Sully Baseball Podcast Tigers should emulate the White Sox and remembering 1987 Blue Jays – July 13, 2017

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With the second half of the season looming, the Tigers should look at the White Sox wild rebuilding strategy and say “Hey! WE should do that!”

Plus I remember the Blue Jays team that should have won.

You need to fall before you rise on this episode of Sully Baseball.

While we are at it, enjoy the In Memoriam video.

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Mark Fidrych 1981 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for June 15, 2017

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Mark Fidrych has been dead for nearly 8 years. That is surreal. Then again nothing about Mark Fidrych seemed remotely normal nor predictable. He was a meteor shower over the history of baseball: briefly lighting up the sky in a spectacular manner and just as quickly was gone.

He had a career that seemed like it was out of a movie, complete with an origin story, a personality that was too good to be true and a montage of magazine covers that illustrated his unlikely superstardom.

Fidrych had one great season, and that was it. And yet the effect of his brief career can be felt to this day.

He was a Massachusetts kid who had a thick accent like many of the kids I grew up with in New England. The Tigers picked him in the 10th round draft. He pitched well in the Appalachian League as a 19 year old relief pitcher. In 1975, he went from Single A to Triple A as a staring pitcher, earning him a spot on the big league team in 1976.

There is no way to do justice to his wild, improbable and dazzling 1976 season that captured the imagination of the American people in the summer of the Bicentennial.

May I recommend reading the brilliant book by Dan Epstein, Stars and Strikes, which is all about the 1976 season.

Fidrych was an All Star in 1976 and the first ever baseball player to grace the cover of Rolling Stone. He made the All Star team in 1977 but injuries derailed his season. He was never the same again and by the time this Topps card was printed in 1981, he was a shell of his former self and would fail to play in the majors after the 1980 season.

I hate to use the word tragedy, but it feels tragic that the injuries he sustained crushed his career would be easily fixed with today’s medicine and surgical procedures.

I am convinced that if he didn’t get injured (his rotator cuff injury was diagnosed until he was out of baseball) he would have been one of the biggest and most beloved stars in the history of baseball.

We need more FUN stars. We need more players on the field who are awesome and cool and that we can point to and say “if I had a decent pitch, that could be me.”

I am convinced that is why Fernando Valenzuela is still a God at Chavez Ravine. Every Mexican American who watched him pitch thought “Hey that looks like me!” or “that looks like my buddy!” and felt they were only a screwball away from being a World Series hero.

He left baseball to sell swimming pools and in 2009 was found dead on his farm in Massachusetts. Perhaps it is appropriate that his death was surreal and reflected his quirkiness.

I never saw him pitch but I knew about him and I wished I could have seen Fidrych mania.

We may never see another unlikely and insanely bizarre success story like The Bird ever again, but I truly hope we do.

Lance Parrish 1991 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for June 1, 2017

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Lance Parrish was once so good and was so well regarded that he actually beat collusion.

And he was ahead of the curve of lifting weights before juicers ruined everything.

A pair of the biggest scandals in baseball history kind of squirted past him.

Plus his bio includes Tina Turner.

Chances are, the name Lance Parrish brings up images of playing for the blue collar fans of Detroit. The fact that he was born in Clairton Pennsylvania, you would think he came from a rough and tumble region where the Tigers would be a perfect fit.

The Angels uniform he is wearing in this Topps card might seem out of place.

The fact of the matter is he became a California kid. He spent his adolescence in Diamond Bar, which is basically in between LA and Anaheim. He thought he was going to be drafted by his hometown Angels or maybe accept a scholarship to UCLA.

But in the 1974 draft, the Angels passed on him but the Tigers used the 16th pick overall to gobble him up.

The Tigers might not have been Parrish’s first choice, but it turned out to be a great blessing for the timing in his career.

Parrish shot up through the Tigers farm system where he was teammates with future big leaguers like Jack Morris, Alan Trammell and Tom Brookens, all of whom would be his teammates in the World Series eventually.

By 1977 he was in the big leagues. By 1979, the 23 year old Parrish was putting up big numbers for manager Sparky Anderson. In 1980, he made his first All Star Game, smacking 24 homers and posting an .825 OPS.

By 1982, being on the All Star team was old hat for Parrish. He was a Gold Glove winner defensively, a Silver Slugger offensively and surpassed Carlton Fisk as the best catcher in the American League. He crushed homers, drove in runs, hit for a solid average and gave the Tigers a legit star.

When the Tigers went wire to wire in 1984 to win the AL East, Parrish clobbered a career high 33 homers and handled the super deep rotation and bullpen. He caught Jack Morris’ no hitter and delivered big hit after big hit.

In the first game of the ALCS, Parrish homered, driving home 2 and helped the Tigers win 8-1 over Kansas City. He also homered in the World Series clinching Game 5 against San Diego.

Beloved by his teammates and Detroit fans, he did clash his manager Sparky Anderson. Lance Parrish was an avid weightlifter. At the time, he was considered one of the bulkier and muscular players in baseball in the mid 1980’s.

Sparky Anderson did not care for his players pumping iron. He felt that having too many muscles would hurt flexibility and increase injuries. Parrish continued lifting, ignoring his manager’s request.

Of course by the end of the decade, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire would overshadow Parrish’s physique. No word on what Anderson would think of the Bash Brothers and their workout regiment.

After the 1986 season, which was another All Star and Silver Slugger campaign for Parrish, his contract expired. The Tigers did not sign him and off Parrish went to free agency.

But this was at the height of collusion. His teammate Jack Morris also tried free agency but oddly got no offers. Neither did batting champ Tim Raines and many other elite players.

Many teams could use an All Star catcher with power, Gold Gloves and a World Series ring. The offers were non existent until the Phillies came calling. The negotiations were slow and dragged into spring training, as clauses were added to keep him from suing for collusion. Nothing suspicious about THAT!

He joined Philadelphia but flopped in his first season in the National League. His numbers dropped and only played 130 games, not exactly winning over Phillies fans.

Meanwhile the Tigers won the AL East with a combination of Mike Heath and Matt Nokes behind the plate.

Parrish got off to a solid start in 1988 and got an All Star Game selection, his first and only in the National League. But his second half saw a huge drop in his numbers and he had his worst season overall.

After the 1988 season ended and before the playoffs were done, the Phillies dumped him to the Angels for David Holdrige. Better late than never, he finally was heading to Anaheim.

He struggled in his first season in California but in 1990, he crushed 24 homers and made his final trip to the All Star Game.

After 1990, the 35 year old Parrish became a journeyman. Between 1991 and 1995, he bounced between the Angels, Mariners, Indians, Pirates and Blue Jays. He even had a chance with the Dodgers but didn’t make the team due to the arrival of Mike Piazza.

With his career done, Lance Parrish became a staple on minor league coaching staffs. He went to the Royals, Dodgers and Tigers organizations. He was a coach on the big league squad. Eventually he became the manager for the Erie Seawolves.

Always a fan favorite, he knew to pump iron before steroids took over and had a resume that even collusion couldn’t deny.

And at one point, that bulked up Parrish acted as the body guard to Tina Turner. Now THAT is a life well lived!