The virtual 1955-62 Kansas City A’s (Part 2:  1957-58)

Last time, we undertook an adventure to re-make the Kansas City Athletics of the 1950s in an image not “partnered” with the New York Yankees. It was rough going at the start, as two years in, our version is no better than the actual A’s.

     Actual Athletics               Virtual Athletics

      W        L  Pos       Year       W       L  Pos
      63      91   6        1955      54     100   8
      52     102   8        1956      55      99   8

Now we’re ready to see if we can improve upon that performance in seasons three and four.

1956-57 offseason: Actual Athletics deals we will make

Dec. 3, 1956: Drafted pitcher Ed Blake from the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League in the 1956 Rule 5 draft.

Dec. 3, 1956: Drafted outfielder Leo Posada from the Milwaukee Braves in the 1956 minor league draft.

The former was a 31-year-old minor league veteran, and the latter a raw 21-year-old prospect, but we’re still in the mode of taking whatever we can get.

1956-57 offseason: Actual Athletics deals we will modify

The actual Athletics did this:

Oct. 15, 1956: Purchased outfielder Bob Cerv from the New York Yankees.

In the unseemly incestuous relationship between the A’s and Yankees, generally it was the A’s doing favors for the Yankees. But this deal would appear to be evidence of a favor going the other way.

Cerv was an obviously talented player who’d hit extraordinarily well for the Yankees in an extremely limited role. They just didn’t have (or weren’t willing to create) any more room for him in their overstocked outfield. And here they made him available to the Athletics for a nominal price.

In our scenario, we’ll accept that the Yankees would be willing to deal Cerv, but we won’t assume they’d be willing to hand him over this easily.

So we’ll do this instead:

Oct. 15, 1956: Traded outfielder Bill Wilson, pitcher Jack McMahan and cash to the New York Yankees for outfielder Bob Cerv.

Wilson was a right-handed hitter with power who would provide the Yanks with just-in-case depth to replace Cerv, and McMahan was a young southpaw we know they liked (see below). This would be a much more reasonable price to acquire a player of Cerv’s ability.

The actual Athletics did this:

Dec. 5, 1956: Traded infielder Jim Finigan, first baseman Eddie Robinson, and pitchers Jack Crimian and Bill Harrington to the Detroit Tigers for pitchers Ned Garver, Virgil Trucks, and Gene Host, first baseman Wayne Belardi, and $20,000 cash.

Some of this big trade made sense for Kansas City, but some didn’t. Garver was a guy worth targeting: he’d had ups and downs through his long career, and been sidelined with a sore arm for most of 1956, but he was extremely talented and was still going to be just 31 years old in ’57. But Trucks would be 40, well beyond the stage when he would be appropriate for a building team such as the A’s. And besides, we don’t have Robinson.

So we’ll rearrange it this way:

Dec. 5, 1956: Traded infielder Jim Finigan and pitchers Jack Crimian and Bill Harrington to the Detroit Tigers for pitchers Ned Garver, Gene Host, Joe Presko, and Bobby Tiefenauer.

The Tigers get most of what they were seeking, and in place of Trucks and the cash we’ll accept a worthwhile 28-year-old project (Presko) and a longtime minor leaguer ready for a chance (Tiefenauer).

The actual Athletics did this:

Feb. 19, 1957: Traded pitchers Art Ditmar, Bobby Shantz, and Jack McMahan, first baseman Wayne Belardi, and players to be named later to the New York Yankees for pitchers Tom Morgan, Mickey McDermott, and Rip Coleman, outfielder Irv Noren, infielders Billy Hunter and Milt Graff, and a player to be named later. (On April 4, 1957, the Athletics sent second baseman Curt Roberts to the Yankees, on April 5, 1957, the Yankees sent pitcher Jack Urban to the Athletics, and on June 4, 1957, the Athletics sent infielder Clete Boyer to the Yankees, completing the deal.)

