On August 6th, 1993 and 1999

August 6, 2009
Does not compute.

On August 6, 1993 and 1999:

Tony Gwynn had good days.

It’s been fun watching the Braves-Padres games over the past few days as Joe Simpson and Boog Sciambi continually asked themselves what Tony Gwynn says when his son comes up/gets a hit/gets an out/makes a play in the field and if he remains impartial or not. They’re not being critical, merely curious. It seems as though it would be fairly easy for media guys to get tapes from the broadcasts to fast forward to the right points in the game to find out exactly what he says. From the fact that they kept talking about it, I’m guessing they never did.

Anyway, Tony Gwynn, Sr. was a pretty good player. He had a .338/.388/.459 line for his career, good enough for a 132 OPS+ as a center fielder/right fielder. For his career, he had 3,141 hits, which seems a bit too small considering how well he hit and how little he walked, and he was widely considered one of the best hitters in the game. Some people swear he would have hit .400 in 1994 without the strike, and he had several other years with averages over .350. What always surprises me about him though is that he stole so many bases early in his career. I just have a much different image of him. Shows you what not being fully conscious until 1995 does to you.

Anyway, August 6th seems to have been one heckuva day for Gwynn. On August 6th, 1993, he had a really nice day, hitting well in two games. In the first, he went 3-for-3 with a couple intentional walks, and in the second, he went 2-for-5. Along the way, he picked up his 2,000th hit. Six years later, he went 4-for-5, and somewhere in there, he got his 3,000th hit.

Trivia Time
What is the younger Gwynn’s career batting average?

Yesterday’s Answer –> Delmon Young

This Day in Baseball History: August 5th, 1901

August 5, 2009
Burt Hart, on Urban Dictionary, means paranoid failure. Not sure if this has anything to do with it.

On August 5, 1901:

Burt Hart punches umpire John Haskell.

Burt Hart and John Haskell share something in common — 1901 was their only season in the major leagues. I’m not sure why Haskell didn’t umpire anymore after 1901, but MLB.com says that 1901 was his only season. However, we do know why Hart didn’t last.

In his only season in Baltimore, Hart only played 58 games. He was a pretty good hitter with a .311/.383/.374, but he doesn’t appear to have been a particularly good fielder. As for a minor-league career, he only spent 48 games in Wheeling, but he mashed there with a .364 batting average and 15 doubles. And honestly, at age 31, he probably wasn’t going to play for too long in the major leagues anyway, but his uncontrolled rage would lead to a quicker ouster from baseball.

During a game on August 5th, 1901, Hart nailed a ball into the gap and raced around the bases to third, but when he got there, he was tagged out. Well, at least the umpire John Haskell believed he was out. Believing the opposite, Hart lost control and punched the umpire before he could be restrained. He would later be banned for life from the game.

Trivia Time
What current major leaguer was suspended indefinitely in 2006 for throwing his bat at the home plate umpire?

Yesterday’s Answer –> Donated 2 paintings to the Easter Seals that raised over $60,000.

Remembering the Hamilton-Volquez Trade

August 4, 2009
I still wish he’d bend the bill. It just looks weird.

I’m going to steal a little from Lar’s style for this post, and I hope he doesn’t mind too much. This is a kind of a deadline deal post that isn’t about a deadline deal, but it’s one of the more important deals made in the past few years, or was it?

A few days shy of Christmas in 2007, the Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds opened respective early gifts. The Reds needed an arm for the starting rotation, and Edinson Volquez was the answer. The Rangers needed an impact bat, and Josh Hamilton was the guy. Oh yeah, the Reds also got a smaller (figuratively and literally) gift in Danny Ray Herrera (you can see all the way at the bottom in the almost footnote like “The 23-year-old Herrera spent most of last season at Double-A, going 5-2 with a 3.78 ERA in 34 relief appearances”).

