Wednesday, January 11, 2012

6/23/84 St Louis Cardinals 11, Chicago Cubs 12

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Game 2 of 3

We all know this as “The Ryne Sandberg Game,” arguably one of the greatest games in baseball history.
The argument seems to make a difference if you are a Cubs fan as this wonderful baseball experience inexplicably did not make MLB Network’s 20 Greatest Games list last year. Arguments are what Baseball is all about. And Ryne Sandberg is, without blinking, a huge part of what this game is all about!

Let’s not forget, however…that if it weren’t for Sandberg (with a great deal of help from Bob Dernier), this could have been remembered as “The Willie McGee Game.”
McGee hits for the cycle, closing the deal with an RBI double in the top of the 10th inning, and runs away with the “Player of the Game” award…until it slips from his fingers on a 2 out 2-run HR by Sandberg in the bottom of the 10th (Sandberg’s second HR of the day in as many consecutive Abs), with the Cardinals one out away from an extra-innings victory.

The infamous deal that sent Sandberg, a 1978 20th round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies, to the Cubs in a 1982 pre-season 3-player deal for which the key elements were 12-year Phillies MLB veteran Larry Bowa and 5-year MLB Cubs shortstop Ivan deJesus has been nearly gesticulated by scores of professional and amateur baseball types for decades. Was it a runaway deal that sorta ‘made up’ for the bad Cubs karma of the Lou Brock/Ernie Broglio trade 2 decades previous? That can’t be proven, per se, in statistical terms, but in a theological sense, you could subscribe to the belief that if it didn’t clear the slate for the Cubs, it may have served as a ‘vindication’ of sorts in respect to evening the “ah ha” tables between the Cubs and the Cardinals. Subscription to this belief would certainly make itself apparent if one were to believe that this game against the Cardinals, 2-1/2 years after the deal was done, was the real Epiphany of the event.

You can also close the loop on the theological support of this belief by reminding yourself that the Cubs did not advance to the World Series; as a Cubs apologist you will almost certainly hear this more than once in your lifetime.

That point being taken from our Cardinal fan friends (I expect it in advance, hmm), we can have some solace in a couple of discrete observations: First, that the Phillies were probably the real losers in this deal; Second, that several of the players involved in these deals flourished as Cubs and Cubs alone, which is kind of an Epiphany of a different kind in its own light.

Everyone except for Larry Bowa, that is.

In his first 2 seasons with the Cubs, Sandberg’s triple slash was .266/.314/.361 with an OPS of .675; his performance in the minors was certainly promising on paper (OPS .872 in 1980 and .749 in 1981) certainly didn’t amount to him being something less than trade bait as deJesus, who by comparison, was .261/.330/.336 with a .667 OPS in Chicago from 1977-1981. Don’t forget that Sandberg was ‘thrown in’ along with Larry Bowa, seemingly the guy the Cubs really wanted. Bowa, however, had amassed a record of .264/.301/.324 with an OPS of .624 in 12 seasons with the Phillies. In terms of OBP and OPS, the darn Cubs gave deJesus away!! Ivan was an 8-year MLB veteran at the time, if you assume that league-average players hit their ceiling at age 28 (which I’m really not, I’m just making a point with this assumption) then how in the heck did they expect a better return from 35-year-old Larry Bowa? Maybe they didn’t…I’ll have to do some more research, and perhaps someone reading this knows the truth, but if I were a Phillies fan and/or a baseball industry guy at the time of this deal, I would speculate that the Cubs had something more than a “gut instinct” on Sandberg’s future and worked the deal just so they could pick him up. I just can’t believe that anyone in the Cubs organization would have expected anything more than Bowa could deliver at that age and with regression as a factor.

On the day of this game, Sandberg was 2-1/2 months into his “breakout season” with the Cubs…Since April 3rd, he was cruising along with a hefty .321/.371/.531 and was a true .902 OPS beast. Chicago’s eyes were already wide open; he finished the 1984 season with a National League MVP title, .314/.367/.520 with a .887 OPS, and never looked back to his 82 or 83 performances…he never finished a season with an OPS of .675 ever again in his career, his lowest season was .702 in 1994 and was only higher than .887 once (in 1990 = .913). His Postseason numbers are also astonishing, another important aspect of his ride to the Hall of Fame:
1984 (5 games): .368/.455/.474 OPS .928
1989 (5 games): .400/.458/.800 OPS 1.258
Albert Pujols’ career Postseason OPS is 1.046, breaking over 1.258 only three times in 7 postseason years; in the 2004 NLCS against Houston, the 2005 NLDS against San Diego, and the 2011 NLCS against Milwaukee.

Sandberg, without a question, flourished as a Cub…he spent all but 10 games of his Major League career there, so it’s easy to see that and accept it.

Ivan deJesus flourished as a Cub (in terms of OPS):
77-81 CHC: OPS .667
82-84 PHI: OPS .637
82-85 PHI and STL combined: OPS .634
Don’t even count his three partial seasons in LAD (prior to being a Cub) and his 3 scantily played seasons (no more than 9 games each year) in New York (AL), San Francisco, or Detroit.