Well, then. In our Blockbusters series, here’s what we had to say about this humdinger:

McDermott [was] rotten for the Yankees; with his 1956 performance the hard-drinking left hander’s sad career fully assumed its circling-the-drain trajectory. Thus the wisdom of yet another team expending anything of serious value to trade for McDermott at this point was laughable.

Which apparently was the cue for Arnold Johnson’s Kansas City A’s to come on in.

Ever accommodating, the Athletics were ready to take the troublesome McDermott off the Yankees’ hands. More than that, the A’s were ready to take McDermott as well as a long list of tired-out, all-but-useless odds and ends off the Yankees’ roster. And for this privilege, the A’s were ready to provide the Yankees with Kansas City’s two best pitchers.

Was that bad enough? Apparently not. In June of 1955 the A’s had expended a big bonus on teenaged infielder Clete Boyer. Under the bonus baby rules in effect, the Athletics were required to keep the youngster on the big league roster for two full calendar years before farming him out. So in June of 1957, just at that point when Boyer was finally eligible to be sent to the minors to gain some regular playing time and serious skill development, why not just hand him over to the Yankees instead, and completely waste that bonus investment?

Of all the many highly questionable arrangements between the Athletics and Yankees organizations in this period … this particular deal might well be the fishiest.

So suffice to say we won’t do that. Instead we’ll do this:

Feb. 19. 1957: Traded pitcher Bobby Shantz to the New York Yankees for pitchers Tom Morgan and Rip Coleman.

Though the one-time star Shantz hadn’t been great in 1956, his peripherals were by far his best since he came down with arm trouble in 1953. At age 30 he’d regained some market value, and so it was sensible for the Athletics to get something for him now in case he got hurt again. In the solid right-handed reliever Morgan and the decent-looking young left-hander Coleman they would receive a fair return.

1956-57 offseason: Athletics deals we will invoke

Dec., 1956: Traded pitcher Hersh Freeman to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Faye Throneberry and pitcher Bill Henry.

The sinkerballing Freeman had blossomed as an ace reliever for us in 1955-56, but the reliability and consistency of relievers is such that we like to buy low and sell high on them. The Red Sox were a good team that could use some bullpen help, and would be willing to part with Throneberry and Henry, who’d shown promise earlier in the decade but not developed. Boston would deal away both in early 1957.

1957 season: Actual Athletics deals we will make

June 15, 1957: Traded outfielder-first baseman Harry Simpson, pitcher Ryne Duren, and outfielder Jim Pisoni to the New York Yankees for infielder Billy Martin, infielder-outfielder Woodie Held, pitcher Ralph Terry, and outfielder Bob Martyn.

And here’s our assessment of this one in Blockbusters:

The overall impact of the traffic was unhealthy for the Kansas City franchise, and indeed the cozily intertwined relationship between their ownerships was highly suspicious, but the Yankees didn’t win the deals “nearly every time.” Actually it was just several times; the A’s got the better of the Yankees a few times as well.

The 1957 trade above was one of them. Simpson was a good player, and Duren was a pitcher of unusual potential who would (briefly) blossom as a relief star for the Yankees, but Terry and Held were such first-rate young talents (and Martin and Martyn such useful elements) that the balance of this deal came down in favor of the A’s.

None among the quartet coming to Kansas City was an over-the-hill “name.” These were players who could help a team improve. Even though Simpson has been our best performer, this deal makes sense for us.

August 12, 1957: Signed pitcher Dave Hill as an amateur free agent (Bonus Baby).

Just the second and final Bonus Baby the Athletics would sign.

1957 season: Athletics deals we will invoke

June 1, 1957: Sold outfielder Faye Throneberry to the Washington Senators.

To say that Throneberry would struggle for us is understating it: try 1-for-46. We’ll let the Senators see if they can straighten him out.

1957 season: Actual Athletics deals we will not make

Aug. 1, 1957: Sold outfielder Johnny Groth to the Detroit Tigers.