Over the course of the 2008 season, both Hamilton and Volquez were All-Stars (literally and figuratively). Hamilton played in 156 games with a slash line of .304/.371/.530 with 32 HR, 98 R, and 132 RBI, but he did cost the Rangers 13 runs while he meandered around center field. Luckily for Hamilton, most people only count offense, and even counting his defense, he was still worth exactly 4 WAR last season. Not bad, and that doesn’t even include all the new fans he made with that awesome Home Run Derby performance.

Volquez wasn’t too shabby, either. He made 32 starts and hurled 196 innings (almost 6.1 innings per start). In addition, Volquez netted a nifty 17-6 record with a 3.21 ERA (3.60 FIP). The positives were almost overwhelming – 206 strikeouts, 167 hits, and only 14 home runs while pitching at Great American Ballpark -, but his 93 walks were just a bit worrisome. Still, he, similar to Hamilton, garnered a healthy 4.1 WAR over the course of the 2008 season, and Volquez seemed headed to forefront of talks about the best young pitchers in the game.

All of this (especially the similar WAR values) led to such headlines such as: Josh Hamilton and Edinson Volquez: What a Great Trade and Hamilton, Volquez Create Perfect Trade. There were several of these posts that talked about what a great trade and how even the trade ended up being. Even Josh Hamilton stated, “Just tell everyone it’s a draw. Both teams are winners in the trade.” Wayne Krivsky, particularly proud of himself, tried to remember “one [trade] in recent times where it paid off so quickly for each team.” You can’t fault them for the analysis. As of 2008, it really was an even trade.

Of course, then this season happened. Josh Hamilton has made a couple trips to the disabled list, but even when he’s played, it hasn’t been particularly good. In 58 games, he has a slash line of .226/.277/.377, but his defense has been positive (+6.3 runs). All told, he’s worth 0.5 WAR. Volquez, on the other side, hasn’t been any better. He just had to undergo Tommy John surgery, and he made 2 other trips to the DL. He’s made 9 starts with 49 innings (a little over 5 innings a start) and has a 4.35 ERA. All told, he’s worth 0.2 WAR.

So, I guess it has remained an even trade, but the optimism has certainly waned considerably. Hamilton’s injury problems have reappeared, and Volquez is out at least another season with 2011 probably the soonest he could be back to Cy Young-type form.

But the point isn’t even to analyze the trade now. I’m not sure why this is, but we have this penchant for trying to analyze everything. The problem is that we have no context to go on, and there’s no way to prognosticate the results. So why do we try? Why can’t we wait for the next 4 years or so to see what the real value is? Why must we prepare the words we are going to have to eat later? As for the future of this deal, no one knows. Volquez is out for another season, but with Hamilton’s injury history, no one really knows how much he will play. And then, we have to worry about the 3 or so seasons after that, which no one can even begin to imagine

People have already judged all of this year’s deadline deals, and GMs have been raked over the coals/lauded like they’re the Messiah. How does anyone know? And if we all agree that we have no idea of knowing, why do we spend time typing out analysis that really is worth nothing? Cleveland’s deal may end up working out awesome for them, and Cliff Lee may destroy his elbow two starts from now. It’s the GM’s job to try to forecast. That’s what they’re paid to do, and they’re terrible at it. But they have to because that’s the only way to do their jobs. They have to plan for the future. Writers don’t have to. Why not spend time re-analyzing the trades from 5-6 years ago that we can actually judge? Only through history can we judge, and most of the time, we don’t do a very good job of it then even when we have all of the facts.

Oh yeah, about that footnote. Daniel Ray Herrera has thrown 44 innings with a 2.64 ERA (3.9 7 FIP) and is worth 0.3 WAR. Who thinks that by the time the next 4-6 years is up that he gives at least one of Hamilton-Volquez a run for their money in the WAR or VORP race, especially when he starts getting more high-leverage situations?

Just stop. I know it’s hard. It’s like smoking cigarrettes. It’s bad for you, you’ve been doing it for so long that you don’t know how you’ll do without it, and everyone else is still doing it, but you’ve seen the evidence that it’s bad and you know everything will be better if you just stop. So just stop.

