’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.
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Karstens Start Sparks Memories of DeLeon

Two starts does not a trend make. It has made for some excitement, however. Jeff Karstens efforts in his first two starts brought me back to the summer of 1983 when I was a wide eyed, baseball obsessed 12 year old. (As an aside, I was watching the Bob Costas program on HBO during Hall of Fame Weekend. He was interviewing Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Costas asked them, “When you dream, are you still a ballplayer playing for the Braves or the Giants.” Neither player answered the question well. But, I can say that in my dreams, sometimes I’m a twelve year old playing Knothole around the eastern suburbs of Cincinnati. So, back to 1983 I went today.)
On July 23, 1983, Jose DeLeon was a 22 year old rookie making his Major League debut. The Pirates entered the day 0.5 games of eventual NL East champ Philadelphia. The Pirates had a pretty solid front of the rotation with Rick Rhoden, Larry McWilliams and John Candelaria pitching well enough. Don Robinson, who had won 15 times in 1982, suffered some arm trouble. He would make just one more appearance after July. Swingman Jim Bibby’s career was on a rapid downward path. He made 12 starts in the first half of the season and went 2-8 with a 9.50 ERA in those 12 games. Rookie Lee Tunnell made nine starts in the first half (and also nine relief appearances). His ERA at the break was almost 5.00.
So, two weeks after the All-Star break, DeLeon arrived. He had been 11-6 with a 3.04 ERA and better than a strike out per inning at Hawaii thus far. And he got off to a fast start in the Show.
On July 23, he gave up a hit to the first San Francisco Giant batter he faced (Johnnie LeMaster of all people) and then gave up just three more hits and two runs in eight innings while striking out eight hitters.
In his next start four days later against the Padres, DeLeon carried a perfect game until one out in the 7th when Alan Wiggins singled. He finished with a complete game two hitter.
His next start was in Shea on July 31. In a game broadcast on WOR (back when that was a national superstation like WTBS and WGN), DeLeon and Mike Torrez dueled. Torrez threw eleven shutout innings. Don’t see that too much anymore. DeLeon threw nine shutout innings and carried a no-hitter until two were out in the 9th. DeLeon left after nine innings with a no decision and 11 whiffs. The Pirates and Manny Sarmiento lost in the 11th when Mookie Wilson showing incredible speed scored from first inning on an infield groundout from George Foster.
DeLeon would finish the season 7-3 with a 2.83 ERA. The Pirates and Phillies were tied for the lead as late as September 17. But the Phillies went 12-2 over the final two weeks to pull away from the Pirates who went just 6-8.
Three years to the day of his ML debut, DeLeon was traded from Pittsburgh to the White Sox even up for Bobby Bonilla. DeLeon would have something just short of a checkered career. He lost 19 games twice, once with the Bucs in 1985. But he struck out 200 hitters in a season twice. In 1989 he lead the league in whiffs, H/9 and was second in WHIP.
I’ve written before in this space that if there was one player from the 1980s Pirates that I could give a “do over” to, it’d be DeLeon. Here’s hoping that Karstens success continues.

Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 16

The Buccos were in it in 1982. They didn’t win it, but they played meaningful games in September – something that the club has failed to do in recent times. And as Willie Stargell once said, “I love September, especially when we are in it.” Pops retired following 1982. With a strong offense (2nd in the NL in runs scored) and a decent pitching staff in place (John Candelaria, Larry McWilliams and Rick Rhoden were slated for the rotation), what were the Bucs looking for heading into 1983?
After the jump you have more than 4,000 words including over 1,000 on Lee Mazzilli.
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Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 12

In the previous posts I’ve made the case that the Pirates collapse in the mid-80s was not the result of trades made to acquire the players that appeared on the 1979 post-season roster. Here’s a brief rundown of some other trades in the 1970s in which the Bucs didn’t acquire a member of the 1979 post-season roster. I’m examining trades that resulted in the Pirates losing a player who was active during the 1984 to 1986 time frame. Other trades are inconsequential to this discussion. Players are listed in alphabetical order:
Kurt Bevacqua
Bevacqua was never much more than a bit player, yet he had a long career. In 15 seasons he had more than 250 plate appearances just four times. He never reached double digits in homers and never scored or drove in 50 runs in a single season. It wouldn’t be unfair to call him a journeyman. He played everywhere except pitcher and catcher in his career. I remember him for two reasons. First, he won the bubble blowing contest in 1975 when MLB held the event every year and was immortalized on a 1976 Topps baseball card. Second he got into a verbal spat with Tom Lasorda, causing Lasorda to describe Bevacqua’s lack of ability by saying he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat.
The Pirates acquired him in 1973 in a trade that saw Nellie Briles go to KC. In the middle of 1974, KC reacquired Bevacqua for a minor leaguer and cash. He had less than 40 ABs for the Bucs at the time of the trade. After much travel, the Bucs traded Luis Salazar and Rick Lancellotti to San Diego for Kurt and Mark Lee down the stretch in 1980. Between 1980 and 1981, Bevacqua was just 14 for 70 for the Pirates. He was released following the 1981 season and picked up by the Padres.
Bevacqua had his moment in the sun in the 1984 World Series. He had seven hits, including two homers and two doubles in a losing effort for the Friars. He served as DH for San Diego as this was when the use of the DH in the World Series was alternated every year – one year on and one year off. He was free agent following 1985 but never appeared in another ML game.
Quite obviously, the presence of Kurt Bevacqua on the Pirates in the mid-80s would not have prevented the ship from sinking.
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1985 Pirates Retrospective

Back on the old Buried Treasure site before the MVN upgrade, I had made a series of posts about the 1985 Pirates and their futility and the angst it caused me as a 14 year old die hard. Unfortunately, all the old posts won’t be able to be linked to the new site for various reasons, most of which are beyond my computer comprehension. However, back in December of 2006, when I was informed of the changeover, I made a point of copying my mostest favoritest posts to MS Word and storing them on my home computer. So, back for an encore is a series of five posts about the 1985 Buccos.
I have placed the five posts in the “Stats” section of the page for permanence. You can access them by clicking on the “Stats” link next to the heads of Cory, Dave or myself. Each piece is also linked below:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

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.