Wednesday, October 4, 2017

#140 -- Pat Dobson

Pat Dobson

I guess Pat Dobson will always be known as one of Baltimore's 4 20 game winners in 1971.  You have to go back to 2012 to find the last time there were 4 20 game winners in all of MLB....and it ain't happening in 2017, either.

Pat Dobson is also known as being the least of the 20 game aces.  On one level, when the other 3 are HOFer Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar, that's understandable.  While he was an above-average pitcher, there was nothing that screamed out that he was going to break through as a 29 year old and win 20.

Pat started in the Tigers system and worked his way up to the big leagues as a reliever in 1967 and then got 10 starts for the 1968 World Champs.  He was solid with a 2.66 ERA (although his FIP was almost a run higher....Tigers were a good defensive team).  He led the team with 7 saves.

He continued as a swingman in 1969, but got hit harder.  After the season he was traded to the Padres for......Joe Niekro.  He was a starter with the lowly Padres in 1970.  He was the ace of the staff, going 14-15, which is pretty good for a team that lost 99 games and was 13 games out of 5th.

The Padres traded him after that year.  They got back Enzo Hernandez and Tom Phoebus.  Dobson ended up having significantly more wins that Enzo's 12 RBI in over 500 at bats. (Note:  Dobson had 4 RBI in 97 ABs in 1971, so he was far behind Enzo as a hitter.)  Dobson took over in the rotation and had a year.  He had to win his last 3 starts to get to 20 wins.  This Orioles team was as dominant, with 103 wins, as the Padres were hapless the year before.  It must have felt like Christmas when Pat found out he was going to the World Champs.

Dobson lacked consistency year to year.  His first year in Baltimore was outstanding.  After that, his he couldn't maintain consistency. In 1972 he made an All-Star team despite going 16-18.  He lost 6 of his last 7 decisions and was out of the starting rotation by the end of the year. After the year, he was traded to Atlanta.

A return to the NL wasn't good for him. After getting shelled in 10 starts, he was traded to the Yankees for Frank Tepedino and Wayne Nordhagen. (Side note:  Has any ballplayer looked more Brooklyn than Brooklyn's own Frank Tepedino?  He could've played Vinny Barbarino's cool uncle on Welcome Back, Kotter.) 

Going back to the AL was a tonic for Pat Dobson.  He went 9-8 the rest of the way for the Yankees and was back to form, going 19-15 for the 1974 Shea Stadium Yankees.  He was down in 1973 & got traded to the Indians for Oscar Gamble. (Another side note:  Seems in the 70s that the Indians replaced the KC A's as the Yankees top farm club and trading partner of choice.)

Pat had a good year for the 1976 Indians as they were over .500 under Frank Robinson for the 1st time since 1968. Alas, in 1977 Pat went 3-12 as a 35 year old and, even though he made the 1978 Opening Day Indians roster, he was released before making an appearance.

Pat hung around as a pitching coach. Later, he was a scout and special assistant to Brian Sabean for the Giants.  It's said he had a lot of influence with Sabean on his evaluation of pitchers and suggested he hire Bruce Bochy on October 27, 2006.  Sadly, Pat was diagnosed with leukemia a couple of weeks later and died within a month.

Dobson was one of those baseball lifers that had some big highs and disappointments.  His contemporaries will remember him as a good pitcher and a practical joker.  Most fans will remember him as one of the Orioles' 4-20 game winners in 1971.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

#139 -- Tim McCarver

Tim McCarver

Tim McCarver is mostly known to this generation as a national baseball TV color analyst.  For about 20 years he was on all of the big games, usually working with Joe Buck. Let's just say that McCarver's reputation as a national broadcaster is......bad.

But it wasn't always that way. McCarver had rave reviews on the WWOR New York Mets crew in the 1980s.  When I was in law school at Duke, for some reason the local cable system in Durham, NC carried WOR, so I watched a fair amount of Mets games from 1986-1989.  As a Cardinal partisan, I didn't like seeing the Mets do good, but I realized McCarver did a great job of bringing and dissecting the game.  That earned him the shot on Fox when they bought up the rights in the 1990s.  I'm not sure what happened. Was it the confrontation with Deion Sanders?  Was it trying to appear too important? Was it that he tried to simplify the game for the national audience, which then made it sound condescending to the national audience?  I don't know.  I usually don't let the announcers mess up watching the game, so I didn't notice any problems.

Tim's back home with the Cardinals, doing a handful of TV games/year.  And he's good. He explains what's going to happen and what did happen in an enjoyable way. Maybe McCarver is better with a team where he can get to know the nuances and get deep into baseball than as a national broadcaster where you just can't get that deep.  I don't know.  I just enjoy the baseball.

Hey, Tim McCarver played baseball.  Hey, he was pretty dang good.  He's from Memphis and had a local baseball stadium there named after him.  It was demolished in 2005 to make room for AutoZone Park.  Baseball stadiums aren't named after people anymore.

McCarver debuted in 1959 with the Cardinals and stayed with them through the 1969 season. After the season, when the Cards finished 4th in the East after being in the World Series the last 2 years, they sent him, Curt Flood and lefty reliever Joe Hoerner to the Phillies for Dick Allen, Cookie Rojas and Jerry Johnson. The Cardinals figured they had to make some moves. It would have been a good move if they hadn't flipped Allen for Ted Sizemore a year later. Oh well.

