’79 Champs Witness Bucs Rise to 5th Place

I was supposed to be in the audience tonight. But a business trip looms tomorrow. Thusly, I witnessed the game courtesy of Fox Sports Ohio. 22 members of the 1979 World Series champs were honored before the game and they got to watch Zach Duke, Ryan Doumit and Garrett Jones pitch and pound the Reds into submission. And into the cellar.

The Pirates took over 5th place with their fifth straight win. Duke allowed two runs on eight hits and no walks in seven innings. The Pirates got on Justin Lehr in the first inning with three runs. Doumit was in the middle of it. With the Pirates already up 1-0, one gone in the first and Jones on third, Doumit hit a high bouncer back to Lehr. The Reds hurler wanted to get two and end the inning, but Doumit hustled down the line and was credited with a fielder’s choice RBI. He then swiped second based and scored on a single from Lastings Milledge.

Doumit hit a two run homer high into the seats in right in the fifth to make it 6-1. Jones added a two run double in next frame and the route was on. The Pirates added four more in the 7th. Steve Pearce had a two run single. Had it not been for an acrobatic stop by Brandon Phillips off the bat of Delwyn Young that Phillips helped turn into a double play, it could’ve been worse.

Lehr allowed six runs on 8 hits in five innings.

The Good

Five straight wins.

Fifth place.

Doumit had three hits, scored three times and drove in three.

Jones also had three hits and three runs knocked home.

Duke picks up win #10.

The Bad

Nothing at all, other than me not being in the Steel City tonight.

The Rest

The 19 players from the 1979 team on hand were:

Matt Alexander, Dale Berra, Bert Blyleven, John Candelaria, Mike Easler, Phil Garner, Grant Jackson, Bruce Kison, Lee Lacy, Bill Madlock, Omar Moreno, Steve Nicosia, Ed Ott, Dave Parker, Don Robinson, Jim Rooker, Manny Sanguillen, Rennie Stennett and Kent Tekulve. Chuck Tanner and coach Al Monchak were there along with trainer Tony Bartirome. Willie Stargell’s wife was also there.

Among the deceased in addition to Stargell are Bill Robinson, John Milner, Dave Roberts and Dock Ellis (not on post-season roster). Living players who did not come back were Jim Bibby, Doe Boyland (not on post-season roster), Joe Coleman (not on post-season roster), Tim Foli, Gary Hargis (not on post-season roster), Alberto Lois (not on post-season roster), Rick Rhoden (disabled most of the season), Enrique Romo, Frank Taveras (traded early on for Foli), Ed Whitson (traded for Madlock in June)

This was Doumit’s fifth career game with three runs scored. It was the third time he reached three RBI and three runs scored in one contest.

Jones has six RBI in the last two games.

Duke reached double figures in wins for the second time in his career.

Each of the starting 8 had a hit and scored a run.

Last five game winning streak was May 15 to 20th against Colorado and Washington. Each of the starters were the winning pitcher during the current winning streak.The bullpen picked up three wins during the earlier winning streak.

Luis Cruz got his third start of the year in place of Ronny Cedeno who has a fractured finger.

Welcome back Phil Dumatrait who pitched a scoreless inning, his first game since July 7, 2008.



Did Madlock Sit in Pursuit of Batting Titles?

This was published a couple of years ago on the old Buried Treasure website on MVN. Reposting it now in its original form.
Bill Madlock won four batting titles and finished second one time. On two other occasions he finished in the top five in hitting but was well behind the leader.
Madlock was an intriguing guy. He was suspended for shoving his glove into the face of an ump (my brother made a painting of that for a school project when that happened back in 1980. Probably a better painting than what I could do, but it is safe to assume that my sister got every last ounce of artistic talent in my family). He fought opponents, sometimes teammates and sometimes management. Though he won four batting titles, he never once collected 200 hits in a season and barely reached 2,000 hits for his career.
I have read two sources that claimed that Madlock would pick his spots down the stretch – sitting out against tough pitchers – in order to improve his chances of winning the silver bat. Bill James, in his most recent Historical Baseball Abstract, openly mocks Madlock stating that there was a running pool in the press box in September on whether Madlock would be sitting out or playing. Joe Morgan, in his autobiography, claimed Madlock sat out games in 1976 in order to wrestle the batting title from Ken Griffey.
Is that true? In my anal retentive, the truth must be known, baseball obsessed mind, it is worth finding out.
Here’s the methodology, thanks to the amazing Retrosheet, I can determine which games in September Madlock chose not to play in. So, I’ll examine which pitcher’s he didn’t face. I’ll also look at the batting averages of Madlock in comparison with his closest competition at the beginning of September and also at the end of the season. Additionally, I’ll check the limited sources of biographical information on Madlock that I have or that are available on line.
The seasons in question are 1975, 1976, 1981, 1982 and 1983.
Read the rest of this entry »

Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 10

Only two trades left to analyze among the players that were on the post-season roster in 1979. This one is about Jim Rooker
The Trade
On October 25, 1972, the Royals trade Jim Rooker to the Pirates even up for Gene Garber.
The Background
The 1972 Pirates suffered a heartbreaking loss in the NLCS and then a few months later lost their leader Roberto Clemente in a plane crash. The only significant player acquired during the tumultuous time between the end of the 1972 season and the start of the 1973 season was Rooker.
Rooker was originally a signee of the Detroit Tigers in 1960. He spent the next 8 years toiling in the minors, partly because he spent his first four years in the minors as an outfielder. He went 14-8 with a sub 3.00 ERA in 1968 with Toledo and got a brief two game look with the big club that year. After that stint with the Tigers, he was sold to the Yankees that off-season. New York left him unprotected and he was plucked by the Royals in the expansion draft. Early in his career Rooker’s experience as an outfielder came in handy. He clubbed four homers in 1969 for KC On May 2, 1970, Rooker played two innings in left field in a 17 inning game between the Royals and the Tribe. He was a decent hitter for his career, overall, and was also called upon to pinch run with Pittsburgh on several occasions.
Read the rest of this entry »

Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 2

The authors of the book When the Bucs Won it All state that the Pirates plunge into last place in the 1980s was due to the poor trades that were made to acquire the players on the 1979 club. I disagree.
In part 1 of this series, I looked at how the World Series roster was put together – which players were acquire via trade, draft, and free agency. In the next several posts, I’ll analyze the trades that brought the members of the team to Pittsburgh. Going alphabetically, the first player on the 1979 post-season roster acquired in a trade was Bert Blyleven.
The Trade
After a season and a half pitching for the Rangers, Blyleven was involved in a mammoth four team trade on 12/8/77. Blyleven was dealt to the Pirates. The Braves sent Willie Montanez to the Mets. Adrian Devine, Tommy Boggs, and Eddie Miller went to Atlanta from Texas. The Rangers sent Ken Henderson and Tom Grieve to the Mets. The Bucs dealt Al Oliver and Nelson Norman to Texas. The Mets sent Jon Matlack to the Rangers. John Milner went from the Mets to the Pirates.
From the Pirates perspective, this boils down to Oliver for Blyleven and Milner. Norman’s career was inconsequential as he amassed just a single win share in the Show.
The Background
Oliver was a star, an outstanding hitter and a player capable of playing multiple positions. His career totals fall a touch short of serious Hall of Fame consideration, in my opinion. He hit .308 with 19 homers and 82 RBI in 1977. However, in that season, Willie Stargell was injured, leaving Bill Robinson as the Pirates primary first baseman. Robinson, finally living up to the billing given to him as a prospect, hit .304 with 26 taters and 104 RBI. A couple of things made Oliver expendable. Stargell was presumably healthy and the Pirates were most likely looking to keep the slightly more potent (and slightly more aged) bat of Robinson in the lineup. Stargell was only capable of playing first at this point in his career, which meant Robinson would go to the outfield. Fleet footed Omar Moreno manned center field. Though not as skilled a hitter as Oliver, his speed gave him range in center matched only by Garry Maddox in Philly. Moreno led all NL outfielders in put outs both in 1979 and in 1980. Dave Parker, a budding superstar, had a justifiable stranglehold on right field. Additionally, the rotation was a bit suspect. The pitching staff posted the third best ERA in the NL in 1977, but two of the four starters (Jerry Reuss and Bruce Kison) posted an ERA+ of less than 100. The fifth starting spot was manned most often by Odell Jones who posted an ERA above 5.00 in 34 appearances (15 starts).
For Oliver the Pirates acquired a pitcher with a track record for being a workhorse (no fewer than 230 IP in every season since he was a 20 year old rookie in 1970) and for being hard to score on (his career worst ERA+ was 117 in his rookie season). They also got Milner, a capable home run hitter who could (and would) spell Stargell at first and Robinson in left.
The Data
The following table has win share data for the primary players involved for 1978 to the end of their careers. I’ve included Robinson’s numbers here for comparison’s sake since he became the primary left fielder in Oliver’s absence.

Year Blyleven Milner Oliver Robinson
1978 16 10 22 14
1979 13 13 18 12
1980 9 7 21 7
1981 14 4 13 0
1982 1 2 26 4
1983 10 14 0
1984 20 8
1985 23 2
1986 18
1987 18
1988 4
1989 22
1990 3
1991 DNP
1992 5

The Analysis
In the short term, this was a good trade for the Pirates. Blyleven continued his solid pitching and Milner and Robinson proved to be capable players for the immediate future. However, Blyleven bristled at the frequency in which he pitched (he preferred a 4 man rotation) and the quick hook delivered by skipper Chuck Tanner. The Dutch Master felt that he pitched better when his arm was a little tired. The Pirates felt compelled to trade him following the 1980 campaign and got little in return. Robinson and Milner (and Stargell) declined quickly after 1979, while Oliver had perhaps his best season in 1982 when Milner and Robinson were bit players in the Show.
Overall, this was a good trade. Blyleven helped the Pirates win the 1979 World Series. He pitched the clinching game in the 1979 NLCS. Robinson and Milner played big roles that season, as well. The combination of Blyleven and Milner provided more win shares in both 1978 and 1979 than Oliver did. The trade went sour after 1980 when Blyleven was unloaded for a package of players that didn’t pan out. But that is the subject of a future post.

Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 1

In 2006 I read the book When the Bucs Won it All by Bill Ranier and David Finoli. The authors suggest that the Pirates failings in the mid-80s were mainly due to the trades that took place putting the 1979 team in place. The authors stated:

Because he (GM Pete Peterson) no longer had the personnel to trade like he did when he first took over, Pittsburgh slid from the top of the rung all the way down to the bottom in the second half of 1981 and during the abysmal 1984 and 1985 seasons.

I disagree. Very much so. Peterson made a couple of bad trades, but the ones that hurt the most happened after the team won the World Series in 1979. In a series of posts I will look at why the author’s statement is untrue (think of it as a blog version of the FoxSports show “Top 5 Reasons Why You Can’t Blame Bad Trades on the Pirates Being Terrible in the mid-80s”)
First, let’s look at the players that were on the World Series roster and how they were acquired, in alphabetical order:
Matt Alexander – signed as a FA (free agent) on 9/1/78
Jim Bibby – signed as a FA on 3/15/78
Bert Blyleven – acquired via a four team trade on 12/8/77. The Pirates gave up Al Oliver and Nelson Norman. They got Bert and John Milner
John Candelaria – 2nd round DP (draft pick) in 1972
Mike Easler – acquired via trade from the Red Sox on 3/15/79 for two career minor leaguers (George Hill and Martin Rivas) and cash
Tim Foli – acquired via trade from the Mets on 4/19/79 for Frank Taveras. The Bucs also got career minor leaguer Greg Field
Phil Garner – acquired via trade from the A’s on 3/15/76 along with Chris Batton, who never played in the Show for the Pirates, and Tommy Helms, who was at the end of the line. The Pirates gave up several players in return. Dave Giusti, Doc Medich, Doug Bair, Mitchell Page, Rick Langford and Tony Armas all went to the A’s. Strangely enough, the A’s had acquired Helms from the Pirates for cash earlier in the same off season and then traded him back. The Bucs released him in June of 1977 and he was picked up by Boston, who released him the following Spring. And he was done.
Grant Jackson – acquired via trade from Seattle on 12/7/76 for Jimmy Sexton and Craig Reynolds
Bruce Kison – 14th round DP in 1968
Lee Lacy – signed as a FA on 1/19/79
Bill Madlock – acquired via trade from Frisco on 6/28/79. The Bucs got Madlock, Dave Roberts and Lenny Randle, who never appeared in a Pirate uni. They gave up Ed Whitson, Fred Breining and Al Holland.
John Milner – acquired in the same trade as Blyleven
Omar Moreno – signed as an undrafted FA in 1969. Omar is from Panama and wasn’t eligible for the draft
Steve Nicosia – 1st round DP in 1973
Ed Ott – 23rd round DP in 1970
Dave Parker – 14th round DP in 1970
Bill Robinson – acquired via trade from Philly on 4/5/75 for former All-Star pitcher Wayne Simpson. Simpson won 14 games and made the All-Star team as a 21 year old rookie for the Reds in 1970. He would win just 18 more games in his career
Don Robinson – 3rd round DP in 1975
Enrique Romo – acquired via trade from Seattle on 12/5/78. The Pirates gave up Odell Jones, Rafael Vazquez and Mario Mendoza. The Pirates also got Rick Jones and Tom McMillan, neither of whom ever appeared in the Bigs with the Pirates. Jones was called up late in 1979, but didn’t appear in a game
Jim Rooker – acquired via trade from KC on 10/25/72 even up for Gene Garber
Manny Sanguillen – acquired via trade from Oakland on 4/4/78. The Pirates sent Miguel Dilone, Elias Sosa and Mike Edwards to the A’s to get Sangy back. He had been traded, along with $100,000, before the 1977 season to the A’s for manager Chuck Tanner. No that isn’t a typo. My Dilone story. I was 14. It was 1985. Dilone was in his last season, hanging on with Montreal. They were in Cincy and I was at the ball yard with baseball cards trying to get autographs. When I asked Dilone in my typical polite way, he yelled back at me in anger the following (at least I think this is what he said): No tengo escribir mi nombre. Translated that means “I don’t have to write my name”. I didn’t argue with him.
Willie Stargell – signed as an amateur FA, before the draft was established in 1958
Rennie Stennett – exact same as Moreno. He was from Panama and was inked in 1969
Kent Tekulve – signed as an undrafted FA in 1969
Next time I’ll examine the trades the various trades that brought some of those players to the club.