Another fun deadline post about why we like the deadline so much, and it was written by two people (Joe Posnanski and Bill James) much smarter than I am.

Hall of Fame: Joe Cronin (1956)

August 4, 2009
His number 4 has been retired by the Red Sox.

Year Team    G    AB    R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI   BB   SO HBP  SH GDP   SB  CS   AVG   OBP   SLG
1926 PIT N 38 83 9 22 2 2 0 11 6 15 0 3 0 0 .265 .315 .337
1927 PIT N 12 22 2 5 1 0 0 3 2 3 0 0 0 0 .227 .292 .273
1928 WAS A 63 227 23 55 10 4 0 25 22 27 0 10 4 0 .242 .309 .322
1929 WAS A 145 494 72 139 29 8 8 61 85 37 1 21 5 9 .281 .388 .421
1930 WAS A 154 587 127 203 41 9 13 126 72 36 5 22 17 10 .346 .422 .513
1931 WAS A 156 611 103 187 44 13 12 126 81 52 4 4 10 9 .306 .391 .480
1932 WAS A 143 557 95 177 43 18 6 116 66 45 3 3 7 5 .318 .393 .492
1933 WAS A 152 602 89 186 45 11 5 118 87 49 2 5 5 4 .309 .398 .445
1934 WAS A 127 504 68 143 30 9 7 101 53 28 1 9 8 0 .284 .353 .421
1935 BOS A 144 556 70 164 37 14 9 95 63 40 3 8 3 3 .295 .370 .460
1936 BOS A 81 295 36 83 22 4 2 43 32 21 1 6 1 3 .281 .354 .403
1937 BOS A 148 570 102 175 40 4 18 110 84 73 6 11 5 3 .307 .402 .486
1938 BOS A 143 530 98 172 51 5 17 94 91 60 5 11 7 5 .325 .428 .536
1939 BOS A 143 520 97 160 33 3 19 107 87 48 0 20 18 6 6 .308 .407 .492
1940 BOS A 149 548 104 156 35 6 24 111 83 65 1 13 6 7 5 .285 .380 .502
1941 BOS A 143 518 98 161 38 8 16 95 82 55 1 14 20 1 4 .311 .406 .508
1942 BOS A 45 79 7 24 3 0 4 24 15 21 0 1 3 0 1 .304 .415 .494
1943 BOS A 59 77 8 24 4 0 5 29 11 4 0 0 3 0 0 .312 .398 .558
1944 BOS A 76 191 24 46 7 0 5 28 34 19 1 5 7 1 4 .241 .358 .356
1945 BOS A 3 8 1 3 0 0 0 1 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 .375 .545 .375
20 Years) 2124 7579 1233 2285 515 118 170 1424 1059 700 34 166 57i 87 71 .301 .390 .468

7 All-Star Games (1933-1935, 1937-1939, 1941)

Joseph Edward Cronin was born on October 12, 1906 in San Francisco, California. He was signed before the 1925 season by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he wasn’t a particularly impressive shortstop prospect. In his brief time with the Pirates in 1926 and 1927, he didn’t play all that much or well when he did play, but he did enough to catch the eye of Joe Engel, a scout for the Washington Senators. Engel bought Cronin away from the Pirates for $7,500 and brought him to Washington. Owner Clark Griffith wasn’t amused and threatened to fire Engel.

Cronin’s 1928 season wasn’t really an indication that his career was going to turn around, but when he received a full season’s worth of at-bats in 1929, he took full advantage. Cronin really broke out a season later with career-highs in RBI (126) and batting average (.346), and he won the Sporting News Player of the Year Award (sadly, the recognized MVP’s of today weren’t started until 1931 — more on that in November). He continued to hit over the next few seasons, gaining the favor of fans and Griffith. Griffith introduced Cronin to his niece, and the two were soon married in 1934. In 1933, he had become the player-manager of the Senators and led them to a World Series, but his career and life in Washington weren’t to be.

