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westofyou
02-26-2007, 11:27 AM
Almost every team experiences a stretch of seasons where the taste of the losing becomes all too familiar to the fans and very often the franchise as well. For an organization it’s usually around this time that finding a player amongst what you thought was nothing becomes the most realistic means to achieving immediate success. A fine example in this the Cardinals finding a surprise in Albert Pujols, especially after turning Kent Bottenfield into Jim Edmonds.

Rags to riches in the wink of an eye, a tale that is Dicksonian in nature, however more often than not it ends up being a story that is more worthy of a Big Boy Comic than a Dickens tale. One thing’s for sure; it entertains the fans active imagination in the off-season and buoys the hopes of the losers in the front office while they get their resumes ready for their next job. After making Orlando their home for the balance of the 1920’s the Reds were lured to Tampa in 1931 in an arranged deal with former Reds manager Clark Griffith(who owned the Senators and trained in Tampa) the two teams switched training sites to see what the other experienced each spring. The switch proved to be a great success for both parties and each team soon dug deep roots into their new spring homes. In Tampa the Reds would become a fixture for the majority of the years between 1930 and 1988, missing out only in 1936 when they went to Puerto Rico and during the war when travel restrictions created the Limestone League each spring. It was in Tampa that many a Reds prospect stumbled on to the fact that they were destined not for the greatness promised by their high school coach and girlfriend(s), but instead they were destined for the marked mediocrity and reality of the failed prospect. Yet, others found the exact opposite, and emerged from nowhere to the major league roster, many of them made the team before they even owned a suit or a pair of dress shoes. It’s quite a jump from the buses and fast food or the minors to the world of big league meal money, and the fall back there is perhaps an even harder reality to deal with.

Spring training is a lot like life, sometimes you have an opportunity that becomes a jewel in your eyes, something that can solve all your problems and inevitably it slips from your fingers, leaving you pondering how it could have fallen to the wayside so swiftly. In baseball sometimes your team has player who is an unpolished jewel, and somehow lets him fall away before they can harvest his skills correctly. It’s painful to watch a player your team tossed aside succeed elsewhere and the Reds like any other team have attempted to find a diamond amongst the numerous rocks in the game, it’s during the spring that projects are undertaken and the Reds are fraught with players who were once projects for them and stars for another. At no time was this more obvious than the mid 1930’s, when if anything was missing from the Cincinnati baseball world it was a star player. In the era of DiMaggio, Greenberg, Pepper, Ducky and Dean the Reds had a roster that was vacant of anyone even resembling a current star. The Reds were in constant search for an offense in an era that seemed was swimming neck deep in offense everywhere but Cincinnati.

How bad was it? Here are the worst team offenses in the National League from 1930-1937, no shortage of Reds teams there. Following that is the worst total offense of those years.


1930-1937 YEAR R
1 Reds 1933 496
2 Braves 1931 533
3 Braves 1933 552
T4 Reds 1932 575
T4 Braves 1935 575
6 Braves 1937 579
7 Reds 1934 590
8 Reds 1931 602
9 Phillies 1933 607
10 Reds 1937 612

NATIONAL LEAGUE CAREER 1930-1937

RUNS R
1 Braves 4895
2 Reds 4908
3 Dodgers 5658
4 Pirates 5880
5 Phillies 5889
6 Giants 6122
7 Cubs 6310
8 Cardinals 6400

In 1935 the Reds cut an option deal with the Cardinals to take a look at a young hitter from Rochester who had hit .339 the prior year. The deal was simple, for fifty five thousand dollars the Reds could purchase him if they found him to their liking. So instead of going to Cardinals camp the big hitter headed to Tampa that spring.The players name was Johnny Mize.


http://www.baseballminutia.com/images/mize_pix.jpg

Mize’s performance in a Reds uniform was good enough to cause Sunny Jim Bottomley the Reds incumbent retread slugger to jump camp, seeing Mize play was the writing on the wall and Jim could only foresee a future of watching the Reds play from the bench instead of the field.