Because we never got him.

Aug. 27, 1957: Selected pitcher Al Aber off waivers from the Detroit Tigers.

Because we don’t want him.

Aug. 31, 1957: Sold outfielder Irv Noren on waivers to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Because we never got him.

1957 season results

Our traffic of players coming and going hasn’t been as frantic as that of the actual A’s, but we’ve definitely been in heavy wheeling-and-dealing mode. Our logic is that without an effective farm system, we have no choice except to do whatever we can to import fresh talent, because standing pat with a last-place roster won’t yield improvement.

We’ll have Hal Smith on hand as catcher for the full season this year. Most of last year’s infield is back, but for 1957 our outfield is almost entirely retooled, as is our pitching staff—the element that’s been our most intractable problem so far.

  Pos   Player         Age    G  AB   R    H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
   1B   P. Ward*        29  110 338  46   94  12   1  14  44  33  60 .278 .340 .444 .783  112
   2B   H. Lopez        27  121 391  60  115  19   4  11  39  41  66 .294 .354 .448 .801  117
   SS   J. DeMaestri    28  128 415  39  102  13   5   8  34  20  74 .246 .280 .359 .639   73
 3B-OF  D. Williams     28  114 372  40   98  17   2   8  36  26  43 .263 .309 .384 .694   88
   RF   L. Skizas       25  127 425  44  105  16   1  20  59  30  18 .247 .295 .431 .726   96
   CF   W. Held         25   92 326  53   78  14   3  20  54  37  81 .239 .318 .485 .803  116
   LF   B. Cerv         31  139 495  68  138  21   4  19  72  33  84 .279 .323 .453 .776  109
   C    H. Smith        26  107 360  46  109  26   0  13  50  14  44 .303 .324 .483 .807  117

   UT   V. Power        29  129 467  53  121  15   1  14  46  19  21 .259 .289 .385 .674   82
   IF   B. Martin       29   73 265  36   68   9   3   9  30  12  20 .257 .293 .415 .708   91
 CF-RF  H. Simpson*     31   50 179  25   53   9   6   6  25  12  28 .296 .337 .514 .851  129
  C-OF  J. Porter       24   62 149  15   37   8   0   3  20  15  23 .248 .319 .362 .682   86
   OF   J. Caffie*      26   54 133  19   36   4   1   4  13   7  21 .271 .301 .406 .707   91
   OF   B. Martyn*      26   58 118  10   31   2   4   1  12  10  18 .263 .315 .373 .688   87
   C    T. Thompson*    33   54 115  13   23   5   0   3  10   8  14 .200 .250 .322 .572   55
   CF   J. Pisoni       27   44  97  15   23   2   2   3  13  10  17 .237 .315 .392 .707   92
   IF   M. Baxes        26   64  99  13   24   4   0   1   9   8   9 .242 .296 .313 .609   66
   OF   F. Throneberry* 26   19  46   3    1   0   0   0   2   5  14 .022 .118 .022 .139  -60
   IF   C. Boyer        20   15  21   2    5   1   0   0   1   1   4 .238 .273 .286 .558   53

        Others                   29   4    7   1   0   0   3   3   4 .241 .303 .276 .579   59

        Pitchers                383  20   55   3   0   1  22  15 113 .144 .171 .159 .331   -9

        Total                  5223 624 1323 201  37 158 594 359 776 .253 .299 .397 .696   88

        * Bats left

        Pitcher        Age    G  GS  CG    W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
        D. Maas         28   45  26   8   10  14   3 219 210  89  82   24   67  114 3.37  117
        A. Ditmar       28   33  24   4    8   7   1 169 181  83  76   15   49   75 4.05   98
        N. Garver       31   24  23   6    8  10   0 145 120  72  62   13   55   61 3.85  103
        R. Terry        21   21  19   3    6   8   0 131 119  61  49   15   47   80 3.37  117
        A. Portocarrero 25   33  17   1    5   7   0 115 103  55  50   10   34   42 3.91  101
        R. Duren        28   14   6   0    1   2   1  43  37  26  25    4   30   37 5.23   75

