's brownshirts meet the St. Louis Browns...

                                              The Baltimore Orioles, who begat the New York Highlanders, who begat the New York Yankees...wait, what? That's right, the franchise that we now know as the Yankees, actually started life as the Baltimore Orioles in 1901, then moved to New York the following season.  As for the franchise that is NOW known as the Baltimore Orioles, well, they of course also started in the Milwaukee Brewers, who are not to be confused with the current Brewers, who started life in 1969 as the Seattle is confusing...but before the original Brewers became the Orioles, they spent 50 years as the St. Louis Browns, and that's where our story begins...sort of...

                                   In their 52 year existence, The St. Louis Browns produced only 8 winning seasons.  The most notable player they had by far was Hall of Famer, George Sisler, who had set the major league records for hits in a season in 1920 with 257; a record that stood for 84 years, before being broken by the Seattle Mainers' Ichiro Suzuki. Sisler still however holds the record for highest batting average with more than 600 bats in a season that year (.407), and had an even better year in 1922, when he hit .420, while leading the league in 4 other categories.  That year also marked one of the Browns best, as they were barely beaten out by the Yankees (of course) for the AL pennant. In fact, the only pennant the Browns ever won, was in 1944, a year people called a fluke because of all the players in the majors still fighting in the war. In the series they would lose in 6 games to the team they shared Sportsman park with, the St. Louis Cardinals.

                     The next year, 1945, would be their last winning one, and was memorable mostly because of Pete Gray, a one armed outfielder that played half a season for them.  After that, it was pretty much downhill.  The country was expanding, and the need for 2 teams in St. Louis was becoming more and more superfluous.  Bill Veeck bought the team in 1950, after he had helped the Cleveland Indians be the first AL team to break the color barrier in 1947 with first Larry Doby and then a 42 year old rookie named Satchel Paige the next year.  Cleveland won it all that year, so Veeck decided to go to to less greener pastures in 1950, becoming the owner of the Browns.  The most significant moment during the Veeck Brown years is when he hired a midget named Eddie Gaedel to pinch hit in a game against the Tigers.

                  By 1953, the jig was up, and the Browns moved to Baltimore.  Success eluded the Orioles for the first ten years or so...meanwhile, the original Orioles, AKA, the Yankees, became the greatest team of all time, winning pennant after pennant, until the mid '60's, that is.  Then the Orioles started to make their mark; first with a World championship in 1966, then 3 straight pennants from 69-71.  The manager for the latter three was the legendary Earl Weaver.  Of course, there were Hall of famers on these squads, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson ( no relation) and Jim Palmer. Weaver fielded strong teams throughout the '70s, never finishing below 3rd place during the decade, as his "pitching, defense , and the 3 run homer" strategy proved most effective.  As for the Yankees, it wouldn't be until 1976 before they won another pennant.  That team, managed by Billy Martin was called
'Billy Martin's brownshirts", by the Red Sox Bill Lee, in reference to the attire that certain employees of Adolf Hitler used to don.

               After the Yankees won pennants in 76, 77 and 78, the Orioles then captured it in 1979, and won it all in 1983.  This was near the beginning of the Bronx Bombers biggest playoff drought, which lasted from 82-94 (not counting the years before they won their first pennant in 1921).  Baltimore also slid into mediocrity soon after 83, ...both teams, however would actually meet in the playoffs for the first time in 1996, thanks to the new Wild card format.  The evil empire would go on to success for the next decade and a half, while the Orioles were lucky most years to stay out of last place.  That is , until now.  As of this writing, the Orioles are only 2 games behind the Yankees in the standings for the AL east...hell, even if they can't catch New York, they'll probably qualify for the playoffs anyway.  It'll be just like 1970's all over again, but instead of  Billy Martin and Earl Weaver, it's Joe Girardi and Buck Showalter...which is good news for the Orioles;  the last 2  of the last 3 teams Showalter managed won everything the year after the team fired him ( the aforementioned 96 Yankees, and the 2001 Diamondabacks), so no matter how far the O's make it this year, one thing is certain; Buck better watch his back...