’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.

 

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Pirates making home run history

It is widely known that the Pirates set a team record with 45 home runs in the month of August. It was a fun time to watch Pirate baseball, as the team seemingly scored at will. However, even with that eruption of power, the Bucs are currently tied for 20th in Major League Baseball with 135 home runs. Overall, it does not seem like a historically significant season. But take a look at the team’s individual leaders in home runs:

  • Adam LaRoche – 21
  • Jason Bay – 20
  • Xavier Nady – 17
  • Jose Bautista – 14
  • Nate McLouth – 12
  • Freddy Sanchez – 11
  • Ronny Paulino – 10
  • Jack Wilson – 9
  • Ryan Doumit – 9

What is noteworthy about these numbers? This is only the third team in the history of the franchise that has boasted seven players with ten or more home runs. If Wilson can hit one more in the final few weeks, it will be the first to have eight. The other two occasions in which seven players achieved the feat were in 1973 (Willie Stargell-44, Richie Hebner-25, Al Oliver-20, Bob Robertson-14, Manny Sanguillen-12, Rennie Stennett-10, Richie Zisk-10) and 1964 (Willie Stargell-21, Jerry Lynch-16, Roberto Clemente-12, Donn Clendenon-12, Bob Bailey-11, Bill Mazeroski-10, Jim Pagliaroni-10).
Keep in mind that these numbers do not indicate that the Pirates are developing into a powerful lineup. The fact that this has occurred only three times in the team’s history simply highlights the Pirates’ consistently feeble offense during Major League Baseball’s power explosion over the past 20 years. In fact, having seven or more players reach double digits in home runs is fairly common among the rest of the league. Taking a quick look around the league, I counted ten other teams that have accomplished the feat in 2007 alone. The New York Yankees have achieved the mark every year since 1996.
So let us enjoy watching this edition of the Pittsburgh Pirates make franchise history. However, as we are conditioned to do as Pirate fans, we must keep the feat in perspective. We are still taking baby steps when compared with the rest of the league.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference Play Index

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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.

The Team that Changed Baseball by Bruce Markusen

One of the seven deadly sins is envy. And I have it for Bruce Markusen who gets to live in Cooperstown and write about baseball for a living. Okay, I wouldn’t want to live in Upstate New York during the winter as I don’t enjoy that much snow.
Markusen has previously written a biography of Roberto Clemente that I thought was well done and I rank as the second best Clemente biography behind the recent effort by David Maraniss.
This tome by Markusen looks at the 1971 Pirates and specifically focuses on the diverse racial make up of the club. The Buccos became the first team to start nine minorities in one game during the 1971 season, hence the title of the book. On September 1 skipper Danny Murtaugh filled out the following lineup:
Rennie Stennett – 2B
Gene Clines – CF
Roberto Clemente – RF
Willie Stargell – LF
Manny Sanguillen – C
Dave Cash – 3B
Al Oliver – 1B
Jackie Hernandez – SS
Dock Ellis – P
This book is well thought out but isn’t particularly insightful. The first part of the book details baseball’s slow (especially in the AL) integration of American blacks and darked skin players from Latin America. Markusen jumps into the 1971 season and gives some description from most of the contests before concluding the book with individual chapters on each game of the 1971 World Series.
Not a whole lot of anecdotes or humorous stories. My favorite one was about Dock Ellis wearing a batting practice helment that he had altered so that it was fuzzy. He called it “velvetized”. Also, according to Steve Blass from the middle of his masterful Game 6 performance in the 1971 series to its conclusion Manny Sanguillen refused to call any pitches and had no idea what Blass was going to offer. He and Sangy had a disagreement during a mound conference one inning. Sangy told Blass to throw whatever he wanted and the backstop refused to offer any signs. Blass notes that Sany had amazing athletic ability to be able to pick up the rotation on the ball and not commit any passed balls.

Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 5

Continuing with the theme of whether bad trades made in assembling the 1979 team crippled the club in the mid-80s.
The subject of today’s post is possibly the worst trade made to acquire a player that played on the 1979 Pirates, the one that brought in Phil Garner.
The Trade
On March 15, 1977 the Pirates sent Tony Armas, Doug Bair, Dave Giusti, Rick Langford, Doc Medich, and Mitchell Page to the A’s for Chris Batton, Garner and Tommy Helms. (The trade that brought Medich to Pittsburgh was a downright terrible trade for the Bucs. That’s a different post altogether.)
The Background
Long time Bucco third sacker Richie Hebner fled across the state to play first for the Phillies. Manager Chuck Tanner, who himself had been acquired by the Pirates from Oakland for Manny Sanguillen and $100,000 in November of 1976, wanted Garner. Tanner was familiar with Garner’s tough nose style. “Scrap Iron” was originally a first round selection of the A’s out of Tennessee and spent his first two full years playing second. With Hebner gone, Garner became the Pirates primary third baseman in 1977. He moved to second base after second baseman Rennie Stennett broke his leg on August 21, an injury from which he never fully recovered. Future skipper Ken Macha played most of rest of 1977 at third. Garner and Stennett split time at second in 1978, with Dale Berra manning third when Garner was playing second. Stennett hit poorly in 1978 and was hitting just .236 in 1979 when the Pirates acquired Bill Madlock. With that trade, Garner moved to second full time. Down the stretch in 1981, the Pirates moved Garner to Houston, essentially in exchange for Johnny Ray.
Helms was basically done, going 0-12 in 1977 for the Pirates. He was released by the Pirates in June and picked up by the Red Sox. He hit a respectable .271 for them in limited duty and was released by Boston the following spring.
Batton never played in the Show for the Bucs.
Armas was a power prospect signed by the Pirates as a free agent out of Venezuela. He had a pretty good five year peak between 1980 and 1984, leading the AL in home runs twice. But he rarely walked, hit for a low average and struck out a lot. Leg injuries robbed him of some of his power and helped curtail his career.
Bair had one very good year and that came in 1978 as a member of the Reds. He pitched in 45 games for Oakland in 1977 and then was part of the wacky trade/non-trade of Vida Blue. After 1977 the Reds agreed to send slugging 1B prospect Dave Revering and $1.75 million to Oakland for Blue. Bowie Kuhn stepped in and voided the deal due to the (at the time) enormous amount of money involved. A few months later, the A’s did get Revering and cash for Bair.
Giusti was originally signed by the Colt 45s, who used him primarily as a starter. He won a career high 15 games in 1966. Houston traded to St. Louis after 1968. Three days later, the Cards lost him to the Padres in the expansion draft and then reacquired him six weeks later. Giusti had been the Pirates closer since a trade from St. Louis after the 1969 season brought him to the Steel City. He remains among the Pirates All-Time leaders in saves with 133. The Pirates went to a closer by committee in 1976 with Giusti, Bob Moose and Kent Tekulve each finishing 20 or more games. But the Buccos had swapped Richie Zisk and Silvio Martinez to the ChiSox for Goose Gossage and reliever Terry Forster, making the aging Giusti expendable. Gossage, who had started in Chicago in 1976, would become the Pirates closer in 1977, his lone season in Pittsburgh. Giusti pitched well in 40 games for the A’s in 1977, contributing a sub 3.00 ERA. The Cubs, locked in a dead heat with the Phillies, acquired him from Oakland for cash early in August. The Cubs went 20-40 the final two plus months of the season and finished 20 games back. Giusti pitched well in August for the Cubs, but the team fell out of contention and Giusti got slammed in September, allowing 13 earned runs in 8 innings pitched. He never pitched in the Majors again.
Langford was an amateur free agent signee of the Pirates in 1973. He pitched impressively in all stops and climbed the ladder quickly, making his ML debut in 1976 after going 9-5 at AAA Charleston. He immediately went into the A’s rotation in 1977 and was hit hard, dropping 19 games. He struggled the next two years but found great success when Billy Martin took over in Oakland in 1980. Langford won 19 games and lost 12. He completed a league leading 28 of his starts in 1980 after completing just 24 in the previous three years combined. He led the league in complete games and won 12 contests in the strike shortened season in 1981. Arm trouble set in and the soft tosser never recovered, going just 4-19 in his final four seasons.
I can’t write or think about Medich without thinking of Willie Randolph. In December 1975, the Bucs traded Randolph, Ken Brett and Dock Ellis to the Yanks for Medich. Bad trade. He was a 30th round pick of the Bombers in 1970, hailing from Aliquippa, PA – the birthplace of Pistol Pete Maravich. Medich won 33 games in his first two years in Pinstripes. After falling to a 16-16 record in 1975, the Yanks traded him. In his only season in Pittsburgh, Medich was a pedestrian 8-11 with a league average ERA. He had a couple of good years in Texas toward the end of his career, but his three best years were the three he spent in NY. Overall, his career winning percentage is better than Nolan Ryan’s. He came about his nickname honestly as he earned a medical degree from Pitt during off seasons from baseball and later practiced sports medicine.
Like Medich, Page began his career quickly and then fizzled out. Page was runner up to Eddie Murray for rookie of the year in 1977, finishing fourth in the AL in OPS and second in steals while hitting better than .300. He also had the most errors of any AL OF. He never duplicated the season he had as a rookie, though 1978 was solid. He earned 50 of his 70 career win shares in his first two seasons. Page has worked as an ML coach in recent years.
The Data
Of the trades examined so far, this one by far is the toughest one to justify. I can’t call this a good trade. But it is not nearly as bad as the trade that brought Medich to Pittsburgh in the first place. The following table has the Win Shares for the various players involved in the trade from 1977, the first year after the trade, to 1990, when the last active player from this trade last appeared in the Show. I’m removing Helms and his one Win Share from 1977 for the sake of space.

