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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

And The Phillies Traded Him and Larry Bowa for Ivan DeJesus

Smart move, huh? See, way back when the Philadelphia Phillies had this third baseman named Schmidt. College shortstop at Ohio U., moved him to third base, and, well, he had a pretty okay career. You could look it up. At the time Schmidt was in his prime, the Phillies drafted this kid from the state of Washington who turned down a football scholarship to Washington State, which, I believe, had recruited him to play quarterback. This kid fancied himself as a baseball player. He was a shortstop.

He played shortstop in the minors, but they didn't think he had the range for the Show, and there was this guy named Bowa in Philadelphia who had made himself into quite a player, a defensive whiz who also taught himself to hit. So there was no room on the left side of the infield, and the Phillies didn't know what to do with this kid. He had a good stick, and there were others in their farm system who excited them more, a fleet OF named Jeff Stone (who hailed from the Ozarks in Missouri and when once asked in the minors if he would like a shrimp cocktail, replied, "No thanks, I don't drink) and a fleet 2B named Juan Samuel -- watching him run out a triple was like watching Secretariat on the home stretch of Belmont in '73.

And, the thing of it was that Bowa was getting old, and he was wired tight to boot, getting slower, too. They had a great team which won it all in 1980, and they wanted to replenish their squad. So they traded this kid to the Chicago Cubs along with a still useful Bowa for the Cubs' younger SS, Ivan DeJesus, and, really, they got fleeced. Why, you ask? Well, most businesses have non-competes for key personnel that prevent them from competing against a former employer for a reasonable time after leaving, but in baseball they don't. So one-time Phillies' manager Dallas Green had moved to Chicago to become GM of the Cubs, and he liked the kid, and had the unique thought that this former SS/3B could play second base. One of his first moves was to get the kid, and, oh, he'd take Larry Bowa in the deal as well. What the heck.

And the kid showed them that he could play second base, which he did, to perfection, earning him election today into Baseball's Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, Ivan DeJesus proved to be an average fielder and average hitter, Jeff Stone fizzled, and pitchers figured out that Juan Samuel just couldn't lay off the outside breaking ball. The Phillies traded 5 players for Von Hayes (which is the first time his name has been mentioned in years), tried to pass off Glenn Wilson as the next Greg Luzinski, trotted out an ancient Pete Rose, Tony Perez and Joe Morgan for one last hurrah in in 1983 (where they got to the World Series thanks to clutch HRs by young first baseman Len Matuszek in September against the Expos, only to have the young 1B not eligible in the post-season, and then the Orioles beat them into submission), inked Gregg Jefferies as a free agent (a huge sum of $25 million for a five-year deal, and that didn't turn out so well), saw Steve Carlton fall off the cliff with other teams and then retire, continued to be futile at developing front-line pitchers and faded into oblivion, where, to a certain extent, they still reside. The curse of this kid, as it were.

So congratulations, Ryne Sandberg on a career well done! Philadelphia's loss was Chicago's gain, and we're sorry we hardly knew ye.


Blogger Charlottesvillain said...

I'll never forget when Ryno came up in 1982 as the Cubs 3rd basemen (2nd base being occupied by the immortal two headed monster of Junior Kennedy and Bump Wills). He started off 0 for April (or something damn close) but had a good glove. His hitting came around in mid-season and they moved him to second in 1983 after signing Ron Cey.

Sandberg's 1984 MVP year was interesting. He only drove in 84 runs, but scored 114, and had 200 hits. He hit 19 home runs and swiped 32 bags. Nothing spectacular. His most remarkable stat was hitting 19 triples, the only time he would hit double digits in that category.

His coming out party was a windy June day at Wrigley against the St. Louis Cardinals on NBC's Saturday Game of the Week. Sandberg hit a two-out home run in the bottom of the 9th off Bruce Sutter, who was then the best closer in baseball, to send the game into extra innings. Trailing by 2 runs in the bottom of the tenth, he hit a two-out two-run homer off Sutter again to send it to the 11th, where the Cubs finally won it 12-11.

5:49 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks, Charlottesvillain, for your comments. I really liked the way that Sandberg played, and I'm glad that in the whacky world of Hall of Fame voting he didn't have to wait 14 years to get in. Do you think Sutter belongs? I think that he and Rich Gossage both belong, as they helped define the role of the modern reliever and both, at their best, were unhittable.

8:52 AM  

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