        T. Morgan       27   46  13   5   10   5   5 144 160  76  74   19   61   32 4.63   85
        B. Tiefenauer   27   45   0   0    4   4   8  79  77  30  23    5   29   22 2.62  151
        W. Burnette     28   38   9   1    8  10   1 113 115  62  54    8   44   57 4.30   92
        J. Presko       28   36   7   1    6   5   1  73  73  33  30    7   32   27 3.70  107
        P. LaPalme*     33   35   0   0    1   4   4  40  35  17  16    6   21   19 3.60  110
        R. Coleman*     25   19   6   1    1   5   0  41  53  32  27    5   25   15 5.93   67
        G. Host*        24   11   2   0    1   1   0  24  29  19  19    5   14    9 7.13   55

        Others                    2   0    1   1   0  35  45  27  25    8   19   13 6.43   61

        Total                   154  30   70  83 24 1371 1357 682 612 144  527  603 4.02   98

        * Throws left

There are some disappointments. Vic Power has a down year with the bat. Neither Lou Skizas nor Dick Williams hit as well as in ’56. A few of the young pitchers struggle.

But the positive developments far outweigh the negatives. Smith, Cerv, Held, Hector Lopez, and Preston Ward all deliver good offensive performances. Our collection of hitters, in fact, combines to lead the American League in team home runs. The overall effect is still a below-average offense, primarily because practically no one on our team has the faintest idea of how to draw a walk, but nonetheless this is a meaningfully improved attack.

Yet on the pitching side our improvement is greater still, in fact it’s dramatic. Newcomers Garver and Terry, the wily veteran and the green rookie, both perform exactly as well as we’d hoped. Tiefenauer is a delightful surprise in the bullpen. And holdover Duke Maas, who’d struggled horribly in 1956, suddenly breaks through as a success, handling a heavy workload with aplomb.

Overall our staff improves from one of the league’s very worst to right around league-average. This allows us to win 70 games, a 15-win upgrade over last year. Though we climb just one rung in the standings, from last to seventh, ours is a strong one as seventh-place teams go, distinctly better than the actual 1957 Athletics.

We’ve still got quite a ways to go to be a .500 ball club, let alone a good one. But our improvement in our third season has been significant. We head into 1958 with renewed confidence.

1957-58 offseason: Actual Athletics deals we will make

Dec. 2, 1957: Drafted catcher Harry Chiti from the New York Yankees in the 1957 Rule 5 draft.

The Cubs had once expected great things from Chiti, but he’d failed to pan out. But he was still just 25 and definitely worth another chance.

1957-58 offseason: Actual Athletics deals we will modify

The actual Athletics did this:

Nov. 20, 1957: Traded outfielders Gus Zernial and Lou Skizas, infielder Billy Martin, pitchers Tom Morgan and Mickey McDermott, and catcher Tim Thompson to the Detroit Tigers for outfielders Bill Tuttle and Jim Small, catcher Frank House, pitchers Duke Maas and John Tsitouris, first baseman Kent Hadley, and a player to be named later. (On April 3, 1958, the Tigers sent first baseman Jim McManus to the Athletics, completing the deal.)

There’s nothing really coherent about this 13-man traffic jam in terms of what either team was attempting to accomplish, beyond simply cleaning house. But there is a sensible deal buried inside the trading-for-trading’s-sake complexity.

We’ll boil it down to this:

Nov. 20, 1957: Traded infielder Billy Martin, pitcher Tom Morgan, and catcher Tim Thompson to the Detroit Tigers for catcher Frank House, pitcher John Tsitouris, and first baseman Kent Hadley.

