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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Today's Birthdays

Dan Ardell LAA b. 1941, played 1961. To Jean: I still owe you a review, don't I? Happy Birthday to an original Angel.

Jacob Brumfield LAN b. 1965, played 1999

Mark Clear CAL b. 1956, played 1979-1980, 1990, All-Star: 1979, 1982. A Top 100 Angel, Clear was a dominating presence on the mound — when he could get his curveball over for strikes. "They never really told me I'd made the team," he later said, but the All-Star appearance he got that year put an exclamation point on it. Four tragic words: traded for Butch Hobson.

Ed Crane BRO b. 1862, played 1893, d. 1896-09-20

Lefty Hopper BRO b. 1874, played 1898, d. 1959-09-27

Todd Hundley LAN b. 1969, played 1999-2000, 2003, All-Star: 1996-1997. Famous for Not Being Randy Hundley in Chicago and Not Being Mike Piazza in Los Angeles. In some ways it was worse in Chicago, because he badmouthed the fans when he failed to perform; the comparisons to his catching father, beloved by Cub fans, were not positive. Originally traded for in 1998 following less than a year of Charles Johnson (who also Was Not Mike Piazza), Hundley left as a free agent but then returned to LA two years later when the Dodgers got him in a 2002 contract dump (for Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros) that represented the first significant unwinding of the Kevin Malone era contracts by then-GM Dan Evans.

I understood what Evans was trying to do at the time: by getting rid of two bad expensive contracts and taking on on one (albeit for roughly the same amount over two years), he was allowing himself to pick up a free agent somewhere else. Even allowing for Hundley's time on the DL, it was the right direction. Unfortunately, it proved a bad bet offensively: Grudzielanek continued to be productive for several years, while Karros was useful enough to help the Cubs win a division title. Back in Chavez Ravine, the 2003 Dodgers tried to squeeze another year out of Fred McGriff at first, and anything at all out of Alex Cora. By investing so much in an aging, immobile slugger and a slap-hitting middle infielder, the Dodgers ended up with fewer wins (85) than the Cubs (88). Hundley retired after the 2004 season, failing to appear once in a Dodger uniform that year.

Gary Nolan CAL b. 1948, played 1977, All-Star: 1972. A frequently-injured, hard-throwing 19-year-old when he first exploded onto the majors, he led the league in K/9 in his rookie year. He also had the bad luck to come up the same year as Hall-of-Famer Tom Seaver, against whom almost anyone would suffer by comparison. By the time the Angels got him in 1977, he was a 29-year-old washout; he retired the next year.

Ron Tingley CAL b. 1959, played 1989-1993. A backup for Lance Parrish, Mike Fitzgerald, and Greg Myers on mediocre-to-horrific Angels teams of the early 90's, he was really about the same level of talent as Parrish and Fitzgerald (and split playing time with those two). The Angels didn't really turn in their Catcher-of-the-Year Club membership card until 2000, when Bengie Molina took the job for good.


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