McCarver was a 2-time All-Star in the 60s. He's the last catcher to lead the NL in triples (1966) and he stole home in the World Series in 1964.  For his career, he had more walks (548) than strikeouts (422).  He bounced around some with the Expos, Red Sox and Cardinals again before landing back in Philadelphia again in 1975 as Steve Carlton's personal catcher. They had worked together when Lefty came up with the Cardinals and he just felt more comfortable with McCarver.  That had to have added years to the end of McCarver's career.  He's one of just a handful of 4 decade men, as he hung on until 1980 and was part of the World Championship Phillies, although for just 7 at bats.

When I think of Tim McCarver, I think of how he's tied to Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton, 2 of the most dominant pitchers of the 60s-70s era.  And he's been getting to talk about baseball for the last 35+ years.  Not a bad life in baseball.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

#138 -- Mike Kekich

Mike Kekich

It's 1964.  You're a hotshot lefthanded pitcher graduating from a Los Angeles high school and the Dodgers reach out to sign you.  You throw hard and people are comparing you to Sandy Koufax. That's how Mike Kekich's baseball career started.  There's one story that everyone associates with Mike.  However, it appears that he doesn't like to talk about that, and I'll respect that.  I understand someone not wanting to be defined by one bad decision.

Mike Kekich had a golden arm and I'm sure the Dodgers thought they had another great lefty for their rotation signed.  He went through 4 levels of the minors in 1964, striking out 185 in 183 innings.  Problem was that he also walked 155 & gave 159 hits for a WHIP of 1.716.  Still, strikeouts can strand a lot of those baserunners.

The Dodgers gave him a start on June 9, 1965 against the Phillies.  He was a 20 year old making him major league debut.  He gave 4 runs in 3.1 innings.  He gave the fielders the day off in his first inning, striking out Tony Taylor.  He walked Cookie Rojas.  Then he struck out Dick Allen and Rojas was caught stealing with Dick Stuart at bat.  The 2nd inning went easy, but after a couple of walks, Tony Taylor got his revenge with a 3 run homer.  Alston took him out in the 4th after another walk and a double.

Mike got a few relief appearances the rest of the year, but he never really advanced.  Mike never had an ERA+ better than 80.  After failing to fulfill the promise in that golden arm and not taking Koufax's spot in the rotation, he was traded to the Yankees.

He made the back end of the Yankees rotation in the early 70s, but never really put it together.  His strikeouts went down to about 5/9IP, but he still walked about 4.5/9IP and his WHIP stayed around 1.5.  He had arm trouble with the Yankees.  After getting traded to the Indians, he was released after a half-season.  He had stints with the Rangers and the expansion Mariners before ending his big league career in 1977.  He pitched in AAA for the Mariners in 1978, but never got a call-up.

Mike's a real estate agent in Albuquerque now.  Every few years there's a story about his years with the Yankees and it will mention that he didn't return media calls.  Can't blame him.  Frankly, I'd rather hear an interview with him about his major league debut or what it was like to try to fit into the Dodger rotation in 1968 and any pressure he felt of trying to be the next Sandy Koufax. He was a teammate of David Clyde in Texas in 1975.  I wonder if they talked any about being bonus babies, rushed to the big leagues and having arm trouble and disappointments.

Those are the stories I wish Mike Kekich could tell.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

#137 - Dick Williams

Dick Williams

I like the manager cards.  The manager in baseball is a visible part of the team and, with all the pitching changes we have more recently, the game.  At this point, Dick Williams had some success as a manager, but his Hall of Fame credentials were still out in front of him.

Dick came up as a utility guy with the Dodgers and then bounced around. I've heard it said that utility guys sitting on the bench can become good managers because they can sit there and soak up the game.  Of course, that was said when Dick, Sparky Anderson and Tony LaRussa were so successful in the 70s and 80s.  It seems the catcher is more in vogue now with Bruce Bochy, Mike Scioscia and Mike Matheny having success.

Dick's first managing job was to take over the Red Sox in 1967 after they'd finished 9th (out of 10) in 1966.  Of course, The Impossible Dream Sox took the Cardinals to the 7th game of the World Series that year.  Expectations caught up as he was let go in 3rd place in mid-1969 after finishing 4th in 1968.

Charlie Finley hired him in 1971 and he was a good fit for the raucous A's.  Dick basically threw them out there and let them play.  They won the Division, but fell to the Orioles in the ALCS in 1971. As you see Dick in his shiny satin jacket, he's getting ready to win the 1st of 2 straight World Series titles in Oakland.

Finley's meddling with the team was more than Dick could take.  There were the little things, like letting Vida Blue hold out and mess up his 1972 season and interfering with the roster.  However, when Finley pulled the Mike Andrews Incident in the 1973 World Series, Dick Williams did the unthinkable:  he decided to leave the A's at the end of the year.  The A's were still the class of the league and won the Series again in 1974, but Williams decided he didn't need to be a part of it.

He spent parts of 3 forgettable years with a bad Angels team. Then he was hired in Montreal where they had talent, but didn't have any kind of winning tradition.  It took a couple of years, but by 1979 they had their 1st winning season and in 1981 Dick became the only manager to take the Expos to the post-season.  He also got the Padres to their first World Series (and only winning game in the World Series) in 1984.  He then had 3 bad seasons with the pre-Griffey Mariners (who didn't?) before being done.

Dick got 4 teams to the playoffs and was a Rick Monday homer from getting all of them to the World Series.  He was elected to the Hall of Fame as a manager in 2008.

I'll always associate him with the A's.  I can imagine him hanging out in his office, letting all hell run loose in the clubhouse all the while figuring out how to cuss Finley out when he called with another meddlesome idea.  No telling how long the A's would have stayed in the playoffs if Finley hadn't run Williams, and then his best players, off.