Jim Presley 1986 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 20, 2017

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I have never stepped foot in the city of Seattle and yet I have a huge spot in my heart for the Seattle Mariners.

There is no rhyme nor reason for it. I just have always wanted the Mariners to put a winning product on the field. As of this writing, they remain the only current Major League city to have never hosted a World Series. (Washington DC hosted the 1924, 1925 and 1933 World Series when the Senators were the team.)

Over the years, they have had superstars in their prime like Ken Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez. But I have been pulling for them long before that.

I loved the trident hats, with or without the star, and in the mid 1980’s they looked like they were finally putting together a winner. And one of the keys was third baseman Jim Presley.

With a last name like Presley, it is no secret to why he was called “Hound Dog.” He was drafted as a high school player from Pensacola Florida in the 4th round of the 1979 draft by the Mariners.

He initially struggled but by 1982, earned his way to AA. In 1984, he was in Seattle. In his big league debut, he doubled off of future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven. While the Mariners lost that game and lost a lot more games in 1984, they were putting together an interesting squad.

Alvin Davis was the Rookie of the Year. Mark Langston was a stud young hurler. Mike Moore had a world of talent. And piece by piece, the team was assembling a stellar lineup with two budding aces at the top of rotation.

In 1985, Presley asserted himself as one of the top players on the squad, clubbing 28 homers and posting a .808 OPS. The team went nowhere again as neither Langston nor Moore could coordinate their brillant seasons.

1986 started with a bang for Presley. In the bottom of the 9th of opening day, he launched a game tying homer off of Donnie Moore. Then in the bottom of the 10th, with 2 out, he crushed a walk off grand slam against Ken Forsch.

That game set the stage for his All Star season. He would sock 27 homers and drive in 107 runs along the way. And with Alvin Davis, Harold Reynolds and Rey Quinones, was part of a young and potentially lethal infield. Throw in the bats of Phil Bradley and Danny Tartabull and Langston and Moore in the rotation and the Mariners looked like they were on to something good.

By the end of the 1986 season, Dick Williams had taken over as manager. Just 2 years prior, he turned the hapless Padres into a pennant winner. He also transformed the Expos into contenders and before that turned around the Red Sox in 1967 before winning back to back titles in Oakland.

In other words, he knew how to turn the fortunes of a team around. And Seattle looked like the next great conquest for the man who would eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Presley held up his end of the bargain with a 24 homer season in 1987. Harold Reynolds led the league with 60 stolen bases, Alvin Davis drove in 100 runs, Phil Bradley still hit the ball well and Seinfeld punchline Ken Phelps hit 27 homers and posted a .959 OPS.

Despite that firepower and a 19 win season from Mark Langston, the Mariners failed to post a winning record in a very winnable AL West.

That was in all probability the best chance for that Mariners squad. Presley’s numbers slipped in 1988 as the A’s took over control of the AL West. In 1989, new names like Ken Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and Randy Johnson started emerging in the Pacific Northwest. Martinez eventually pushed Presley out of a job.

After the 1989 season, he was dealt to Atlanta where he played one season, missing the pennants and Division titles that would follow. After a few months with the Padres in 1991, his big league playing career was done.

Over the years, Presley has found life as a coach with both the Marlins and the Orioles. But I will always remember him as one of the very talented Mariners who played on a team that had the players and the right manager but couldn’t put it all together.

Mike Morgan 1988 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for April 15, 2017

IMG_9781Has there ever been a career quite like that of Mike Morgan? The short answer is no. Nobody has pitched for more different big league teams over a career than Morgan—12 in all. And his career spanned from the late 1970s with the Charlie Finley A’s all the way past the September 11th-healing World Series of 2001.

His career has been a sea of contradictions. Morgan was a talented pitcher brought to the majors too quickly and a wily veteran who extended his career longer than anyone would have guessed. He was one of the top picks in the draft and a coveted prospect. And he was a forgotten player exposed in the Rule 5 draft.