The Tigers get an upgrade in the infield and on the mound, while the A’s get an upgrade behind the plate and a couple of decent prospects. Fair and done.

1957-58 offseason: Athletics deals we will invoke

Dec., 1957: Traded pitcher Ned Garver to the New York Yankees for infielder Fritz Brickell and cash.

Garver did as we hoped for us in 1957, rebounding from arm trouble to make a solid contribution. But he’ll be 32 in 1958, and given his injury history, it makes sense for us to leverage him into someone with more potential future. Brickell is a young (5-foot-5!) shortstop who’s surplus on the Yankees, but whose minor league stats impress us.

Feb. 18, 1958: Traded catcher-outfielder Jay Porter to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Hank Aguirre.

The Indians actually made this deal with the Tigers on this date. Porter hasn’t broken through for us as we’d hoped, and Aguirre’s a southpaw who looks like he might be ready to contribute in the majors.

1957-58 offseason: Actual Athletics deals we will not make

Jan. 28, 1958: Signed pitcher Murry Dickson as a free agent.

A 41-year-old “name,” the type in whom we aren’t trafficking.

1958 season: Actual Athletics deals we will make

April 17, 1958: Traded pitcher Arnie Portocarrero to the Baltimore Orioles for pitcher Bud Daley.

Portocarrero had once shown great promise but then gotten hurt. It made sense to opt for the control-oriented young southpaw Daley.

May 14, 1958: Purchased outfielder Whitey Herzog from the Washington Senators.

The 26-year-old Herzog hadn’t been able to get his bat going in Washington. But he’d shown fine on-base ability in the minors, plus some pop with the bat, and had the range to handle center field. He was a good pickup for the A’s.

1958 season: Actual Athletics deals we will modify

The actual Athletics did this:

June 15, 1958: Traded infielder-outfielders Vic Power and Woodie Held to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Roger Maris, infielder-outfielder Preston Ward, and pitcher Dick Tomanek.

This momentous trade got this assessment in Blockbusters:

Held’s Kansas City stay lasted just one year to the day, before he was packaged with the Athletics’ best-known player (Power) off to Cleveland (where Frank Lane was now operating as an ever-ready trading partner) in exchange for the still-developing, but abundantly talented 23-year-old Roger Maris.

It’s only in retrospect, of course, that we know what tremendous feats Maris would soon achieve. But he was very highly regarded at the time: I quote from the Dell Sports Baseball 1959 magazine, which features an action photo of the sweet-swinging Maris in its player summary-and-comment section, with this caption: “Roger Maris of the [sic] Indians is one of the most promising young players in the American League. Still not consistent, he hits a long ball.”

Interesting that they should get Maris’s team affiliation wrong, because his trade to the Athletics in June of ’58 was big news.

It was big news because of its sheer magnitude—and because of the cozy Kansas City-New York relationship, the expectation was that it wouldn’t be long before Maris was donning Yankee pinstripes—but this trade was seen as a fair exchange. It made particular sense for the A’s, getting them younger and bringing in the most robustly athletic Kansas City Athletic yet.

We already have Ward, so we can’t make this exact deal. But Ward was a secondary element. So we’ll re-work it as this:

June 15, 1958: Traded infielder-outfielders Vic Power and Woodie Held to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Roger Maris, pitcher Dick Tomanek, and catcher-infielder Earl Averill.

Averill is a fair replacement for Ward. And given that Lane’s Indians had Averill stashed in triple-A at this point, and would dump him in a trade for marginal players the following off-season, it’s highly plausible that Cleveland would have agreed to this exchange.

1958 season: Actual Athletics deals we will not make

June 12, 1958: Traded infielder Billy Hunter to the Cleveland Indians for shortstop Chico Carrasquel.

We don’t have Hunter, and we don’t want Carrasquel.

June 15, 1958: Traded pitchers Duke Maas and Virgil Trucks to the New York Yankees for outfielder-first baseman Harry Simpson and pitcher Bob Grim.