Griffith sold his star player and nephew-in-law (is there such a term?) to the Boston Red Sox after the 1934 season, but he ensured that Cronin received a 5-year/$250,000 contract when he did. His Boston career began a bit inauspiciously, but the years from 1938-1941 were some of Cronin’s best. The career shortstop would continue to lead the Red Sox as player-manager in his time there, but in 1942, he began taking over as primarily the manager. A youngster by the name of Johnny Pesky was making a name for himself, and Cronin took himself out of the lineup. Cronin played until 1945, and though Pesky went off to World War II, Cronin’s last 4 seasons were still spent primarily as a pinch-hitter.

Cronin went on to become GM of the Red Sox in 1947, where he somewhat infamously never brought up an African-American player to play for his team, and he became the American League President in 1959 (the year Pumpsie Green made his debut). Three years before that, the BBWAA saw fit to elect Cronin to the Hall of Fame with 152 of 196 votes (78.8%).

This Day in Baseball History: August 4th, 1983

August 4, 2009
Had a pretty good season with them, too.

On August 4, 1983:

Dave Winfield kills the Blue Jays … and a seagull.

On August 4, the New York Yankees made a trip to play the Toronto Blue Jays. The two teams were playing well but still in third (Blue Jays) and fourth (Yankees), and by the end of the season, the two teams would be still be battling for third and fourth with the Yankees winning out. It was also an interesting match-up from a managing perspective as Billy Martin and Bobby Cox squared off. From a pitching perspective, Doug Stieb and Shane Rawley went at it with both throwing complete games, but it was the Yankees, behind Dave Winfield‘s 2 hits and 2 RBI’s, who won the game 3-1.

But the fans weren’t exactly preoccupied with the game. They were after Dave Winfield, but it wasn’t because he was a key player in the game. Before the fifth inning as is customary, Winfield was simply making his warm-up tosses, and when the catcher threw down to second, he had to throw it in. He yelled at the bat boy to pay attention, and with his attention, Winfield hurled the ball in. Unfortunately, it nailed a seagull, cracking its skull, and killed it. The fans were upset, and they began launching their own missiles at Winfield and booed him. After the game, the Ontario Police arrested him and charged him with cruelty to animals. Winfield paid a $500 fine and went on his way.

There’s some debate as to whether Winfield did it on purpose. On one hand, Billy Martin quipped that Winfield couldn’t make that accurate of a throw if he tried, but on the other, he threw it toward a stationary bird. I imagine he threw it at the bird in the way that a kid throws a rock at an animal. You don’t really mean to hit it (and definitely not kill it), but you’d think it was funny if it did hit the bird. Out of pure luck, Winfield actually hit the bird and in the wrong spot. For years, Toronto fans flapped their arms and booed him. Funny enough, Winfield played in Toronto in 1992 and became a fan favorite.

Trivia Time
What did Winfield due during the 1983 off-season to make amends?

Yesterday’s Answer –> Yogi Berra and Mickey Cochrane

This Day in Baseball History: August 3rd, 1967

August 3, 2009
Often forgotten star of the game.

On August 3, 1973:

Elston Howard is traded to the Boston Red Sox.

Count Elston Howard as one of those players who has played for both the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1929, Howard was a fantastic athlete (you know, I want to meet the professional baseball player who wasn’t a great athlete), and several Big Ten schools offered him scholarships. Howard, however, decided to play in the Negro Leagues with Ernie Banks and the Kansas City Monarchs in 1948. Two years later, the Yankees signed Howard, but Howard’s career would be detoured to Korea when he was drafted into the Army.

Howard got a late start to his career as he didn’t play in the majors until he was 26. When he did make his debut in 1955, he became the first African-American Yankee, but the new Yankee catcher had another obstacle to his playing time — Yogi Berra. From 1950-1957, Berra never finished below 4th in the MVP voting, and Howard wasn’t going to displace him immediately. So he spent most of his early career in the outfield. In 1960, the two switched places and shared time at catcher, but by the following season, Howard would become the primary catcher.

