Ted Power 1988 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for May 20, 2017

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I don’t play baseball video games or Strat O Matic anymore. The reason is I am a 45 year old man. I am closer to 60 than 18. The days of playing games are over.

But when I did, I would always try to employ strategies that for ME seemed to be smart but I knew would never fly in the real world.

Switching the lineups daily, using relievers as starters, using starters for an inning on their throw day, tossing out the notion of a closer and bringing in the best pitcher for the circumstances.

My pitching staff stats would look bananas by the end of the year. Guys making 20 starts would have 11 to 12 saves. Guys with 30 saves would have 4 or 5 starts but not go more than 3 innings in them.

I loved the concept of a staff where you had 3 guys go 3 innings each and rotated them so they make about 20 starts, close out 20 games and make 20 middle relief appearances.

I would love to do all of that.

But the real world would make that a near impossibility.

That’s why I was thrilled when I saw how Jim Leyland used Ted Power in a potential elimination post season game in 1990. It didn’t work, but it was straight out of my way of thinking.

The Pirates were down 3-1 to the Reds in the 1990 NLCS but took game 5 with a solid start from Doug Drabek and a save from Bob Patterson (who had 5 saves all season.)

Game 6 was in Cincinnati and was do or die for the Pirates. The Reds were throwing Danny Jackson, whose lone job it was to give Cincinnati 6 strong innings before turning it over to Charlton, Dibble and Myers.

The Pirates were expected to hand the ball to lefty Zane Smith. But Jim Leyland was thinking like your pal Sully.

The Reds heavily platooned their lineup. For lefties, Glenn Braggs and Billy Hatcher would play. Against righties, Paul O’Neill and Herm Winningham got the call.

What if the Pirates started a righty to get one side of the platoon up and then bring in a lefty to force the Reds to consider leaving them in or pinch hitting.

So who did Leyland call on? He called on Ted Power, who had saved Game 1. That’s right. Power was a bullpen closer for the opener and the starting pitcher for the potential elimination.

It was Power’s first start of the year.

The Kansas State alum was a product of the Dodger system and played for the 1981 World Champs (he didn’t get to pitch in October.) Dealt to the Reds for Mike Ramsey, he became an effective middle reliever for manager Pete Rose, saving 27 games in 1985 and settling in as a set up man for John Franco and making spot starts.

In 1987, he was moved to the rotation but was not very effective and became trade bait.

Coincidentally, he was dealt to the Royals in a deal involving Danny Jackson, whom he would be facing in 1990.

Between 1988 and 1989, he bounced between the Royals, Tigers and Cardinals before landing in Pittsburgh.

Power had a decent 1990 for the first Pirates playoff team since 1979. His 3.66 ERA was OK but not great. He saved 7 games.

Like my potential computer pitching staff, Leyland’s bullpen did not have a save compiler. Bill Landrum had 13 saves. Bob Patterson had 5, Bob Kipper had 3, Stan Belinda had 8, Scott Ruskin has 2, Vincente Palacios had 3, Power had 7 and even starter Bob Walk had one. There was no tyranny of the save here.

Power came into Game 1 with the tying run on second and the winning run on third and one out. The Reds tried a double steal. Catcher Mike LaValliere saw he had no shot to get the runner at third and threw out pinch runner Billy Bates at second. Power then struck out Chris Sabo to earn the save.

He made one more relief appearance before getting his surprise start.

Reds manager Lou Piniella saw what Leyland was doing and made his line up a bit of a hodge podge. O’Neill got the start but so did Billy Hatcher. And Hal Morris, who was a cinch to start against the right hander, also sat.

Power wasn’t bombed but was hardly brilliant. He threw 2 1/3 innings, allowing 3 hits and a run.

With one out and one on in the third, Zane Smith came in to relieve with Pittsburgh trailing 1-0. The Pirates would tie the game but a pinch hitter for O’Neill, Luis Quinones, drove the go ahead run in against Smith. Carmelo Martinez almost hit a game tying homer against Randy Myers in the 9th but Glenn Braggs caught it over the wall.

Braggs was not in the starting lineup against Power but came in as a defensive replacement. The game was a 2-1 final and the combination of Power and Smith held Cincinnati to 2 runs into the 7th.

It wasn’t as if Leyland’s strategy failed. It is tough to win when 2 runs allowed is too much.

We thought alike.

Power starts and gets the team into a state of confusion. You need the bats to hit as well to make it really work.

Hopefully someone else will use that train of thought some day.

Barry Bonds 1990 Fleer – Sully Baseball Card of the Day

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Barry Bonds is the greatest offensive player I ever watched in my life.

Ken Griffey Jr. was the greatest all around player I ever saw play and Rickey Henderson was the player who affected the game more than any player I have ever seen and Kirby Puckett (before I knew about his off field life) was the player who gave me the most joy.

But Bonds had a baseball IQ off the charts and simply was to offense what the Big Bang was to the current state of the universe.

And yes, I think he took PEDs. And that doesn’t change my stance about anything I wrote above.

I have him as a skinny player in Pittsburgh when his running, defense and base stealing was part of his appeal. Going into 1990, he was a very good player with very good stats.

At age 25 he became quite bluntly the best player in baseball. If you simply looked at the traditional slash lines of batting average, homers and RBI, he was the best. If you looked at OPS, OPS plus, on base and total bases, which NOBODY was in 1990, he was the best.

If you looked at WAR for position players, which NOBODY was doing because it wasn’t invented yet, he led the league in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996 and 1998, all before he ballooned up.

You read that last one correctly. 1998. The year of Sosa and McGwire. The Sabermetric crowd would have crowned Bonds King in that year.

He finished 8th in the MVP vote that year.

Now I don’t claim to understand WAR… at ALL. But if the Sabermetric crowd was there to praise the worth of Bonds and have someone yelling “Forget Sosa and McGwire, the REAL greatness is in San Francisco wearing number 25.”

Maybe the temptation (need) to bulk up would not have been there for Bonds.

The odd argument has been made by me was that if everyone was doing PEDs, and I believe most were, then Bonds was the best of everyone then.

I remember going to games in Candlestick Park in 1993, Bonds’ first season with the Giants. The place was electric waiting to see what he would do from pitch to pitch. His stats were eye popping, his knowledge and intelligence were dazzling and the results were spectacular.

Was he a jerk? Probably. How often did that REALLY affect your life? His job was to play baseball and right to the end, at age 42, he hit 28 homers and posted a 1.045 OPS.

I stand by my thought that he should get one at bat. He is 4 RBI from 2000 and 65 hits from 3000. But it would also restart his Hall of Fame clock. 5 years from now, people won’t give a damn about PEDs and 5 years from now some of the old timers who hated him will join Ruth and DiMaggio into the mulch.

He was the greatest offensive player I ever saw.

He was also my dad’s favorite player. He loved watching him play and would not concede he even took Flintstone’s Chewables.

Today is my dad’s birthday.

This card is for my dad.

Matt Alexander 1981 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for May 1, 2017

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The first World Series I ever remember watching was in 1979 where the We Are Family Pirates came back to beat the mighty Baltimore Orioles. It was a remarkably fun World Series and no player seemed to have more fun playing on it than Matt “The Scat” Alexander, pinch runner extraordinaire.

A native of Shreveport, Louisiana, Alexander attended Grambling State University on a baseball scholarship. In 1968, the Cubs drafted Alexander in the second round. The scout who recommended Alexander to the parent club was the legendary Buck O’Neil, who had an amazing eye for finding talent.

Throughout the 1970’s, he jumped between Cubs farm teams and serving his Military requirement with the Navy and playing winter ball in Mexico. In 1973, he made it to the Cubs if only for a 12 game cameo.

In 1974, he played 45 games with the Cubs but couldn’t hit a lick. He batted a poor .204 and did not drive in a single run. He did steal 8 bases in a limited role. He was the wrong fit in Chicago but in 1975 found an unlikely home in Oakland.

When he was traded to the 3 time defending World Champion A’s in 1975, he was on a crowded star studded squad. Any chance for him to get at bats were slim. In the end, that was kind of the point. Manager Alvin Dark but more importantly owner Charlie O. Finley loved the concept of pinch running. Alexander with his lightning speed was tailor made for the role.

He played in 61 games for the AL West champs but only 30 plate appearances. Along the way he stole 17 bases and scored 16 times. A late game weapon to cause havoc on the basepaths, Alexander used his time on the base to observe and learn pitchers tendencies to his advantage.

In 1976, he went 1 for 30 at the plate but stole 20 bases. He was a specialist and his new Oakland manager, Chuck Tanner, would remember him.

After one more year in Oakland, he found himself without a team in 1978 after coming down with hepatitis in Mexico. 24 days shy of being eligible for the MLB pension, he went home to Louisiana to learn how to be a barber.

His old Oakland manager, Chuck Tanner, was the new manager of the Pirates. He brought Alexander to Steel Town to once again steal bases. He played enough to earn the pension.

In 1979, he earned a lot more.

The image of harmony of the 1979 Pirates squad was palpable right through the TV screen. Willie Stargell was the emotional leader of the team, Dave Parker was the superstar and the combination of colorful pitchers like Bert Blyleven, John Candelaria and Kent Tekulve kept the score down. Omar Moreno, Phil Garner and Bill Madlock got big hits and Pirate favorites like Manny Sanguillen and Dock Ellis made their last hurrahs in the Family.

Alexander was a role player. He knew his place on the star studded squad… and that was a literal term in 1979. Willie Stargell would hand out stars to the most valuable players for each game to sew onto their caps. Alexander tried and many times succeeded in getting a star with a key steal or important run scored.

He would score and often run across the plate backwards, jumping up and down and endearing himself to the Pittsburgh faithful. And his teammates loved him, appreciating his embracing of his role and doing things like using his barber skills in the clubhouse, trimming players beards and hair.

He even batted .538 in limited at bats, tripling once and driving in a run. (He would drive in 4 in 374 career games.)

Alexander appeared in the playoffs and World Series in 1979. He was caught stealing in his lone World Series appearance but he earned his ring.

After playing 2 more seasons in Pittsburgh, he played in Mexico before retiring, with his pension, to Louisiana.

Pirate fans still remember Matt the Scat, a guy who won games with his legs rather than his bat or glove, and loved every minute of it.