’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 15

In 1981 the Pirates failed to win either half of the regular season and finished in last place in the second half with a sad 21-33 record. Both the offense and pitching finished near the middle of the NL pack in runs per game. The club acquired a new second baseman in Johnny Ray. An aging Willie Stargell had been replaced at first base by Jason Thompson. What other off season and in-season moves were made to put the club into contention?
Over 4,000 words after the jump.
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Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 15

In 1981 the Pirates failed to win either half of the regular season and finished in last place in the second half with a sad 21-33 record. Both the offense and pitching finished near the middle of the NL pack in runs per game. The club acquired a new second baseman in Johnny Ray. An aging Willie Stargell had been replaced at first base by Jason Thompson. What other off season and in-season moves were made to put the club into contention?
Over 4,000 words after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

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 4

Among the reasons the Pirates were horrible in the mid-80s, poor trades made in an effort to build the 1979 team isn’t one of them.
Previous posts looked at the moves that brought Bert Blyleven, John Milner and Mike Easler to the Steel City. Both of those trades were good ones.
Up next is the deal that brought Tim Foli to the Pirates.
The Trade
On April 19, 1979 the Pirates sent Frank Taveras to the Mets for Foli and career minor leaguer Greg Field.
The Background
Foli was the first pick overall in the 1968 amateur draft by the Mets. He advanced quickly to the Majors, appearing in 5 games in 1979 as a 19 year old. The Mets traded him (along with Ken Singleton and Mike Jorgensen) to Montreal for Rusty Staub in 1972. The Expos and Giants swapped shortstops in 1977 with Chris Speier going to Montreal for Foli. The Mets purchased Foli following 1977 and he spent all of 1978 with them.
Despite being the first overall pick in the draft, Foli never established himself as a star. He was well known as a hot head and earned the nickname “Crazy Horse”. Up through 1978, he had shown virtually no long ball power, never hit above .270 and had only one season where his OBP reached .300. He was regarded as a good fielder, though he never won a Gold Glove as Dave Concepcion and Larry Bowa had a stranglehold on that award in the NL in the 1970s.
Foli was the Mets primary shortstop in 1978. Foli’s play was so uninspring/mediocre that the Mets decided to move Doug Flynn to shortstop in 1979. Flynn had been the club’s second baseman. Occupying 2B for the Mets on Opening Day in 1979 was rookie Kelvin Chapman. However, nine games into the season, both middle infielders were hitting less than .200. The Mets opted to trade their back up, Foli, to Pittsburgh for the Pirates starting shortsop, Taveras.
After the trade, Flynn was moved to second, while Taveras manned short. Chapman went to the bench, was sent down in May, was recalled in September and then didn’t get back to the Majors until 1984. He spent 1980-1983 in AAA. According to this link Chapman is currently the girls softball coach at Mendocino College in Ukiah, CA. (If you ever want to test how long somebody has been a Mets fan, casually mention any of the four players the Mets got when they traded Tom Seaver to the Reds. Flynn was one of them. If the Mets fan flinches or looks like he wants to punch something, then he’s a die hard. If he has no idea who you are talking about, he’s a band wagon jumper. And he should be openly mocked.)
Dominican Republic native Taveras was signed by the Pirates in 1968 as an amateur free agent. He became the Bucs primary shortstop in 1974. He set what was then the club record (in the 20th century) for steals in a single season with 70 in 1977, earning him the nickname “The Pittsburgh Stealer.” However, Taveras was among the easiest stolen base threats to catch stealing. Taveras ranks in the bottom third of all players who swiped 300 or more bases after WWII. The following table lists the 20 worst stolen base percentages for all such players, active players excluded. (Caught stealing data was kept sporadically by NL up until the 1950s. The AL had been noting it since the 1920s.) My buddy Steve Sax makes the list. Heh heh. Considering how adept he was at swiping home, I’m surprised Carew was as bad as he was overall. At the opposite end of the list, Tim Raines ranks first. More fodder for those who think Raines should get into the Hall of Fame (I’m one of them).