As I mentioned earlier, Bowa was pffft as a Cub, so he is an exception.

So how about Bob Dernier, who if not for Ryne Sandberg and Willie McGee may have been remembered for this game? Dernier also came to the Cubs from the Phillies in 1982 (along with Gary Matthews) in a 5-player deal just before the start of the 1984 season.In 2 seasons with the Phils, Dernier had amassed a record of .242/.305/.308 with an OPS of .613; he was on fire with the Cubs in this game, 3-for-5 with a BB, 2 RBI, 4 runs scored, and even a successful stolen base in the first inning. He racked up an OPS of .718 in the 1984 season and a whopping .876 in the 1987 season; he was another steal for the Cubs…courtesy of the Phillies. Natrually, they took him back in 1988!

However…Bob Dernier, also, flourished as a Cub (in terms of OPS):
82-83 PHI: OPS .613
84-87 CHC: OPS .684
88-89 PHI: OPS .546

NOTE: he had played 107 games without an error before his centerfield bobble in the 5th inning that allowed David Green to reach base.

Today’s pitching matchup looked mighty tasty…Steve “Rainbow” Trout boasted a formidable sub-3 ERA and 7 wins in 13 games started…with 2 complete gamesNot today! Trout leaves in the second inning with 7 earned runs and the Cubs wayyyy behind the 8-ball.

Ralph Citarella makes his first start of the season for the Cardinals; after an impressive 9-0 win-loss record and 3.30 ERA in AAA Louisville he got the call to represent STL in the bigs.He really was cruising through a near-gem of sorts until he gave up 2 runs in the 5th and got into some trouble to start the 6th. Whitey Herzog has seen enough and the “Citarella Story” is over, with 1990 CMC set member Neil Allen relieving him.

More on Allen later, and hey, don’t slam me for the lame “Citarella Story” joke, that came from one of the yokels at NBC Sports!!

For long-time Cubs fans, I felt morally obligated to include this shot of the old Torco sign, with Ron Cey monitoring 3rd base in the foreground…

Neil Allen gives up 3 ER in 1.1 innings of work, maybe Herzog was questioning his replacing Citarella 5 batters ago at the end of the 6th inning or maybe he wasn’t…that 6-run Cardinals lead was disappearing fast! Allen faces 3 batters to begin the bottom of the 7th inning; with 2 outs he walks Jody Davis and Herzog takes the ball away and gives it to the most feared relief pitcher in the National League…Bruce Sutter.

Sutter retires pinch-hitter Ron Hassey on a fielder’s choice groundout to end the inning, and swims effortlessly through the 8th, retiring the side on 3 groundouts. The score is still on the side of the Cardinals, 9-8 at the end of the 8th.

Now, here’s something that drives me nuts sometimes…I call it the “game-changing key statistic.” When you are watching a game on TV (or listening to the radio) and the game announcers flash a number that certainly attempts to relay what you can almost always count on happening and the exact opposite happens…that’s a “game-changing key statistic.” It’s like a billboard for Murphy’s Law of Baseball (or any other sport, for that matter). Here’s what I mean: During the 8th, we are told that Bruce Sutter has earned 16 Saves in his last 18 Save situations. We are also told that he’s finished 26 of the last 27 games he’s appeared in:…a few batters later, the revelation of these stats eventually result in 16 of 19 and 26 of 28, respectively. You can chalk that up to statistical inevitability (“he was due”), or you can blame the reveal of the “game-changing key statistic.” Whatever the case, Sutter gives up Sandberg’s first HR of the day to lead off the 9th to tie the game. Willie McGee hits for the cycle in the top of the 10th, driving in Ozzie Smith, and was brought in on a Steve Braun grounder to bring the Cardinals back in the lead. Sutter stays in to start the 10th and gives up 2 more runs after he walks Dernier with 2 outs and Sandberg launches his second HR of the day. Sutter has only given up 2 HR to one batter in a single game, today was the day it happened.

Sandberg cruises to the dugout with the game tied and the look of sheer joy tattooed on his face…but the game is still locked at 11 apiece as we enter the 11th.

Feared Cubs closer Lee Smith, by the way, is responsible for the 2 St Louis runs in the 10th, but stays in to retire the Cardinals scoreless in the 11th, stranding Andy Van Slyke. The Cubs get a break when Leon Durham reaches to lead off the 11th on a walk issued by Dave Rucker. Rucker is out, Jeff Lahti is in, and Durham steals 2nd on a 1-0 pitch to Keith Moreland. Durham sways over to 3rd on a throwing error by Darrell Porter on Durham’s steal attempt, and with a runner in scoring position and Moreland facing a 1-1 count, Moreland is intentionally walked. Jody Davis is intentionally walked as well, to load the bags for….aieeeeeeee!!!…Dave Owen. Owen is .309/.393/.348 with an OPS of .741 for the 1984 season so far (12 games, 28 plate appearances) but as you can see…”hitless in 5 at bats with runners in scoring position…”

Another “game-changing key statistic”? You betcha. 3 pitches to Owen and he sends a dribbler past Mike Jorgenson for the game-winning RBI.