Of course there was a catch, after all it was Branch Rickey on the other side of the deal. Johnny Mize needed knee surgery in an era that surgery was an iffy subject. In a fit of bad decision making and a moment that involved the usual dollar watching a small town franchise must endure, the Reds decided to pass on Johnny Mize and sent him back to the Cardinals. Sunny Jim came back to the team and Mize had the knee operated on, using it to carry him on 809 extra base hits over the next 18 years and eventually to the to the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile in Cincinnati the Reds slotted the relieved Bottomley in as the starting 1st baseman and 400 at bats and a pitiful .617 OPS later he was relived of his duties and jettisoned off to a place that must have been worse than Cincinnati in the mid 30’s. St. Louis, but this time as a Brown, not a Cardinal. Being a St. Louis Brown was a baseball fate often believed to be worse than death, and at no time more than during the Depression.


http://www.baseballminutia.com/images/mize2.gif

Fixing something that’s not broke.

It wouldn’t be spring if the papers didn’t ponder the teams attempt to alter the approach of certain ballplayers, whether it is way they hold the bat, scoop a grounder or plant their feet. There seems to always be something that causes the coaches to retch in the dugout during BP, or worse yet a game. The result is they think spring is the time that they (the coaches) can fix your game.

If this instance arises I suggest everyone take it slow.

Following the Mize/Bottomley debacle the Reds found that they were once again looking for a 1st baseman and in the winter of 1936 the Reds and GM Larry MacPhail were also looking for an increased revenue stream to help boost the teams bottom line. The later of those problems enabled the Reds to cut a deal to train in Puerto Rico, making the Reds the first team to train outside of the USA, adding firsts to the list was McPhail’s goal, coming in first was the managing staffs. As far as the search for a first baseman goes the Reds once again dipped into the rich vein of talent that was mined by the best, this year eschewing the Cardinals the Reds turned to the American League for help specifically the Yankees, who offered the Reds an option to purchase Newark first sacker George McQuinn, a spray hitter that had an unfortunate situation. He was slotted behind Lou Gehrig and had yet been asked to join the Yankees and because of this he never sniffed a Yankee camp much alone an at bat during the regular season. At the age of 25 the Yankees saw him as an asset ready to be moved along for the right price, the team that was kicking the tires of McQuinn the most was the Reds. Unfortunately the Reds also wanted to reshape the 25-year-old McQuinn’s plate approach.

Sometimes bad teams are their own worst enemy and in this instance the Reds proved why they were holding down the bottom of the standings most years. In the book “Even the Browns” McQuinn reminisces about his brief National League career as a Red.


“The Yankees finally sold me on a look-see basis. Charlie Dressen was the manager at Cincinnati and he almost ruined my career. We trained in Puerto Rico in 1936. He must have known I wasn’t a pull hitter; I hit balls down the left field line, left center, right center, but I seldom pulled the ball. You’d think with all the success I had had they would let me alone. But from the first day in camp, the first time I walked up to the batters box, Charlie and a coach yelled at me, pull the ball, pull the ball, pull the ball! They changed my whole stance, turned me around tried to get me to pull the ball… I was playing everyday, but I was in such a slump that I couldn’t do anything right. So they returned me to the Yankees and I gradually worked my way around and hit .330 again.“

McQuinn had 6700 plate appearances in the major leagues and because of the Reds attempt to fix something that wasn’t broken they missed out on a slice of a .324/.384/.477/.861 player, one who oddly eventually ended up moving on to the Browns and replacing the man he was being asked to replace in Cincinnati, Sunny Jim Bottomley. Irony abounds in the world of baseball.

Fixing something that’s not broke. Version 2.0

Hank Sauer came to camp in Tampa in 1949 fresh off setting the Reds single season record for home runs, the 31-year-old WW 2 vet had worked his way through the Reds system since the early 1940’s and had starred at Rochester after the war, yet still he could get no interest from Warren Giles until 1948 when deadball era manager Bill McKetchnie finally left. It was then that he finally won the left field job and ended up the season with 35 home runs, a Reds team record. Sauer was a dead pull hitter playing in a park that boasted that it had the most expansive outfield in the major leagues, however the LF line was only 328 feet away and the wall was 18 feet high. However, operating under the adage that a manager knows best in the spring of 1949 Reds manager Bucky Walters entered camp with a pet project, he and his staff were going to get Hank Sauer to use the whole field, not only would he get 30 home runs buy he would rack up the doubles as well. Sauer was no spring chicken, and the 31 year old took offense to the request and promptly replied, “You wanted to provide power and I hit 35 homers, what in the hell is wrong with that?” Despite his pleas they still attempted the change, focusing much of the spring on taking the ball to right field. Sauer eventually worked so much that his hands swelled up from the change in approach, limiting all his baseball activities, it was then that the project was stopped and Sauer was allowed to return to his prior hitting approach. Because of the lack of regular work Sauer had a hard time finding his stroke in the early part of 1949 and by June he had only batted 152 times and he had only .673 OPS.

