’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.



Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 7

The trade that set the tone is the topic of this post.
The Trade
On June 28, 1979 the Pirates received Bill Madlock, Lenny Randle and Dave Roberts from the Giants for Fred Breining, Al Holland and Ed Whitson.
The Background
After the games of June 28, the Pirates were tied for third in the NL East. They were 6.5 games out of first with Montreal leading the pack. Pirate second basemand Rennie Stennett was hitting a meager .236 with 15 RBI. So, the Pirates acquired the fiery Madlock, installed him at third and moved third baseman Phil Garner to second. Stennett’s time diminished and he made just 8 starts the final two months of the year.
Madlock was a fifth round draft pick of the Senators in 1970. By the time he was ready for the Show, they were in Arlington and he was traded to the Cubs for Fergie Jenkins. Madlock moved into Ron Santo’s old spot in Wrigley and met with immediate success. He was co-MVP of the 1975 All-Star game (with Jon Matlack) and won consecutive batting titles in 1975 and 1976. Grumbling over money, the Cubs traded he and Rob Sperring to the Giants for Bobby Murcer and Steve Ontiveros. Madlock’s BA fell off a bit (still over .300) and he had some more squabbles (for a great write up of the various confrontations and fights Madlock had with opponents, teammates and managment, see his article at The Baseball Page). In short, he wore out his welcome at the Stick and the Giants traded him to Pittsburgh.
He was nothing short of spectacular in 1979. In 85 games for the Pirates he drove in 85 runs and hit .328. More importantly, the Pirates caught fire and went 62-31 the rest of the way (after being 36-33 before the trade) and won the division. Madlock hit .375 in the World Series.
Madlock continued to hit, winning two more batting titles in 1981 and 1983 (the last two by a Pirate until Freddy Sanchez). However, as the team started to decline, Madlock went into the tank. He followed a terrible, injury plagued 1984 with a terrible 1985 and was traded to the Dodgers for Sid Bream, Cecil Espy and R.J. Reynolds on 8/31/85. The trade helped both squads as LA made the post-season and Madlock hit .360 for them down the stretch. Madlock belted three homers and drove in 7 runs in a six game defeat at the hands of St. Louis. After a fair 1986 season, Madlock was struggling early in 1987 and was released. The Tigers picked him up and he helped them into the ALCS by hitting 14 homers and driving in 50 runs. He was a free agent following the 1987 season, but nobody (that I’m aware of) signed him, ending his career.
There has been a lot of talk about Madlock sitting out games against tough pitchers in an attempt to win batting titles. THere is a fairly lengthy message board discussion on this topic at Baseball Think Factory. On the old MVN site, I made a post about Madlock’s playing time down the stretch. My conclusion was that he sat. Unfortunately, I can’t link to that post at this time.
Randle was clouded by controversy as well. After having an off year season in Texas, he was upset that the Rangers were going with rookie Bump Wills in 1977. He got into a fight with manager Frank Lucchesi and punched him out. He was traded to the Mets in short order. He played well in 1977 and not so well in 1978, leading to his release in 1979. The Giants picked him up and he was in AAA Portland when the trade happened. The Pirates also assigned him to AAA and later in the season sold him to the Yankees. Other than the fight with Lucchesi, Randle is best known for trying to blow a dribbler down the third base line foul in 1981 in the Kingdome while playing for Seattle.
Roberts was a the end of his much traveled career. He spent time in the Phillies, Pirates and A’s farm systems (ultimately returned by the A’s to the Pirates after being a Rule V selection). The Padres took him from Pittsburgh in the expansion draft in 1968 and he made his ML debut for Friars in 1969. Two years later he finished sixth in the NL in Cy Young voting after finishing second in the loop in ERA to Tom Seaver. After that breakout season, the Padres received three players from Houston for Roberts (Bill Greif, Mark Schaeffer and Derrel Thomas). Roberts won a career best 17 games for the Astros in 1973. After a couple of mediocre years, he went to Detroit in an 8 player swap that included Milt May and Mark Lemongello (a relation of lounge singer Peter Lemongello). He pitched so-so in Detroit, winning 16 games with a below 100 ERA+. The Cubs bought him from the Tigers. He pitched fairly well for them and then hooked on with the Giants prior to coming over in the Madlock deal.