We have Maas, but we see no point in re-acquiring Simpson, who’d disappointed in New York. This deal was the sort that made the A’s look like a Yankees’ farm club, catering to New York’s needs on New York’s schedule.

Aug. 22, 1958: Traded pitcher Murry Dickson to the New York Yankees for outfielder Zeke Bella and cash.

We don’t have Dickson, and so won’t be able to serve him up to the Yankees just in time for the stretch run.

1958 season results

With the 1957 improvement under our belts, we head into 1958 with a bit more roster stability. Among the position player starters, the only significant change at the start of the season is the presence of Chiti and House as catching alternatives, allowing us the flexibility of deploying Smith at third base. The big June trade introduces more change, of course.

There’s a bit more turnover on the pitching staff. Two of the newcomers aren’t recent acquisitions, but rather guys we picked up two or three years ago, and who’ve worked their way back from the minors: Ray Herbert and Bill Henry.

  Pos   Player         Age    G  AB   R    H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
   1B   P. Ward*        30  129 416  55  119  13   2  10  45  38  63 .286 .340 .399 .739  102
 2B-3B  H. Lopez        28  151 564  84  147  28   4  17  73  49  61 .261 .314 .415 .729   98
   SS   J. DeMaestri    29  125 354  26   78   9   1   5  30  13  67 .220 .245 .294 .539   47
  3B-C  H. Smith        27   99 315  32   86  19   2   5  41  25  47 .273 .322 .394 .716   95
 RF-CF  B. Martyn*      27   95 237  26   62  11   7   2  24  27  38 .262 .335 .392 .727   98
   CF   R. Maris*       23   99 401  61   99  14   3  19  53  28  52 .247 .297 .439 .735   99
   LF   B. Cerv         32  141 515  93  157  20   7  38 104  50  82 .305 .371 .592 .963  159
   C    H. Chiti        25   93 236  26   63   9   2   7  35  14  38 .267 .303 .411 .714   93

   UT   D. Williams     29  122 368  32  104  15   0   6  34  32  42 .283 .333 .372 .706   93
   IF   F. Brickell     23   77 202  20   46   7   1   4  17  13  20 .228 .271 .332 .602   64
   C    F. House*       28   76 202  16   51   6   3   4  24  12  13 .252 .294 .371 .665   81
   UT   V. Power        30   52 205  30   62  13   4   4  27   7   3 .302 .321 .463 .784  112
   UT   E. Averill      26   62 170  21   44   5   1   7  24  16  30 .259 .326 .424 .750  104
   IF   M. Baxes        27   73 154  21   33   7   1   0   5  14  16 .214 .287 .273 .559   54
   RF   L. Skizas       26   55 153  16   32   5   1   3  11  13   7 .209 .266 .314 .580   58
   CF   W. Held         26   47 131  13   28   2   0   4  16  10  28 .214 .272 .321 .593   62
 RF-LF  W. Herzog*      26   66 117  13   28   2   2   0   7  19  24 .239 .343 .291 .634   75
   RF   D. Melton       29   38  75   7   18   3   1   1   5   4  13 .240 .275 .347 .622   69

        Others                   84  11   19   3   0   3   6   5  20 .226 .267 .369 .636   72

        Pitchers                397  34   77  13   0   0  19  27  91 .194 .233 .227 .460   27

        Total                  5296 637 1353 204  42 139 600 416 755 .255 .306 .389 .695   89

        * Bats left

        Pitcher        Age    G  GS  CG    W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
        R. Terry        22   40  33   8   11  13   2 217 217 111 102   29   61  134 4.23   93
        D. Maas         29   32  24   6   10  10   1 181 170  91  84   16   58   81 4.18   95
        R. Herbert      28   32  26   7    8  10   1 175 166  79  73   22   52  104 3.75  105
        A. Ditmar       29   33  23   5    8   9   1 168 155  85  73   19   46   62 3.91  101
        B. Daley*       25   31  17   5    8   8   0 145 143  57  48   10   54   83 2.98  133