In reality, Howard was only 4 years younger than Berra, but the past few seasons had saved his legs to take over for Berra. 1961 was actually Howard’s best season (OPS+ of 153 — a career high), but after a fantastic 1963, Howard won his only MVP Award. But those weren’t his only good seasons. From 1957 to 1963, he made every All-Star team except the first 1959 game (remember, there were 2 All-Star games from 1959-1962). But Howard was also good with the glove and won 2 Gold Glove Awards as a catcher in 1963 and 1964.

Despite that early success, Howard was pretty much done by 1965, and in 1967, the Yankees traded him to the Boston Red Sox. He didn’t hit well down the stretch, but the Red Sox insisted that his defense and pitch-calling were worth it. Howard’s last memorable moment was his 1967 Game 5 of the World Series hit that put the Red Sox over the Cardinals. Unfortunately for him, the Cardinals and former teammate Roger Maris won the World Series in 7 games.

Trivia Time
Name the only 2 AL catchers with a higher SLG than Howard’s career .427.

Friday’s Answer –> August 12, 1987 (only slightly a trick question).

Weekend Reading

July 31, 2009
Because we should all have some more Ziggy in our lives.

I’m sure most people try to get out and do something on the weekends, but I know that weather/apathy/lethargy sometimes sets in and changes plans. If that happens to you, here’s some good stuff to read over the weekend.

– I didn’t realize this until the other day, but Cardboard Gods is back up. After (I guess) finishing his book, Josh Wilker has started writing on the site again. I’ll probably spend a while this weekend reading through the 8 or so posts I’ve missed.

– I went looking around for some history on the Trade Deadline. I wanted to know when it started and why, but I really couldn’t find anything. I suppose most of it has to do with the glut of stuff going up at this point in the year anyway on the subject. I thought about doing some stuff on past deals, but luckily, Lar did all the work over at Wezen-Ball. He’s got an awesome series of posts up this week covering several major deals and how they were viewed at the time. Short version, some things never change.

– If you want something a bit less baseball, I’d recommend reading Drown and/or The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, both by Junot Diaz. They are not sequels, but you do meet two of the characters in Oscar Wao that were originally in Drown. Both books center on the issue of immigration and the questions of assimilating into a new country, but I like Drown more than Oscar Wao. Diaz has a real knack for language, and they’re both worth checking out and neither take very long to read.

This Day in Baseball History: July 31st, 2003

July 31, 2009
Not a good start with his new ball club, but the ERA (7.04) is a bit misleading (5.60 K/BB, 8.12 K/9, 3.61 FIP, 20.2 LD%).

On July 31, 2003:

John Smoltz becomes the fastest to 40 saves in a season.

From 1992 to 1999, John Smoltz was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. Smoltz peaked from 1995 to 1999 with ERA+’s all above 134, and he won his only Cy Young award in 1996. Before the 2000 season got underway, he had to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow, and he lost all of that season. When he came back in 2001, he was ineffective in 5 starts, posting a 5.76 ERA, and for the stretch run, he became the Atlanta Braves’ closer. Smoltz dominated in that role with a 1.59 ERA and 10 saves in 11 chances.

Smoltz returned to that role in 2002 and became the fastest to 40 saves on August 8th. Smoltz did it in Atlanta’s 114th game, beating Lee Smith’s record of 117 set in 1993. He would go on to set the NL record for most saves in a season with 55, and he finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting. However, Smoltz was only more dominating in 2003. He set the record for the fastest to 40 saves on July 31st (108 games), but an injury forced him to miss most of September, limiting his chances to break the single-season record. During that 2003 season, his K/BB ratio was an astounding 9.13 and his ERA was 1.12 as he seemed to thrive in his new role. The following season, he went backwards a bit, and he wasn’t happy as the closer as his arm began feeling better. He wanted to start, and he returned to the starting role in 2005.