Morgan played on a Yankee team with many of the players of the great 1970s squads and played against the greatest New York players of the Joe Torre era.

Morgan played alongside Red Sox tormentors like Bucky Dent and Aaron Boone. And he was teammates with curse busters David Ortiz and Curt Schilling.

He surrendered Carl Yastrzemski’s 400th home run in 1979 and Mark McGwire’s 61st home run in 1998. He was the losing pitcher of Dennis Martinez’s perfect game.

Morgan pitched over 10 seasons in the majors before he had a winning season and for a long time was the poster boy for unfulfilled potential. Yet he would finish his career with 141 wins, become a millionaire 20 times over, earn a World Series ring and make the All-Star team.

To truly see what a wild ride Morgan’s career truly was, take a look at some of the players he crossed paths with and the managers who put him in the game. There are Hall of Famers, MVPs and Cy Young winners. Plus, he had a list of bullpen closers that went from Hall of Fame legends to players who barely were noticed when they played.

From John Candelaria to Deion Sanders, Tony Armas to Bobby Murcer, Rafael Palmeiro to Jack Cust, they all had Morgan in common.

Let’s take a closer look, starting with his managers.

Morgan’s managers

Jack McKeon – 1978 A’s and 1997 Reds
Jim Marshall – 1979 A’s
Bob Lemon – 1982 Yankees
Gene Michael – 1982 Yankees
Clyde King – 1982 Yankees
Bobby Cox – 1983 Blue Jays
Chuck Cottier – 1985 and 1986 Mariners
Marty Martinez – 1986 Mariners
Dick Williams – 1986 and 1987 Mariners
Cal Ripken – 1988 Orioles
Frank Robinson – 1988 Orioles
Tommy Lasorda – 1989-1991 Dodgers
Jim Lefebvre – 1992-1993 Cubs
Tom Trebelhorn – 1994 Cubs
Jim Riggleman – 1995 and 1998 Cubs
Mike Jorgensen – 1995 Cardinals
Tony LaRussa – 1996 Cardinals
Ray Knight – 1996 and 1997 Reds
Tom Kelly – 1998 Twins
Johnny Oates – 1999 Rangers
Buck Showalter – 2000 Diamondbacks
Bob Brenly – 2001 and 2002 Diamondbacks

Cox, LaRussa, Williams and Lasorda are already in the Hall of Fame. So are Lemon and Robinson as players. And if Showalter turns Baltimore into a champion, who knows? Maybe he’ll make it in, too.

Current Hall of Famers who were Morgan’s teammates

Andre Dawson – 1992 Cubs
Dennis Eckersley – 1996 Cardinals
Rich Gossage – 1982 Yankees
Rickey Henderson – 1979 A’s
Randy Johnson – 2000-2002 Diamondbacks
Barry Larkin – 1996-1997 Reds
Greg Maddux – 1992 Cubs
Paul Molitor – 1998 Twins
Eddie Murray – 1988 Orioles and 1989 Dodgers
Cal Ripken Jr. – 1988 Orioles
Ivan Rodriguez – 1999 Rangers
Ryne Sandberg – 1992-1994 Cubs
Ozzie Smith – 1995-1996 Cardinals
Dave Winfield – 1982 Yankees

Maybe Curt Schilling from the Diamondbacks, David Ortiz from the 1998 Twins will join the list. Maybe someday Rafael Palmeiro as well.