Player Steals Success Rate
Rod Carew 353 65.4
Brett Butler 558 68.5
Luis Polonia 321 68.9
Claudell Washington 312 70.0
Jose Cruz 317 70.0
Jose Cardenal 329 70.3
Billy North 395 70.9
Steve Sax 444 71.4
Vada Pinson 305 71.4
Tony Gwynn 318 71.8
Lonnie Smith 370 72.5
Omar Moreno 487 72.8
Bobby Bonds 461 73.2
Juan Samuel 396 73.5
Maury Wills 586 73.8
Frank Taveras 300 73.9
Dave Collins 395 74.0
Andre Dawson 314 74.2
Willie McGee 352 74.4
Freddie Patek 385 74.6

Taveras was coming off his best season in 1978, amassing 40 extra base hits for the first time in his career. However, the Pirates were leery of his erratic glove. Taveras had made three errors just 11 games into the 1979 season when the trade occurred.
Greg Field, a pitcher, was a fourth round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 1975. In 1978 the Twins shipped Field and Jesse Orosco to the Mets for future 200 game winner Jerry Koosman.
The Data
The following table has Win Share data for Foli and Taveras for their whole careers.

Year Foli Taveras
1970 0
1971 4 0
1972 9 0
1973 6
1974 8 6
1975 9 7
1976 10 16
1977 7 14
1978 7 16
1979 17 12
1980 12 10
1981 5 3
1982 6 1
1983 4
1984 2
1985 1

The Conclusion
This was another strong trade. The Pirates got the best years of Taveras’ career and then got the two best years of Foli’s career in what was essentially an even up trade. Foli’s defense was considerably better than that of Taveras. In terms of career win shares, 72.4 of Foli’s 107 career win shares were defensive. For Taveras it was 38.5 defensive win shares with a career total of 85.
Foli’s 1979 season was by far his best season. He set career highs in batting average, on base percentage, hits, runs scored and RBI. He also collected 14 hits, scored 7 runs and drove in six runs in the post-season. In his most recent Historical Baseball Abstract Bill James rates Taveras as the 115 best shortstop ever and Foli ranks as the 125th best.
Foli was the Pirates regular SS in 1980 and 1981. He was traded to California before 1982 for Brian Harper and played for the Angels in all five 1982 ALCS games. The Angels traded him to the Yankees before 1984 and he became a part time player in the Bronx. Perhaps trying to recapture the spirit of ’79, perhaps being fearful of negative press from Dale Berra’s drug issues or perhaps just being stupid, the Pirates reacquired Foli prior to the 1985 season. The Bucs got a washed up Foli and a washed up Steve Kemp from the Bombers for Berra, pitching prospect Alfonso Pulido and Jay Buhner, who had spent just one year in the Pirate’s farm system. Foli’s career ended in June of 1985 when the Bucs released him. Sammy Khalifa manned short for the balance of the year.
Foli is one of a handful of post WWII players to collect 1,500 or more career hits and have an on base percentage of less than .300. The list has the player, career hits, career OBP and league adjusted OBP.

Player Hits OBP lgOBP
Aurelio Rodriguez 1570 .275 .328
Tim Foli 1515 .283 .333
Alfredo Griffin 1688 .285 .328
Ozzie Guillen 1764 .287 .333
Frank White 2006 .293 .329
Shawon Dunston 1597 .296 .337
Bill Mazeroski 2016 .299 .327
Larry Bowa 2191 .300 .335

Not surprisingly this list contains a lot of guys who were known primarily for the glove work. Rodriguez, a third baseman, was over shadowed in the AL for years by Brooks Robinson. White and Maz were probably the two best defensive second baseman of all-time. Of the players listed, only Foli and Dunston never won a Gold Glove.
Greg Field was traded to Atlanta for Buddy Solomon in March of 1980. Field never made the Majors. Solomon went 17-15 for the Pirates in 1980, 1981 and part of 1982 before being traded to the White Sox for Jim Morrison.
Taveras had a typical year in 1980 – some steals, no power and a .279 BA. He slumped badly in the strike year of 1981, hitting just .230. In the offseason, he was traded to Montreal for Steve Razter who never appeared in the Show with the Mets. Taveras was used sparingly by the Expos, backing up Speier at short and backing Flynn, Mike Gates and Raines at second. Yep, Raines played some second. He was hitting just .161 in 87 ABs when the Expos released him in August. That was it for him.

Posted in Bill Mazeroski, Brian Harper, Buddy Solomon, Dale Berra, Frank Taveras, Jim Morrison, Pirate History, Sam Khalifa, Steve Kemp, Tim Foli. Comments Off on Downfall of the Fam-A-Lee – Part 4

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.