Francisco Rodriguez bested John Smoltz’s record last season on July 20th (98 games) on his way to smashing the single-season record for saves. The closer’s role has recently come under scrutiny, and the save is the biggest reason why. Managers choose to keep their supposed best pitcher for the ninth inning and a 3-run lead instead of bringing him in during the seventh with a 1-run lead and men on base. I believe that it does take “something more” to pitch in the ninth inning with the game on the line, but I also agree that any reliever should be able to nail down a 3-run lead with 3 outs to go. If I was a manager, I would keep a different leaderboard with other stats. The closer would now be called the relief ace, but I would grant that title to multiple relievers if they deserved it.

– Save: Come in with men on base and possible game-winning or tying runs in scoring position and don’t let them score while ending the inning.
– Hold: Come in and allow zero runs in a full inning of work.
– Tough Hold: Same thing but with a one-run lead.
– Close: Finish the game with a one-run lead or the tying and/or winning run in scoring position.

Obviously, these overlap, but I, at least, think the names are more appropriate. Additionally, I think they are worth getting. But in the end, it’s probably best to just leave it to K/BB, GB/FB, and OPS vs. LHB and RHB and screw the counting stats. But counting stats are easier for players to understand.

Trivia Time
On what day was John Smoltz traded to the Braves?

Yesterday’s Answer –> Curt Schilling with 319 in 1997 with Philadelphia and 316 in 2002 with Arizona.

Rounding the Bases

July 30, 2009
Only part of this post was devoted to the above.

A few comments about things as the Trade Deadline gets here.

– Lots of trades on the penultimate day before the deadline. Are there usually this many trades on July 30th? If not, why this season? And for everyone saying that no one will take on salary, a lot of teams (even the Reds) are or are trying to do so. If that is, is the improving economic situation a factor, or have we all overestimated the impact of the recession on baseball? If so, will players start getting higher salaries next off-season?

– Lots of talk about the Cliff Lee deal yesterday, and a lot of criticism heading Cleveland’s way. Now, I understand the “not getting enough back” criticism, and that part is fine. But I don’t understand why everyone thinks the Indians would have competed next season. Even if Jake Westbrook is healthy, could you really count on him and Fausto Carmona to be the 2 and 3 guys in that rotation for next season? There are no other legitimate starting options (Carl Pavano, Jeremy Sowers, et al. are not very good) there. And for a team seemingly strapped for cash, they won’t be able to go out and nab a top-notch starting pitcher to complement Lee. So, do you really think Cleveland was going to compete next season anyway? Instead, the Indians gave themselves two arms (one that will go in the rotation next season and one that is a bit away) and a decent middle infielder and catcher that can be used as trade fodder for another starting pitcher in the off-season, and with a young nucleus behind Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Matt LaPorta, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Carlos Santana (who will all be there for another 4-6 years), the Indians are trying to bulk up the number of pitching prospects, hoping they will team with Alex White to be a decent rotation in 2-3 years. Again, maybe they didn’t get enough back, but I don’t think they were going to compete next year anyway.

– Lots of shock at the Freddy Sanchez-Tim Alderson deal yesterday. Color me one of the people surprised that Nick Sabean gave up such a good young pitcher, but Keith Law makes a good point about Alderson’s step (or steps) back this season. So, maybe it was a fair deal for Sanchez, who is underrated and is worth about 3.5-4 wins a season. But the point being left out in this is did Sabean have to give up Alderson. I doubt he did, and I bet Neil Huntington felt pretty good about his coup yesterday. He probably thought he’d get a couple decent prospects back. As for Alderson, I imagine that his body hasn’t responded well to the 145 IP that occurred last season. If he bounces back, that trade could be huge for the Pirates. All of this said, the Giants traded from a position of strength at the deadline and still have pitching to burn.