Once again the Reds brain trust made a move that they would rather forget than remember when they traded Sauer and Frank Baumholtz to the Cubs for Peanuts Lawrey and Harry Walker, a lopsided deal if there ever was one, this deal was later termed by Reds GM Warren Giles as:


“The worst deal I ever made.”

When asked by the Sauer why he was traded Bucky Walters replied,


Because I couldn’t make an all around hitter out of you.”

Sauer went on to hit 242 home runs for assorted teams around baseball and took home the MVP award in 1952. He never was much of a doubles hitter only topping 25 twice in his career. However his dead pull hitting made him a popular slugger in a hitter’s era and the Reds got nothing out of it other than the heartbreak of watching him do it in another teams uniform.

Bucky Walters was let go by the Reds after the 153rd game of the season. He never managed in the major leagues again.

I wonder why.

Cyclone792
02-26-2007, 03:54 PM
Good stuff, woy.

Johnny Mize is one of the most underrated players in history, IMO. When people think of all-time great first basemen, they'll think of guys such as Gehrig, Foxx, Greenberg, and McCovey, but Mize's name rarely comes up. He's arguably the greatest first sacker in NL history, at least until Pujols pushes his name atop that throne.

Frank McCormick had some solid seasons for the Reds and peaked during the Reds' run from 1939-40, but it makes me wonder how much better those Reds teams could have been had they had Mize in the lineup rather than McCormick.


1939 McCormick: .332/.374/.495/.869 with 110 runs created and a 131 OPS+ in 688 PAs.
1939 Mize: .349/.444/.626/1.070 with 162 runs created and a 178 OPS+ in 670 PAs.

1940 McCormick: .309/.367/.482/.850 with 106 runs created and a 132 OPS+ in 676 PAs.
1940 Mize: .314/.404/.636/1.040 with 154 runs created and a 176 OPS+ in 666 PAs.

It should be noted that Mize's home park, Sportsman's Park, during 1939-40 was a bit more of a hitter's park than Crosley Field, though Mize's OPS+ was still 40+ points higher each season.

In the 1939 World Series, McCormick batted .400/.400/.467 with five singles and one double in 16 plate appearances. Could Mize had produced more during that Series? Who knows. Maybe the Yankees still sweep and/or win the World Series anyway if the Reds had Mize instead of McCormick. In 1940, the Reds defeated the Tigers in seven games despite a very poor performance from McCormick when he batted .214/.241/.250 with five singles, one double, and one walk in 29 plate appearances.

The Reds may have also made it very interesting in 1938 had they had Mize instead of McCormick:


1938 McCormick: .327/.348/.425/.773 with 93 runs created and a 114 OPS+ in 671 PAs.
1938 Mize: .337/.422/.614/1.036 with 142 runs created and a 175 OPS+ in 609 PAs.

The Reds finished 82-68, in fourth place but only six games behind the Pennant winning Cubs at 89-63 in 1938.


JOHNNY MIZE

GIVEN NAME: John Robert Mize
BORN: 1/7/1913 Demorest, Georgia DIED: 6/2/1993 Demorest, Georgia
BAT: L THROW: R HEIGHT: 6'2" WEIGHT: 215 MLB DEBUT: 4/16/1936
CAREER GAMES BY POSITION: 1B: 1667 RF: 8