The game was broadcast on NBC Sports to a nationwide day-time audience and was called by Bob Costas & Tony Kubek…doesn’t Bob look charming?

One of two interesting points: I’m not sure exactly when the mainstream media started embracing stats other than RBI, AVG, etc. but here you can see NBC posting Slugging Percentage numbers for Ryno (he wasn’t called “Ryno” back then, he was called “Kid Natural”…I’m glad that didn’t stick) and you can hear Costas discussing these figures lightly.The other interesting point: There’s a great exchange between Costas and Kubek on the topic of player comparisons…most of us do our best to shy away from comps, but since we try to eat our cake and have it too, we still fall into that trap. Costas tries to bring Kubek away from the “comparison trap,” but seems to be unsuccessful…David Green is in the box to lead off the 5th inning:
Tony Kubek: David green, some say (he) may have been the key man when they got him over from the Milwaukee Brewers. He doesn’t really have a home run swing, he’s very strong but he doesn’t get a lot of loft but he drives the ball well to right and left center field; outstanding running speed, Nicaraguan born…because of the time when Hall of Famer, the late Roberto Clemente, and that mercy mission when he went down in the plane with all those supplies for the hungry Nicaraguans, some have made the comparison, because of the throwing arm and the style of Green to Roberto Clemente.

BC: In baseball, I guess there’s a tendency, even for the most knowledgeable people, to make comparisons based on style and appearance, and maybe on potential…but usually it doesn’t pan out that way. They called Kirk Gibson in Detroit “the next Mickey Mantle” and while Gibson’s a good player, it looks like he’ll never quite measure up to that caliber of play…and David Green will have to go some before he deserves to fairly be compared with Roberto Clemente…

TK: But isn’t that one of the charming things, (one of the) aspects of this game, where a hitter gets up to the plate and you look at the feet, the way the bat’s cocked, the stance, the way a guy swings or throws, or fields a ground ball, and the inevitable comparisons…in so many other sports you can’t do that.

BC: Mmm Hmm

TK: The constant action of basketball, or hockey or 22 guys in a relative bunch, in football in the middle of the field…you are exposed in this game, and it’s like golf. It is a very humbling sport…

BC: Yeah, this is definitely the game that calls forth the individual. Everybody has their moment in the spotlight.

TK: (You) can’t get too high and (you) can’t get too low over 162 can you?
If your sense of humor is close to mine, you also laughed so hard beer shot through your nose at the thought of comparing David Green to Roberto Clemente, for starters, just because Green was born in Nicaragua and Clemente was on his way there when his plane crashed…

Needless to say, right after this exchange Green hits a ground ball screamer thru short and into shallow CF, Green rounds 1B so hard he forces Dernier to look in his direction, providing Dernier an opportunity to miss picking up the ball. Green gets to 2B on Dernier’s error (the first in 107 games that I mentioned earlier) and as if to make his point of comparison to Costas, Kubek cites another Clemente comp in Green’s aggressive baserunning.

As I did in my post of this classic game, I want to extremely recommend the most fantastic blog The Greatest 21 Days, which focuses on the ‘members’ of the 1990 CMC baseball card set. This game, even though taking place 5-1/2 years prior to the minting of the 1990 CMC set, still features a couple of set members! These two are, to be nice and polite about it, “sunset members,” finding both of their professional baseball careers over in 1990. If they have been featured on The Greatest 21 Days, you have links to those stories as well so you can read Steve78’s awesome work for yourself!

148 Neil Allen – not featured yet, but mentioned in this post. Neil was with the Mets from 1979 until 1983 when he was part of the Keith Hernandez trade, along with Rick Ownbey, to the Cardinals. Neil went to the AL in 1985 with the Yankees, then to the White Sox in 1986, then back to the Yankees in 1987. His last MLB season in 1989 consisted of 3 games for Cleveland; his last season in the minors consisted of 12 games for the Cincinnati affiliated Nashville Sounds in 1990.

231 Dickie Noles - not featured yet. Amazing, another trade Phillies transaction in late 1981 sent Dickie Noles, our beloved Cub Keith Moreland, and Dan Larson to the Cubs in exchange for Mike Krukow and cash. Noles was traded to the Texas Rangers a few weeks after this game for PTBNL minor leaguers Tim Henry and Jorge Gomez. His appearance in the 1990 CMC set was a function of his swan song in the majors, his last MLB season in 1990 consisted of 1 game for the Phillies in 1990. Not only did the Phils take him back, but the Cubs did too, for 41 games in 1987. 1990 was also his last season in the minors.

Box Score and Play-by-play on Retrosheet

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