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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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Letting Go of the Big Z

As of this writing, the deal isn't 100% done but like the rest of us, I found out early this morning that the months-long "Zambrano to the Marlins?" rumor just lost its question mark and it's now certain that Zambrano is headed for the Miami Marlins in exchange for Chris Volstad.

This isn't really an analysis-based post...The Flagrant Fan has broken down this trade very efficiently in this post, which is so far the best and most humble assessment of the pending transaction, starting with Scrabble, confirming my own belief that Volstad's updside outweighs Zambrano's risk, and ending with my similar lament of the absence of Zambrano's killer bat. Pitchers who can hit are sexy; Zambrano is one of the best hitting pitchers I've ever seen.

Beyond this, I think Chris Volstad is a very good pitcher - here are 2 games I've got on record featuring his work:

7/31/2009 CHC 2, FLA 5 - I scored this game from a WGN Radio broadcast, Volstad held his own against Rich Harden (who struck out 11 and walked 3)...Harden left the game after th 5th inning and 2ER, Volstad had the Cubs handcuffed until the 7th when Jake Fox' 2-run HR tied the game at 2. It was Carlos Marmol who blew the game apart and allowed the Marlins to win.

8/27/2010 FLA 7, ATL 1 - This was the 4th game of our BIL Tour 2010 baseball trip, where Tommy Hanson gave away HR as the Turner Field gameday promotion. Volstad wasn't necessarily all that and a bag of chips (it was Hanson's game to lose, and he did) but he did last 8 innings and only gave up 1 run, which is just fine.

As for Carlos Zambrano, I'm not going to lie...I will miss him quite a bit. When he was good, he was magical... obviously, that's the Big Z I will miss the most. When he was bad, he was abysmal...and that's baseball, especially if you're a pitcher. Zambrano was consistent in his greatness and badness, this gave my enjoyment of his games a truly heightened sense of gut-wrenching drama. Carlos Marmol comes close to this, but only for one inning and at the end of a game. Zambrano delivered the drama throughout, whether it was 2 innings or 7, you never knew when he would explode...or not. I will never forget his nonchalant, cap-off-brow-wiping attitude on the mound; you could never tell how he felt about how he was doing, great or horrible. I can't tell you if he will ever be remembered as one of the most intimidating pitchers in baseball but for me, he certainly will be.

In 2009 and 2010, I watched and/or listened to Zambrano pitch in 12 games that I scored. He started 9 of them, won 4 of those games, and lost 3. It’s a small sample size, but so is Carlos Zambrano. Think what you want of him, of course, but set aside his public emotional outbursts for just a moment. He has been and will be one of my favorite pitchers, and also one of my favorite Cubs.

I also saw him start against Louisville native and ex-Cub Todd Wellemeyer and the St Louis Cardinals at Wrigley on August 9, 2008, I didn’t score this game but remember it well as it was the day that I pitched the idea of the BIL Tour to Mark and he bought in. The Cubs took the series, but Zambrano only lasted 4.1 innings, allowing 10 hits and 9 ERs, 4 of those hits were HR. Here’s a picture I took of Big Z at bat during the 3rd inning of that game (sorry about the screen), and another picture of his solo HR trot that followed that plate appearance…
Theriot congratulates Big Z with a pat on the neck…

Now that I’ve written all that, bring back into focus his public meltdown episodes…baseball drama at its finest. Or maybe weirdest. Coincidence reigns, as the day we find out the Zambrano era with the Cubs is probably over is also the same date in 2009 that Milton Bradley became a Cub. His flair for the dramatic wasn’t nearly as much fun as Zambrano’s, you can’t really compare.

I’m sure he’ll be fine with the Marlins, although I wonder what ever happened to his July 2009 sentiments that he would retire at the end of his contract; he pulled this one again after his August 2011 meltdown, but Zambrano just can’t retire. He wants to compete, and maybe he wants to work with Guillen and the Marlins to help bring him to a place that the Cubs couldn’t. You might feel the same way if you worked under guys like Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, and Mike Quade…but maybe you wouldn’t.

At 30 years old, Zambrano is a lot more like many of us are (or were) at the same age, sans being a Venezuelan millionaire starting pitcher. I don’t believe that Zambrano’s temper or temperament was a key contributor to his struggles over the past few years, but rather they are just pieces of a psyche that belongs to a passionate individual who still doesn’t know what his destiny is, but is very much attached to the large amount of money he makes to be in this state of mind, and therefore takes it out on Gatorade machines in the dugout.

Wikipedia: Carlos Zambrano was the only NL pitcher to have won at least 13 games in each year from 2003-2008.

