Saturday, May 14, 2005

 

May 14th, 1977

Roy Halladay Born


An interesting addendum to yesterday's story, one I hadn't remembered until I was looking for something to write about today, is Roy Halladay. Halladay, of course, is now much better known than Mike Sirotka (and might end up better known than David Wells) but at the time of the trade was a relatively obscure pitcher. He'd had a decent 1999 (3.92 ERA in 36 games, 18 starts), one that perhaps encouraged the Jays to think they had a good pitcher on their hands, but his 2000 was an unmitigated disaster: 10.64 ERA in sixty-seven innings before he was sent back down all the way to Single-A to work out his issues. Although not entirely responsible, Halladay's struggles were likely a factor in the Jays' decision to trade for Sirotka. Of course, unlike Sirotka, Halladay straightened himself out to be one of baseball's best pitchers in 2002 and 2003, and after some problems in 2004 looks to be on that path again this year.



Friday, May 13, 2005

 

May 13th, 1971

Mike Sirotka Born


Caveat Emptor is one of the basic rules of life, and Mike Sirotka is a living example of just how important a rule to remember it can be. Following a pretty good 2000 (15-10 with a 3.79 ERA, good for 3rd in the AL) Sirotka was dealt by the White Sox to the Blue Jays for their ace David Wells (20-8, 4.11 ERA in 2000). The Sox believed their 2000 was the start of a good run and having an "ace" like Wells would push them over the top to World Series success while Toronto thought that the thirty year-old Sirotka was much more likely to be part of the next great Jays' team than the thirty eight year- old Wells.

It worked out for neither team. Wells got injured midway through the season for the White Sox, and had to go under the knife for surgery after going just 5-7 with a distinctly un-ace 4.47 ERA, while the team itself slumped to eighty three wins after winning ninety five the season before.
Toronto's end was even worse, Sirotka was discovered to have arm problems, and the Jays filed an appeal with Major League Baseball to undo the trade but were told, essentially “Sorry, caveat emptor.” Sirotka has not thrown a pitch since the 2000 season and is apparently finished as a ballplayer.

On its face, this was a good trade for both teams, a contender getting a veteran ace, an up-and-coming team getting an up-and-coming lefty. However, given the benefit of some ex post facto analysis, we can see it was in toto, a bad move all around.



Thursday, May 12, 2005

 

May 12th, 2001

Carlos Delgado Homers


This is a noteworthy event as it was Delgado's 204th home run for the Blue Jays, which moved him past Joe Carter and into the number one spot all-time for the team. He would total 336 homers for the Jays before moving on to the Marlins this past off-season. I did a little bit on team saves leaders a couple of weeks ago and mentioned that on account of recent usage patterns and prominence of the save statistic, fans of nearly every team would instantly recognize their all-time saves leader. This is also true of home runs; team leaders are almost exclusively all-time greats, and those that aren't would be recognized by their fans on account of their prominent standing in team history. Actually, that's not quite doing it justice; excluding the 1990s expansion clubs, only a handful have a player as their home run leader who isn't a Hall of Famer or future Hall of Famer.

The teams which do not have an all-time great as their HR leader are an interesting bunch. In addition to the aforementioned Jays, the Mets' all time leader is Darryl Strawberry with just 252; that will belong to Carlos Beltran (or David Wright) someday. The Angels have Tim Salmon who is a good player who's just hung around a while and only played for one team. The Padres have easily the most forgettable home run leader, probably the only one who wouldn’t be recognized by his team’s fans, Nate Colbert. The Rangers can offer only Juan Gonzalez who will be in the Hall of Very Good next to Delgado and possibly Jim Thome (the Indians leader) if his struggles this season for the Phillies are not just a blip.



Wednesday, May 11, 2005

 

May 11th, 2003

Jeff Torberg Fired by Marlins


I once said in this space that changing a manager "less than thirty (at least) games into the season is a purely aesthetic exercise." I do believe that, but I would concede that once in a great, great while the change can make a big difference. When the Marlins fired Jeff Torberg, they were 16-22 (that's thirty-eight total games), on pace for a sixty-eight win season. The Marlins replaced Torberg with Jack McKeon and the team responded, finishing the season at a blistering 74-49 pace, good for a .602 winning percentage, or ninety-seven wins across a full season. They also, as you probably know, went on to win the World Series.

The difference obviously was not all replacing Torberg with McKeon, Dontrelle Willis made his first start on May 9th, and Josh Beckett was a world-beater in the playoffs, but the influence McKeon had shouldn't be overlooked. Happily, it wasn't as he was voted Manager of the Year in 2003, the second time he had won the award.

So I suppose I should modify my comment, in nearly every case changing a manager less than thirty (at least) games into a season is a purely aesthetic exercise, but in those cases when you make the change at the right time and bring in the right man, it can be great for a club.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

 

May 10th, 1868

Ed Barrow Born


I'm having some technical problems here today, the end result of which was the loss of a reasonably expansive post on Pete Schourek that I'm not quite up for recreating. Instead today will feature a link back to an earlier entry on the first general manager in the Hall of Fame, Ed Barrow.

Monday, May 09, 2005

 

May 9th, 1970

Ducky Yount Dies


Given that, as I think I've said before, an entry and the day prior constitutes a theme here tAtDiBH; let's continue on with our "players with bird nicknames" theme. Today we come to Ducky Yount. Yount was a fairly unremarkable player; he pitched just over forty innings for the Baltimore Terrapins of the Federal League in 1914 with an equally unremarkable ERA+ of 81. He is one seven players known primarily as "Ducky" and although none are especially notable, Joe Medwick, for whom Ducky shared a place with Muscles as a nickname (I wonder which he preferred) is in the Hall of Fame. Medwick earned the nickname, according to the Hall of Fame, for "his waddling gait." He was a pretty good hitter (.324/.362/.505, OPS+ 134) and the 1937 MVP and Triple Crown winner for good measure.

Be sure to continue to stop by as we go through BirdWeek with "Chicken" Hawks, Doug, Frank, George and Red Bird, Birdie Tebbetts and of course, Mark Fidrych, not to mention a link to Goose Gossage! (Just kidding.)



Sunday, May 08, 2005

 

May 8th, 1901

Turkey Sterns Born


It has been a while since I've done a good ol' fashioned, "Hey! That's a funny nickname" so here we are with Norman Thomas "Turkey" Sterns. Sterns is, incredibly, one of three Turkeys to reach BaseballReference, although the other two played in the Majors, while Sterns was unfortunately confined to the Negro Leagues. He is, however, the only Turkey in the Hall of Fame, having been elected in 2000 on the basis of his amazing hitting talents. Although Negro League records are unreliable, Sterns is credited with hitting .400 three times, and leading the league in hitting seven times. He is also believed to be the Negro League home run champion, ahead of the better-known Josh Gibson. He was well-regarded by his fellow Negro Leaguers. Cool Papa Bell once said that "if they don't put Turkey Sterns in the Hall of Fame, they shouldn't put anybody in." Sadly, Sterns died several years before his induction.

Although a quiet man generally, Sterns was apparently a bit of a character when it came to his physical qualities. His batting stance was described by Satchel Page as having his right foot in the bucket (that is, stepping out) with his right ankle twisted up and pointing up with his big toe. Spectators apparently frequently marveled that Sterns was able to make contact, let alone succeed given his stance. His quirky physical characteristics are also the source of the nickname, acquired when his running style brought a turkey to the minds of his childhood playmates.



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