YEAR TEAM AGE G AB R H 2B 3B HR HR% RBI BB SO SB CS AVG SLG OBA OPS
1936 Cardinals 23 126 414 76 136 30 8 19 4.59 93 50 32 1 0 .329 .577 .402 .979
1937 Cardinals 24 145 560 103 204 40 7 25 4.46 113 56 57 2 0 .364 .595 .427 1.021
1938 Cardinals 25 149 531 85 179 34 16 27 5.08 102 74 47 0 0 .337 .614 .422 1.036
1939 Cardinals 26 153 564 104 197 44 14 28 4.96 108 92 49 0 0 .349 .626 .444 1.070
1940 Cardinals 27 155 579 111 182 31 13 43 7.43 137 82 49 7 0 .314 .636 .404 1.039
1941 Cardinals 28 126 473 67 150 39 8 16 3.38 100 70 45 4 0 .317 .535 .406 .941
1942 Giants 29 142 541 97 165 25 7 26 4.81 110 60 39 3 0 .305 .521 .380 .901
1946 Giants 33 101 377 70 127 18 3 22 5.84 70 62 26 3 0 .337 .576 .437 1.013
1947 Giants 34 154 586 137 177 26 2 51 8.70 138 74 42 2 0 .302 .614 .384 .998
1948 Giants 35 152 560 110 162 26 4 40 7.14 125 94 37 4 0 .289 .564 .395 .959
1949 Giants 36 106 388 59 102 15 0 18 4.64 62 50 19 1 1 .263 .441 .351 .792
Yankees 36 13 23 4 6 1 0 1 4.35 2 4 2 0 0 .261 .435 .393 .828
TOTALS 119 411 63 108 16 0 19 4.62 64 54 21 1 1 .263 .440 .354 .794
1950 Yankees 37 90 274 43 76 12 0 25 9.12 72 29 24 0 1 .277 .595 .351 .946
1951 Yankees 38 113 332 37 86 14 1 10 3.01 49 36 24 1 0 .259 .398 .339 .736
1952 Yankees 39 78 137 9 36 9 0 4 2.92 29 11 15 0 0 .263 .416 .327 .743
1953 Yankees 40 81 104 6 26 3 0 4 3.85 27 12 17 0 0 .250 .394 .339 .733
TOTALS 1884 6443 1118 2011 367 83 359 5.57 1337 856 524 28 2 .312 .562 .397 .959
LG AVERAGE 5940 791 1614 273 59 107 1.80 733 611 552 61 8 .272 .391 .342 .734
POS AVERAGE 6054 860 1703 294 68 159 2.62 903 697 553 53 8 .281 .431 .358 .789

YEAR TEAM RC RCAA RCAP OWP RC/G TB EBH ISO SEC BPA IBB HBP SAC SF GIDP OUTS PA POS
1936 Cardinals 102 49 37 .770 9.63 239 57 .249 .372 .617 0 1 4 0 4 286 469 1B
1937 Cardinals 150 81 70 .805 11.22 333 72 .230 .334 .630 0 5 0 0 5 361 621 1B
1938 Cardinals 142 65 45 .755 10.48 326 77 .277 .416 .640 0 4 0 0 14 366 609 1B
1939 Cardinals 162 88 68 .808 11.33 353 86 .277 .440 .667 0 4 10 0 9 386 670 1B
1940 Cardinals 154 80 64 .793 10.22 368 87 .321 .475 .679 0 5 0 0 10 407 666 1B
1941 Cardinals 108 44 20 .724 8.73 253 63 .218 .374 .588 0 1 3 0 8 334 547 1B
1942 Giants 111 48 33 .740 7.78 282 58 .216 .333 .564 0 5 1 0 8 385 607 1B
1946 Giants 101 56 43 .813 10.65 217 43 .239 .411 .635 0 5 1 0 5 256 445 1B
1947 Giants 145 63 51 .740 9.43 360 79 .312 .442 .654 0 4 0 0 6 415 664 1B
1948 Giants 133 57 58 .737 8.87 316 70 .275 .450 .625 0 4 0 0 7 405 658 1B
1949 Giants 64 7 6 .551 5.90 171 33 .178 .309 .497 0 3 1 0 5 293 442 1B
Yankees 5 2 2 .691 7.94 10 2 .174 .348 .536 0 1 0 0 0 17 28 1B
TOTALS 69 9 8 .560 6.01 181 35 .178 .311 .499 0 4 1 0 5 310 470
1950 Yankees 58 18 11 .659 7.71 163 37 .318 .423 .620 0 2 0 0 4 203 305 1B
1951 Yankees 47 6 4 .564 5.02 132 25 .139 .250 .446 0 4 0 0 7 253 372 1B
1952 Yankees 18 1 -2 .515 4.54 57 13 .153 .234 .427 0 2 0 0 6 107 150 1B
1953 Yankees 15 2 2 .570 5.13 41 7 .144 .260 .458 0 2 0 0 1 79 118 1B
TOTALS 1515 667 512 .743 8.98 3621 809 .250 .387 .606 0 52 20 0 99 4553 7371
LG AVERAGE 832 0 0 .500 4.93 2326 439 .120 .233 .438 0 28 84 0 134 4553 6663
POS AVERAGE 982 149 0 .574 5.82 2608 520 .149 .273 .480 0 32 66 0 128 4553 6848


Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia
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