Year Garner Armas Bair Giusti Langford Medich Page
1977 20 8 6 6 9 7 30
1978 19 2 18 11 10 20
1979 23 7 8 12 8 8
1980 16 22 4 19 11 8
1981 7 18 2 12 10 0
1982 22 13 11 10 6 2
1983 16 7 6 0 1
1984 14 20 6 0 1
1985 14 9 0 3
1986 9 9 4 0
1987 4 0 0
1988 0 9 1
1989 7 6
1990 0

The Conclusion
This is a tough trade to justify. Again, not a terrible trade. But, on paper I think the Pirates gave up too much to get Garner. Part of me wonders what would’ve happened if the Galbreaths had anted up and paid Hebner instead of letting him walk. What if Stennett hadn’t broken his leg? What if the Bucs never acquired Madlock in June 1979? Really, if somebody told me the Pirates would win the World Series in 2009 and then five years later go into a massive three year funk, I would be happy. Winning a World Series does that to you (or so I remember). So, yep, the Pirates overpaid for Garner, but I say it was worth it. Having Langford in the rotation in the early 1980s would’ve been great. Having Armas’ bat in left when Bill Robinson and John Milner went downhill would’ve been nice.
One more thing to look at. Bill James in his most recent Historical Baseball Abstract makes the point that the Pirates went three decades straight with a Top 100 second baseman playing for them. Bill Mazeroski gave way to Dave Cash. Cash was traded to make space for the quick rising Stennett. When he was injured, Garner moved over to 2B. The Bucs got Ray from Houston for Garner and he stayed until 1987 when he was foolishly sent to California. Here’s a Win Share table comparing the production from Garner and Ray in Pittsburgh to Armas’ career. Somewhat surprisingly, the Buccos second baseman out-produced Armas for his career. In 1981 Garner and Ray combined for 9 Win Shares. I’m giving the Pirates seven of them. Ray earned 14 Win Shares in 1987 and I’m crediting Pittsburgh with seven of them. Why am I looking at this? It’s simple: I like Johnny Ray.

Year Garner/Ray Armas
1977 20 8
1978 19 2
1979 23 7
1980 16 22
1981 7 18
1982 19 13
1983 20 7
1984 20 20
1985 11 9
1986 18 9
1987 7 0
1988 9
1989 7
Total 180 131

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.