Morgan’s bullpen closers

Elias Sosa – 1978 A’s
Dave Heaverlo – 1978 A’s
Rich Gossage – 1982 Yankees
Randy Moffitt – 1983 Blue Jays
Edwin Nunez – 1985 and 1987 Mariners
Matt Young – 1986 Mariners
Bill Wilkinson – 1987 Mariners
Tom Niedenfuer – 1988 Orioles
Jay Howell – 1989-1991 Dodgers
Bob Scanlan – 1992 Cubs
Randy Myers – 1993-1995 Cubs
Tom Henke – 1995 Cardinals
Dennis Eckersley – 1996 Cardinals
Jeff Brantley – 1996 Reds
Jeff Shaw – 1997 Reds
Rick Aguilera – 1998 Twins
Rod Beck – 1998 Cubs
John Wetteland – 1999 Rangers
Matt Mantei – 2000 Diamondbacks
Byung-Hyun Kim – 2001 and 2002 Diamondbacks

A pair of Hall of Famers and other world champion closers mixed in with some names I bet you forgot. How else can you connect Heaverlo and Wetteland?

MVPs who played with Morgan

Rickey Henderson – 1979 A’s
Fred Lynn – 1988 Orioles
Cal Ripken Jr. – 1988 Orioles
Kirk Gibson – 1989-1990 Dodgers
Andre Dawson – 1992 Cubs
Ryne Sandberg – 1992-1994 Cubs
Sammy Sosa – 1993-1995 and 1998 Cubs*
Dennis Eckersley – 1996 Cardinals
Willie McGee – 1996 Cardinals
Barry Larkin – 1996 and 1997 Reds
Kevin Mitchell – 1996 Reds
Juan Gonzalez – 1999 Rangers
Ivan Rodriguez – 1999 Rangers*

*Indicates they won the award with Morgan as a teammate.

Cy Young winners who played with Morgan

Ron Guidry – 1982 Yankees
Orel Hershiser – 1989-1991 Dodgers
Fernando Valenzuela – 1989 and 1990 Dodgers
Greg Maddux – 1992 Cubs*
Dennis Eckersley – 1996 Cardinals
Randy Johnson – 2000-2001-2002 Diamondbacks*

*Indicates they won the award with Morgan as a teammate.

Rookie of the Year winners who played with Morgan

Lou Piniella – 1982 Yankees
Dave Righetti – 1982 Yankees
Alvin Davis – 1985 Mariners
Gary Matthews – 1987 Mariners
Fred Lynn – 1988 Orioles
Eddie Murray – 1988 Orioles
Cal Ripken, Jr. – 1988 Orioles
Fernando Valenzuela – 1989 and 1990 Dodgers
Alfredo Griffin – 1989-1991 Dodgers
Eric Karros – 1991 Dodgers
Darryl Strawberry – 1991 Dodgers
Andre Dawson – 1992 Cubs
Jerome Walton – 1992 Cubs
Chris Sabo – 1995 Cardinals
Marty Cordova – 1998 Twins

Both Morgan and 1985 NL Rookie of the Year Vince Coleman played for the 1996 Cincinnati Reds, but Coleman was released by the Reds before they acquired Morgan, so the two were never technically teammates.

Batting champs who played with Morgan

Fred Lynn – 1988 Orioles
Willie Wilson – 1993 Cubs
Willie McGee – 1996 Cardinals

Home run champs who played with Morgan

Tony Armas – 1978 A’s
Graig Nettles – 1982 Yankees
Jesse Barfield – 1983 Blue Jays
Gorman Thomas – 1985 and 1986 Mariners
Eddie Murray – 1988 Orioles
Darryl Strawberry – 1991 Dodgers
Sammy Sosa – 1993-1995 and 1998 Cubs
Kevin Mitchell – 1996 Reds
Matt Williams – 2000-2002 Diamondbacks

This list includes people who were former home run champs or would become home run champs after playing with Morgan.

And if this jaw-droppingly wide net of players from different eras is not a clear illustration of the Forrest Gump-like career of Mike Morgan, look at the contrast of players he faced in his first big league year, 1978. That was when Charlie O. Finley drafted Morgan out of Valley High School in Las Vegas and sent him straight to the majors for publicity.