I’m going to miss him, yes…but I have moved on. As a Cubs fan, I’m ready for a change. Zambrano’s probably been ready for a couple of years, but pride kept him from being more proactive about this.

Butch succumbed to “pride” in Pulp Fiction and ended up a winner (any time you can leave a movie script riding on a ‘chopper,’ you are a winner). Hopefully Zambrano can do the same, now that he’s making what is probably going to be the best move in his career to date.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

1986 Topps - My Want List

Please help me find these cards, thanks!!

480 Oodibe McDowell

511 Ed Nunez

678 Dan Gladden

584 Brian Fisher

1990 CMC Set - My Want List

Cards listed by number, from the checklist published at

Preferred cards in BOLD face. For more background and fantastic stories about the players featured in this set, check out the amazing blog The Greatest 21 Days.

01 02 03 04 05 06 07 09 11 12 13 15 16 17 19 20

22 23 24 26 27 28 29 31 32 33 34 35 36 38 39

42 43 44 45 46 48 49 50 52 53 54 55 58 59 60

61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80

81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89

92 Erik Pappas

93 94 95 96

99 Jim Essian

101 102 103 105 106 107 109 110 111 112 114 115 116 117 118 119 120

121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 136

139 Paul Noce

140 141 142 145 146 147 148 149 152 153 155 156 157 158 159

161 163 164

165 Ron Washington

166 167 168 169 170 171

175 Moe Drabowsky

176 177 178 179 181 183 185 192 193 194 195 196 197 199 200

201 202 203 204 205 206 207 208 209 210 211 212 213 214

215 216 217 218 219 220 221 222 223 227 228

229 Jason Grimsley

230 231

232 Wally Ritchie

236 237

238 Jim Adduci

240 Mickey Morandini

241 242 244 245

247 Keith Miller

248 250

251 253 254 255 258 259 262 264 265 267 268

269 Jim Pankovits

270 Rick Lancellotti

271 272 273 274 275 276 277 280 281 282 283 284 286 287 289 290

291 292 294 295 296 297 298 300

301 303 304

306 Curt Schilling

307 311 312 313 314 315 317 318 319

321 322 326 327 328 330

331 332 334 335 336 337 340 342 344 345 346 348 349

350 Mark Whiten


353 Kevin Brown

354 356 357 358 359 360

362 363 364 367 369 370

371 375 376 377 378 379 381 383 384 385 386 388 389 390

391 392 393 394 395 396 398 400 401 402 404 405 406 408

410 Mike Maddux

411 412 413 414 415 416 417 418 419 420 421 422 423 424 425

426 427 428 429

431 432 433 434 435 436 437 438 439 440

443 444 445

446 Casey Close

447 448 449 450 451 452 454 455 456 457 458 460

461 462 464 465 466 467 468 470 471 472 473 474 476 477

483 484 485 487 488

491 495 496 497 499 501 502 503 505 506

507 509 510 511 512 513 514 515 518 519 520

521 522 523 526 527 528 529 530

531 532 533 534 536 537 538 541 543 544

545 547 549 551 552 554 555 556 557 559 560

561 562 563 564 565 566 567 568 569 570

571 572 573 574 575 576 577 578 580

581 583 585 586 587 588 590 591 592 594 595 596 597

601 602 603 604 605

606 Darryl Kile

607 608 609 610 613 614 615 619

621 622 623 624 625 627 628 629

630 631 634 635 636 637 639 640

641 642 643 646 647 648

649 Don Wakamatsu

650 651 652 653 654 655 657 658 659 660

661 662 663 664 667 669 670

671 672 673 674 678

679 Mark Riggins

680 681 683 685 687 689 691 694 695 696 700

702 706 707 708 709 710 711 713 715 716 717 720

722 724 725 727 728 729 730 731 733 734 735 737 738

739 Jeff Bagwell

740 741 742 743 744 745 746 747 748 749 750

751 752 753 754 755 756 757 758 759 760 762 763

765 766 767 768 769 771 772 773 774 775 776 777

778 781 782 783 784 785 786 787 788 789

790 Moises Alou

791 792 794 795 797 798 799 800

801 802 803 804 805 806

807 Chuck Knoblauch

808 809 810 811 812 813 815 816 817 818

821 822 823 824 825 827

828 Tab Brown

829 830 831 832 833 834 835 836 837 838 839 840

841 842 843 844 845 846 848 849 850 852 854 855 856 857

858 859 860 861 862 863 865 866 867 868 869 870

871 872 873 874 875 876 877 878 879 880
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