Roberts didn’t figure much in the post-season picture – he appeared in one game in the NLCS. But he was involved in one of 1979’s more famous regular season contests. The “choke contest” of 8/25/79 was recalled by Willie Stargell in his autobiography. Padres slugger Dave Winfield was on second in the bottom of the 16th. The bases were loaded and Padres hurler John D’Acquisto was batting. Roberts ran the count to 3-0 on D’Acquisto. As he turned toward second to gather himself, Winfield gave him the choke signal. Roberts retired D’Acquisto and the Pirates won in the 19th inning, with Roberts earning the win.
Roberts was sold to the Mariners early in 1980 and finished his career with the Mets in 1981.
Breining was a third round pick of the Pirates in 1974. He was in the middle of a pretty good year at AA Buffalo in 1979 when the trade was made. He worked his way into the Giants bullpen and had very good years in 1981 and 1982. Moved into the starting rotation, he made 32 starts. He was traded to Montreal after 1982, but had rotater cuff issues that ended his career.
Holland had been drafted twice but had not signed before signing as an amateur free agent with the Pirates in 1975. He pitched well in the low minors and pitched in two games in Pittsburgh in 1977. Mired in a bad season in Portland in 1979, he was sent to Frisco. There he developed into a fine reliever. Following 1982, he was swapped, along with Joe Morgan, to Philly for Mark Davis, Mike Krukow and a minor leaguer. In 1983 Holland helped the Phillies to the World Series and won the Rolaids Relief award. 1984 was bad. Holland apparently lost his fastball (his K/9 rate was way down) and his ERA went up by over a run. Early in 1985 he came back to Pittsburgh in an even swap for another fading relief ace, Kent Tekulve. Holland’s first stop was in town was a the Pittsburgh Drug Trials. He pitched pretty well for the Pirates in 1985. But with the club mired in a season long malaise, Holland, John Candelaria and George Hendrick were sent to the Angels for Mike Brown, Pat Clements and Bob Kipper. Holland was a free agent following 1985 and signed with the Bombers. He pitched terribly there in 1986 and his career was over following three games in 1987.
Whitson was taken in the 6th round by the Pirates in 1974. He successfully made the jump from high A in 1976 to AAA in 1977 and made his ML debut later that year. He spent most of 1978 in Pittsburgh’s bullpen and was a swingman in 1979 when he was traded. Despite a 7-8 record, Whitson made the NL All-Star team in 1980. After a mediocre 1981, he was shipped to Cleveland for Duane Kuiper. Following one uneventful season in OH, he was traded to San Diego for Juan Eichelberger and Broderick Perkins. The Tribe was taken. Whiston established a career high in wins in 1984 and helped the Padres into the World Series, where he was clubbed in his only start.
Ever quick to grab an emerging player, George Steinbrenner signed Whitson to a big free agent contract. That didn’t work out so well for either party. Whitson pitched so terribly that the home fans booed him when he pitched in Yankee Stadium. The result was that 18 of his 30 startes in 1985 were a way from home. He continued to pitch terribly in 1986, most in relief, and was traded back to San Diego for former NC State basketball player Tim Stoddard. Whitson righted his career and had double digit wins in four straight seasons, winning a career high 16 games in 1989.
The Data
The data will show that the Pirates got fewer win shares than they gave up, but this was a great trade. Madlock was absolutely key to the division crown run in 1979. Without him, I don’t think the Pirates would’ve reached the playoffs.
The numbers reflect Madlock’s time with the Pirates only. So, his numbers after the trade to LA are left with a “-“. My Win Shares book credits Whitson with no Win Shares in 1986. He didn’t pitch well (112-2/3 innings and a 6 plus ERA), but he manage to go 6-9. So, I don’t know how he could get zero Win Shares.

Year Madlock Roberts Breining Holland Whitson
1979 11 3 1 3
1980 13 0 0 11 12
1981 15 6 10 3
1982 25 10 8 9
1983 17 8 18 4
1984 6 1 12 11
1985 8 8 4
1986 1 0
1987 0 6
1988 9
1989 18
1990 19
1991 1

The Conclusion
The Pirates clearly gave up more Win Shares than they received in return for Madlock. Even if you factor in the players they received in exchange for Madlock in 1985 when he was dealt to LA, this is tough to justify based on the Win Shares. But, this trade was the number key to jump starting the 1979 club.
Would having Breining, Holland and Whitson on the team between 1984 and 1987 (when the Pirates finished last three straight years and fifth in the other)? I say probably not. Breining was nearly out of baseball by 1984. Holland would’ve been a help in 1984 but was effectively done by 1985. Whitson had some good years left in the tank, but was a mess in the mid-80s. That could partly be the result of pitching under the pressure of a big contract for the Bombers. But, I can’t say that any of those three players would’ve been a difference maker.

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.