        B. Tiefenauer   28   64   0   0   12   7  17 126 102  44  38   10   49   63 2.71  146
        B. Henry*       30   44   0   0    5   4   6  81  61  27  26    8   17   57 2.89  137
        H. Aguirre*     27   38   9   0    3   5   2  70  70  33  31    6   25   35 3.99   99
        J. Presko       29   32   7   0    2   4   2  80  92  42  39    6   44   37 4.39   90
        D. Tomanek*     27   30   8   1    5   5   3  72  72  35  31    6   26   48 3.88  102
        W. Burnette     29   12   4   0    1   1   0  28  29  14  11    2   14   11 3.54  112
        W. Craddock*    26   12   1   0    0   2   0  19  21  13  12    2   10   11 5.68   69

        Others                    4   1    1   2   0  37  47  28  28    5   19   19 6.81   58

        Total                   156  33   74  80 35 1399 1345 659 596 141  475  745 3.83  103

        * Throws left

Cerv busts out with a superstar-caliber season. That’s fortunate, because otherwise our offense is so-so, and in the case of slumping outfielders Skizas and Held, disappointing. On balance our hitting is still below league-average, but a slight tick better than last year’s.

But our pitchers take another significant stride forward. Our starting is solid across the board, and our bullpen is downright outstanding. The knuckleballing Tiefenauer emerges as one of the game’s top firemen, and Henry, blossoming at the age of 30, is nearly as good. It adds up to a better-than-league-average staff: quite an accomplishment, if we do say so ourselves, given what disastrous shape our staff was in back in 1955.

This team will win 74 games, and climb to sixth place. That’s not great, but it represents real progress: we’ve consolidated the gains we made in 1957, and we’re close to middle-of-the-pack status.

But lest we get too full of ourselves: the actual 1958 Athletics enjoyed their best Kansas City season yet as well. We’re just one win, and one position in the standings, ahead of them. We’re doing well after four years, but so, at this point, were they.

     Actual Athletics               Virtual Athletics

      W        L  Pos       Year       W       L  Pos
      63      91   6        1955      54     100   8
      52     102   8        1956      55      99   8
      59      94   7        1957      70      83   7
      73      81   7        1958      74      80   6

Next time

We’ll find out if we can truly part ways with the real-life A’s.

References & Resources
A marvelous account of the perplexing relationship between Arnold Johnson, the Kansas City Athletics, and the New York Yankees—which all started with the circumstance that Johnson was, essentially, the Yankees’ landlord, but it was vastly more convoluted and intertwined than that term implies—is found in The Diamond in the Bronx: Yankee Stadium and the Politics of New York, by Neil J. Sullivan, New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 83-90.

Unlike current-day rules, which require each team to cut down to a 25-man active major league roster as of Opening Day, in this period the rules allowed teams to carry up to 28 players for the first 31 days following their first game. Thus the final “cut-down day” took place in mid-May, and is the explanation for countless releases, waiver claims, and other transactions that occurred in the early weeks of May in the 1940s/50s/60s.

Print Friendly
« Previous: The best fastball you’ve never heard of
Next: BOB:  Team ownership updates »

Comments

  1. ed bemiss said...

    I just took a look at your article and thought it was interesting. I’ve created a baseball game and was wondering if you’d like me to add your “new” teams to my database. Here’s a sample game between the 55 and 56 A’s.

    http://nationalsportsrankings.com/index.php?option=com_baseball&magic=9623

    Right now the game uses the DH only, but the game is based on actual stats and is pretty realistic if using the same team over multiple games.

    I just thought it would bring “your” teams to life a bit, and maybe give my game a little plug as well. Thanks, let me know

    Ed

  2. voxpoptart said...