Batters Morgan faced in 1978

Don Baylor
Mark Belanger
Bobby Bonds
George Brett
Bert Campaneris
Cecil Cooper
Doug DeCinces
Dwight Evans
Carlton Fisk
“Disco” Dan Ford
Bobby Grich
Mike Hargrove
Toby Harrah
Butch Hobson
Willie Horton
Reggie Jackson
Fred Lynn
Paul Molitor
Bobby Murcer
Eddie Murray
Lou Piniella
Willie Randolph
Jim Rice
Joe Rudi
Ken Singleton
Frank White
Willie Wilson
Carl Yastrzemski
Robin Yount

Now compare those names to the batters he faced as a grizzled 42-year-old respected veteran in 2002.

Batters Morgan faced in 2002

Lance Berkman
Craig Biggio
Sean Burroughs
Mark DeRosa
J. D. Drew
Jim Edmonds
Brian Giles
Vladimir Guerrero
Todd Helton
Derek Jeter
Derek Lee
Tino Martinez
Gary Matthews, Jr.
Kevin Millar
Mike Piazza
Aramis Ramirez
Juan Uribe
Mo Vaughn
Vernon Wells
Bernie Williams

Now that is spreading some time. From Gary Matthews senior to junior. There were participants of the 1967 and 1968 World Series and people who played in the 2010 World Series who faced Mike Morgan!

So tip your cap to a respected veteran All-Star world champion who is 177th on the all-time innings pitched list. Forget Kevin Bacon. He has nothing on Mike Morgan’s connections.

 

(An earlier edition of this post was written for The Hardball Times in 2011).

Eduardo Perez 2007 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for March 24, 2017

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How good were the Reds in the 1970’s? I would argue that they should have been put out to stud.

Hal McRae begat Brian McRae, who had a fine big league career. Pedro Borbon begat Pedro Borbon Jr, who was a big league reliever and earned a save in the 1995 World Series.

Perhaps you heard that Ken Griffey’s son wasn’t a bad ballplayer.

Even Pete Rose Jr. had a brief stint in the major leagues.

Maybe I missed a few. I am also including Eduardo Perez, son of Hall of Fame first baseman Tony Perez.

Eduardo Perez was born in 1969, the year before the Big Red Machine took off. He grew up in the clubhouse of the Reds, playing with Griffey Jr and other future ballplayers.

His father was Cuban but he grew up in Puerto Rico and eventually landed at Florida State University as a player. The Angels selected him in the first round of the 1991 draft.

On July 27th, 1993, he made his big league debut against the defending Division Champion A’s. You couldn’t ask for a better first game. He reached base 3 times with a walk, a double and a homer, driving in 3 runs as the Angels prevailed 15-8. He would homer later in the week as well.

While his debut was eye popping, he did struggle in his first three seasons, going back and forth between Anaheim and the minors. Before the 1996 season, he was dealt to the Reds, sparking the inevitable comparisons to his dad.

Clearly he wasn’t the Hall of Fame run producer that his pop was, but in 1997 he had a productive year, posting a .796 OPS over 33o pate appearances and slugging 16 homers along the way.

Over his 13 years in the majors, Perez bounced around from organization to organization, landing in St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and, as this card shows, the Mariners. He had a knack for pinch hit homers over his career, three times reaching double digit home run totals as a part time player.

Oddly he also had tremendous success over Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. I can’t help but wonder if Tony ribs Randy at Hall of Fame gatherings about his inability to retire his son.

When his career, that included a stint in Japan, wound down, Eduardo became a broadcaster and a coach. The fact that he is fluent in English and Spanish made him a fit for ESPN and ESPN Deportes as a commentator.

He also served as a coach for the Marlins and Astros over the years.

Was he an All Star? No. But nobody gets to the majors, plays for over a decade and even smacks a post season homer because of the influence their dad has. A lot of draft picks flame out with a far worse career than Eduardo Perez.

Maybe they should have just raised a team from the Big Red Machine’s off spring. Teams have done worse.