– Lots of talk about Roy Halladay, but no deal appears imminent. Still a day to go and there might be some posturing going on, but I’m impressed with JP Ricciardi. He said he would have to be wowed, and when he wasn’t, he didn’t just take the best deal on the table because it was there. It’s not a hard thing to do, especially after all the talk recently, but when he didn’t get what he wanted, he stepped back. With the pitching coming back to Toronto next season, this is the anti-Cleveland Indians. Adding one more good starting pitcher to team up with Halladay, Ricky Romero, and others could make the Blue Jays into contenders. Of course, I retain the right to change my opinion if Ricciardi reverses course on this and acts like every other GM.

– I still think a Lyle Overbay for Casey Kotchman trade should be in order, but if the Blue Jays keep Halladay, that becomes awfully unlikely. The two players are very similar, but Overbay is a bit better with the stick while Kotchman is a bit better (though Overbay is better with the stick than Kotchman is with the glove) with the leather. However, the Braves would take on the additional salary, and the Blue Jays receive an extra year from Kotchman that they wouldn’t have received from Overbay. When Overbay leaves, Freddie Freeman should be able to step in. Am I missing something here?

– Anyone else think tomorrow should still be fun? There’s this feeling inside me thinking that the Rays and Red Sox will try to do outdo each other. Both have a lot of prospects, and I imagine that 2 of Halladay, Victor Martinez, and Adrian Gonzalez end up in the AL East by 5 PM tomorrow.

Joe Torre the Player

July 30, 2009
I remember back in the late 1990’s when I told my dad that Joe Torre (the symbol of the Yankees to me) was the scum of the earth, and I also remember my horror (at the time) when my dad told me he was both a player and a manager for the Braves.

Ranking fifth (for now) on the all-time managerial wins list, Joe Torre will make it into the Hall of Fame, but lost in his brilliance and success as a manager is what some (but probably isn’t) might call a Hall of Fame playing career.

After a brief call-up in 1960 as a 19-year old catcher, Joe Torre would become more of an everyday player in 1961 on a Milwaukee Braves team that included Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews. His first season was a pretty good one as he went on to come in second in the Rookie of the Year voting (to Billy Williams, who had an awesome rookie season) with a .278/.330/.424 line with 10 home runs and 21 doubles. After a frustrating 1962, he broke out in 1963, and for the next 7 seasons, he would be one of the best catchers in the National League.

Over that time (1963-1970), he made 6 All-Star appearances, won a Gold Glove, and played in 135 game in all but one of those seasons. His OPS+ usually sat in the 120-140 range, which is pretty good for a catcher but he was playing quite a bit at first base as well. In 1966 (the first in Atlanta), Torre had his best season during the stretch hitting .315/.382/.560 with 31 HR, 101 RBI, 20 2B, and only 1 more strikeout than walk (61 to 60). He fell off a bit the next season and even more the following season, and he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 1969 season for Orlando Cepeda, who played fairly well for a couple of seasons but was clearly no longer the force he was in San Francisco at the beginning of the decade.

Joe Torre revived his career in St. Louis, but it was mostly as a first baseman and third baseman. In 1969, he bounced back by playing 144 of the 161 games at first, but he did play over half of his games at catcher in 1970. During both of those seasons, his batting average and power went back up, and he drove in 100 runs in both seasons. Prior to the 1971 season, the Cardinals and Torre decided it would be best if he played third base to clear a spot for young 21-year old Ted Simmons, who went on to do pretty well that season. But Torre did better. Having his best season at the age of 30, Torre hit .363/.421/.555 with 24 HR, 137 RBI, and 230 H. The average and RBI totals were league-bests, but his 24 home runs were no match for Willie Stargell’s 48. Torre was named the MVP for the first and only time.

Torre remained a solid player for the next few seasons, but he never neared his 1971 totals again. He was traded to the Mets after the 1974 season where he served as a player-coach and player-manager before retiringas a player in 1977 to focus on full managing responsibilities.