    I’ve felt all along that, as much as I love these exercises (a lot; they’re my favorite thing on Hardball Times), you’d get fairer old-to-new comparisons if you did, in fact, assume each revised team would get the same difference-from-Pythagorean that the real team did.  We don’t have any idea, but we do know that no team scores *at* the Pythagorean every time, so that assumption’s not realistic at all.  If we do have yours rise and fall along with reality, we can see the difference more clearly.

    In this case, by the way, you just achieved a 77-77 record using that rule in 1958. (The real Pirates were +3 versus Pythag that year.)

    Speaking as a real-life Pirates fan (the baseball Pirates, not the Goldman Sachs ones), I appreciate that kind of triumph.

  3. Steve Treder said...

    Regarding the suggestion of having these virtual teams vary from their Pythag, up or down, just as much as their actual counterparts did … strange as it may seem, I was JUST thinking about that this morning.

    The argument for doing it the way I’ve been doing it is that, as far as we know, the greatest driver a team’s divergence from its Pythag record is sheer random variation.  So, there wasn’t anything “about” the actual 1958 Athletics (and these are the A’s we’re examining in this series, not the Pirates!) that caused them to win three more games than their Pythag; it’s just the way it happened.  Therefore, there’s no reason for us to assume that our virtual ‘58 A’s would do that; they might just as easily finish three wins below their Pythag as three wins above.

    That’s the thinking that’s persuaded me to do it this way in all of these “virtual” series.

    But just this morning as I was brushing my teeth or something, I began to question that.  It occurred to me that just because the variation from Pythag is (as far as we know) mostly or all random doesn’t mean it isn’t a real factor in the determination of the league standings.  So, in the interest of realism, why not just have each virtual team vary from its Pythag to the same extent the real team did?

    Unless someone suggests to me a reason not to do it that way, I think the final two episodes of this series, and all episodes of future virtual teams, will employ the team’s actual variance from Pythag.

  4. John said...

    Since you’re assuming that the relationship between the A’s and the Yankees of that era is no different than that of any other club, I don’t think you should include Clete Boyer in this exercise in any way. The A’s signed Boyer on the Yankees’ behalf from day one; he only signed with K.C. because he knew he was eventually going to the Yankees. The A’s knew they weren’t going to win anyway, and they were eventually going to get something in return for carrying Boyer for two years, so they agreed.

    In a scenario where the A’s are operating independently, either they don’t sign him at all, or they agree to the skulduggery anyway and trade him for real value in June of ‘57. I don’t think it’s realistic to say K.C. signs him, keeps him, and farms him out in ‘57 until he’s ready.

  5. Steve Treder said...

    Yes, in actuality the A’s and Yankees quite obviously made an under the table “deal” regarding Clete Boyer, and the A’s signed him and baby-sat him on the Yankees behalf.  (And one presumes, though they never admitted it, that it was the Yankees providing the funding of Boyer’s bonus.)

    But if the A’s and Yankees didn’t have that kind of cozy syndicate-like relationship, I think it’s entirely plausible that the A’s would have signed Boyer legitimately.  He was a Missouri kid, the youngest brother in a prominent baseball family, and lots of teams were very interested in him; it would make lots of sense for a genuinely-operating Kansas City franchise to win the bidding war.

    Though the Yankees no doubt had deeper financial pockets than our version of the A’s, the reason they actually resorted to the shenanigans regarding Boyer is that in 1955 they were already carrying two Bonus Babies on their active roster, Frank Leja and Tommy Carroll.  They were understandably unwilling to add a third.  I don’t think it’s plausible to imagine them signing Boyer as a Bonus Baby, and thus that would leave him available for the A’s.

  6. Matthew Namee said...

    The other reason to use the actual variance from the team’s Pythagorean expectation is because it makes comparisons to the actual team easier. In your virtual ‘60s Mets series, the virtual ‘69 team won fewer games than the real-life Mets, but they really weren’t any worse than the (lucky, or whatever) real Mets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *