The virtual 1958-68 Giants, Reds, and Cardinals (Part 9: 1965-66)

We’ve completed eight seasons of triangulated time travel:

1957-58
1958-59
1959-60
1960-61
1961-62
1962-63
1963-64
1964-65

The pinnacle of the National League standings has been the site of a sustained heavyweight slugfest between our Giants and Reds, with each so far bagging three-and-a-half pennants and coming very close nearly every time the other wins it. But for our Cardinals, it’s been eight long years of not-good-enough. Could this be the year this persistent dynamic is finally altered?

          Giants:  Actual             Reds:  Actual               Cardinals:  Actual
 Year    W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA
 1958    80   74  3    727  698      76   78  4    695  623      72   82  5T   619  704
 1959    83   71  3    705  613      74   80  5T   764  738      71   83  7    641  725
 1960    79   75  5    671  631      67   87  6    640  692      86   68  3    639  616
 1961    85   69  3    773  655      93   61  1    710  653      80   74  5    703  668
 1962   103   62  1    878  690      98   64  3    802  685      84   78  6    774  664
 1963    88   74  3    725  641      86   76  5    648  594      93   69  2    747  628
 1964    90   72  4    656  587      92   70  2T   660  566      93   69  1    715  652
 1965    95   67  2    682  593      89   73  4    825  704      80   81  7    707  674

          Giants:  Virtual            Reds:  Virtual              Cardinals:  Virtual
 Year    W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA
 1958    83   71  2T   747  692      73   81  5    683  637      77   77  4    640  677
 1959    87   67  1T   737  615      87   67  1T   802  662      84   70  4    725  685
 1960    93   61  1    709  561      76   78  6    705  666      86   68  4    661  632
 1961    88   66  2    787  648     106   48  1    813  629      72   82  6    689  724
 1962   103   59  1    800  632     101   61  2T   779  663      84   78  6    809  703
 1963    97   65  3    726  578     100   62  1    704  540      80   82  6    664  668
 1964   100   62  2    726  576     101   61  1    689  533      87   75  4    662  657
 1965    99   63  1    697  587      98   64  2    843  646      85   76  5    692  622

The 1965-66 offseason: Actual deals we will make

Nov. 29, 1965: The Cincinnati Reds drafted pitcher Don Nottebart from the Houston Astros in the 1965 Rule 5 draft.

Nov. 29, 1965: The St. Louis Cardinals drafted pitcher Joe Hoerner from the Houston Astros in the 1965 Rule 5 draft.

We haven’t generally been listing the Rule 5 picks in this series, because they’re usually quite unimpactful.

But both of these guys are better talents than one usually finds available in Rule 5 drafts, and both our Reds and our Cardinals will snap them up as eagerly as their real-life counterparts. (The fact that both Nottebart and Hoerner were left off the Houston 40-man roster that fall may suggest some disarray in the Astros’ front office as GM Paul Richards and owner Roy Hofheinz quarreled, leading to the Wizard of Waxahachie’s you-can’t-fire-me-I-quit departure in December.)

Nov. 29, 1965: The San Francisco Giants drafted second baseman Don Mason from the Washington Senators in the 1965 Rule 5 draft.

And then there’s this selection. It isn’t odd on its face, as Mason is an intriguing prospect, a 20-year-old left-handed-batting second baseman who’s hit .285 with 18 homers in Class A in 1965.

But the Giants have already devoted a “bonus baby” investment to Bob Schroder, a left-handed-batting second baseman, and been forced to commit a major-league roster spot to an unproductive Schroder in 1965. Keeping Mason will require doing the same for this left-handed-batting second baseman in 1966, and while left-handed-batting second basemen are pretty cool, just how far in this direction is it prudent for a team to go?

Our Giants will draft Mason; at this point in the process there’s no downside. But in spring training, we’ll make him prove to us that he can pull his weight on the full-season roster or we’ll relinquish him.

The 1965-66 offseason: Actual deals we will not make

Oct. 20, 1965: The St. Louis Cardinals traded third baseman Ken Boyer to the New York Mets for pitcher Al Jackson and third baseman Charley Smith.

Oct. 27, 1965: The St. Louis Cardinals traded first baseman Bill White, shortstop Dick Groat, and catcher Bob Uecker to the Philadelphia Phillies for outfielder Alex Johnson, catcher Pat Corrales, and pitcher Art Mahaffey.

Our Cardinals don’t have Boyer, White, or Groat, so they can’t pull off this dramatic infield demolition engineered by St. Louis GM Bob Howsam.

Dec. 9, 1965: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun and outfielder Dick Simpson.

Well, one might put it this way:

The Big One; a deal so notorious that more than 40 years later it remains high on everyone’s short list of All-time Bad Trades.

We’ve discussed before how clever a maneuver it was on the part of the Orioles. From the Reds’ point of view, the deal was prompted by Cincinnati Owner/GM Bill DeWitt’s concern that Robinson, his franchise player for a decade, was “an old 30” (along with a not-so-subtle undertone of discomfort with Robinson’s strong personality—read whatever racial implications into this you deem appropriate), as well as the opportunity to shore up the pitching staff following a season in which the Reds led the world in runs scored but finished fourth.

In such a circumstance, leveraging hitting surplus into pitching help was a fine strategy. But DeWitt, shall we say, whiffed on the execution: He guessed wrong in the estimation that decline was imminent for Robinson (strike one), he guessed wrong that the value garnered in this exchange was somewhere close to equivalent (strike two), and in any case he guessed wrong that Robinson’s contribution to the Reds—in terms of tangible play as well as intangible leadership—was indeed a surplus and not an essential (grab some pine).

While our version of the Reds has some pitching concerns, we’re nowhere close to being tempted to doing something like this.

The 1965-66 offseason: Deals we will invoke

Nov., 1965: The Cincinnati Reds purchased catcher Dave Ricketts from the St. Louis Cardinals.

With Ed Bailey appearing as though he’s nearing the end, this switch-hitting backup catcher is more valuable to our Reds than to our Cardinals.

Dec. 1, 1965: The St. Louis Cardinals traded outfielder Matty Alou to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitcher Joe Gibbon.

Actually, on this date the Pirates made this one with the Giants. Since it’s our Cards who have Alou, they’ll accept Pittsburgh’s offer of the lefty Gibbon, whose peripherals in 1965 were incomparably superior to his 4.51 ERA. (Even an eight-year-old scrutinizing Gibbon’s 1965 Strat-o-Matic card could figure that out.)

Dec. 2, 1965: The San Francisco Giants traded pitcher Bill Hands, outfielder Ollie Brown, and catcher Randy Hundley to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Dick Ellsworth.

Actually, the Giants traded Hands and Hundley to the Cubs for pitcher Lindy McDaniel and outfielder Don Landrum. But in our scenario, the Cubs don’t have McDaniel (our Cards do, and they aren’t parting with him), and we’re not sure if the Cubs have Landrum, but it doesn’t matter because our Giants don’t want him.

But as in reality, in our scenario the Cubs at this point would be struggling (even moreso than in reality), quite ready to deal marketable assets in return for high-potential young talent. This offer our Giants present is that for sure, and it’s hefty enough to plausibly command the durable, still-young southpaw Ellsworth, who’d been just so-so in 1964 and ’65 after busting out with a tremendous year in ’63.

Much as our Giants like Hands, Brown, and Hundley, our roster is so deep that the only one we have a spot for is Hands. And the resulting upgrade from Hands to Ellsworth in our starting rotation is worth this considerable price.

Dec., 1965: The San Francisco Giants traded outfielder-infielder Cap Peterson to the Washington Senators for outfielder Fred Valentine.

Valentine is a toolsy switch-hitting journeyman, but at the age of almost-31 is the type of player the still-struggling Senators would surrender for the right offer. Our Giants haven’t been able to find major league room for Peterson, but he’s a line-drive hitter with defensive versatility, and he’s just 23.

April, 1966: The San Francisco Giants returned infielder Don Mason (earlier draft pick) to the Washington Senators.

Yeah, we’re just not ready for that commitment. It isn’t you, Don, it’s us.

April, 1966: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Joe Nuxhall to the Atlanta Braves for pitcher Hank Fischer.

We’re big fans of Nuxhall, who’s given us back-to-back-to-back fine years as a long reliever-spot starter in his Cincinnati career renaissance. But for 1966, he’s shaking out as our sixth left-handed pitcher, and on a staff of 10, that’s really not advisable. So we’ll exchange him for the right-hander Fischer, who isn’t as good, but is a decade younger.

April, 1966: The St. Louis Cardinals sold pitcher Bill Henry to the Philadelphia Phillies.

April, 1966: The Cincinnati Reds sold infielder Chico Ruiz to the Minnesota Twins.

End-of-spring training roster culling.

The 1966 season: Actual deals we will make

Aug. 15, 1966: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Hank Fischer to the Boston Red Sox for players to be named later and cash. (On Dec. 15, 1966, the Red Sox sent pitchers Dick Stigman and Rollie Sheldon to the Reds, completing the deal.)

Fischer does poorly in Cincinnati, and like the actual Reds, we’ll scrap him in August. The price the Red Sox are willing to pay is generous; both Stigman and Sheldon have fallen on hard times, but each is young enough to have an Act III yet to play.

The 1966 season: Actual deals we will not make

May 8, 1966: The San Francisco Giants traded first baseman-outfielder Orlando Cepeda to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Ray Sadecki.

Mmm-hmm. As we put it in Blockbusters:

Branch Rickey’s famous trading maxim was, “It’s better to trade a player a year too soon than a year too late.” That’s sound wisdom, and a variant on it might be, “It’s better to trade a player when his market value is high than when his market value is low.” Buy low/sell high, in other words. Well, the Giants spectacularly botched this one in that regard.

Cepeda had been a superstar, of course, but he was coming off a season lost to major knee surgery, and it wasn’t yet clear just how fully he’d regain his form, so the Giants went ahead and dealt him while that doubt was holding his market value way down. Therefore, all they could get for him was Sadecki, who at just 25 was already in his seventh big-league season but had yet to establish himself as even so much as a consistent, dependable league-average starter.

Our Giants won’t go there.

May 11, 1966: The San Francisco Giants sold infielder Dick Schofield to the New York Yankees.

Like the actual Giants, we’ve been frustrated by Schofield’s offensive woes. But not frustrated enough to just cut him loose; we still see him contributing in a utility role.

May 20, 1966: The Cincinnati Reds sold pitcher Gerry Arrigo to the New York Mets.

Our Reds don’t have Arrigo. (And our Reds do still have Cesar Tovar.)

June 15, 1966: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Joey Jay to the Atlanta Braves for pitcher Hank Fischer.

This is how the Reds actually acquired Fischer.

Aug. 16, 1966: The Cincinnati Reds purchased pitcher Gerry Arrigo from the New York Mets.

Interestingly, Cesar Tovar was not being sold and re-sold every three months in 1966.

The 1966 season: Deals we will invoke

May, 1966: The St. Louis Cardinals sold pitcher Joe Gibbon to the Washington Senators.

We still like Gibbon, but our Cards have not one but two emerging southpaws this year that will squeeze him off our staff at mid-May cut-down time.

1966 season results

Giants

We won the pennant in 1965, but that was despite three nagging problems. We have plans to address all three.

Problem No. 1 was the absence of Cepeda, and the strain that put on run production. He’s back for 1966 (though just how completely, we’ll have to find out) and ready to reclaim left field. We could move Jim Ray Hart, who handled left in Cepeda’s stead, back to right field, but that would deprive young Jose Cardenal of playing time, and he’s a multi-faceted talent we want to try to develop.

So instead, we’ll make Hart our primary third baseman (in the minors, he played mostly third, and—how about this—shortstop), easing 35-year-old Ken Boyer into a part-time role.

The second issue was the starting rotation behind Juan Marichal. We’re beefing that up with the addition of Ellsworth, and we think the enigmatic Gaylord Perry is capable of better than he delivered in 1965.

And problem No. 3 was twin offensive sinkholes in the middle infield. We’re dealing with that by sliding young Hal Lanier from second base over to shortstop, where he’ll share the position with Schofield, and we anticipate pinch-hitting liberally at this spot in the order.

At second base, we’ll introduce 22-year-old rookie Tito Fuentes, who, though he’s just a little guy, is coming off a monster Triple-A season in which he slugged .543 while playing his home games in a pitchers’ park, in a league that slugged .386.

1966 San Francisco Giants     Won 106    Lost 55    Finished 1st

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  W. McCovey*    28  150 502  85 148  26   6  36  96  76 100 .295 .391 .586 .977  163
  2B  T. Fuentes     22  133 487  57 127  19   3   8  36   8  51 .261 .272 .361 .633   72
  SS  H. Lanier      23  134 344  28  79  11   2   2  28  12  37 .230 .251 .291 .541   48
3B-OF J. Hart        24  156 578  88 165  23   4  33  93  48  75 .285 .341 .510 .852  129
RF-CF J. Cardenal    22  128 374  54 108  11   3  11  32  21  45 .289 .328 .422 .750  104
  CF  W. Mays        35  152 552  99 159  29   4  37 103  70  81 .288 .367 .556 .923  149
LF-1B O. Cepeda      28  137 456  62 136  24   0  21  74  36  70 .298 .360 .489 .849  130
  C   T. Haller*     29  137 455  72 109  18   2  26  65  51  72 .240 .320 .459 .780  111

3B-1B K. Boyer       35   91 273  34  77  15   1   8  34  19  33 .282 .324 .432 .757  105
  SS  D. Schofield#  31   80 194  26  42   3   0   0   8  24  24 .216 .303 .232 .535   49
OF-1B W. Bond*       28   81 181  20  41   5   1   6  25  14  25 .227 .290 .365 .655   78
  OF  F. Valentine#  31   73 169  31  47  10   3   5  20  14  22 .278 .339 .462 .800  117
  IF  A. Rodgers     31   54 137  16  32   6   0   2  13  18  27 .234 .314 .321 .636   75
  OF  J. Alou        24   66 148  16  38   3   0   0   8   3  10 .257 .271 .277 .548   51
  C   B. Barton      24   43  91   1  16   2   1   0   3   5   5 .176 .216 .220 .436   20
  C   T. Talton*     27   37  53   8  18   3   1   3   6   1   5 .340 .364 .604 .967  159
  IF  R. Peña        26   21  40   3   8   1   0   0   3   3   7 .200 .256 .225 .481   33
  C   J. Orsino      28   14  23   1   4   1   0   0   0   0   7 .174 .174 .217 .391    6

      Others                  75   4  17   0   1   1   3   2  10 .227 .241 .293 .534   45

      Pitchers               432  34  80  10   3   3  36  17 142 .184 .208 .240 .448   22

      Total                 5564 739 1451 220 35 202 686 442 848 .261 .316 .422 .737  100

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      J. Marichal    28   37  36  25  26   5   0 307 228  88  76   32   36  222 2.23  167
      G. Perry       27   36  35  13  22   7   0 256 242  92  85   15   40  201 2.99  125
      B. Bolin       27   36  34  10  13   9   1 224 174  85  72   25   70  143 2.89  129
      D. Ellsworth*  26   31  29   7   8   9   0 179 204  92  72   17   33  104 3.62  103
      D. LeMay*      27   17  15   2   2   2   0  66  84  43  36   12   28   27 4.91   76
      B. Garibaldi   24   11   6   1   3   2   0  44  55  26  22    3   17   23 4.50   83

      D. McMahon     36   61   0   0  10   5   7  90  76  34  27    8   39   62 2.70  138
      B. O'Dell*     33   59   0   0   5   3   3 102 104  35  30    5   38   62 2.65  141
      S. Miller      38   51   0   0   9   4  15  92  71  30  26    5   20   66 2.54  147
      F. Linzy       25   42   2   0   6   7   4  86  92  34  28    4   29   49 2.93  127

      Others                   4   0   2   2   0  31  34  22  19    3   19   20 5.52   68

      Total                  161  58 106  55 30 1477 1364 581 493 129  369  979 3.00  124

      * Throws left

Cepeda doesn’t display peak form, but he’s very good. Hart proves able to handle third base (as had Cepeda several years ago), and Boyer is productive coming off the bench. Cardenal hits well, as does catcher Tom Haller. Willie Mays finally begins to show signs of slowing down, but he remains extremely good, and Willie McCovey is as productive as ever.

Fuentes struggles with strike zone judgment but hits adequately. Our lineup overall is once again fearsome, leading the major leagues in home run production, blasting over 200 bombs for the fifth time in six years.

Ellsworth isn’t great, but he’s solid, and he fits in nicely as a southpaw fourth starter behind right-handers Bob Bolin (who’s excellent), Perry (who does bust out as a star), and Marichal (who’s utterly brilliant). Sophomore sinkerballer Frank Linzy, who worked as a starter as a midseason call-up in 1965, moves to the bullpen to replace Masanori Murakami (who’s returned to Japan) and completes a rock-solid, four-deep relief corps.

It’s an outstanding team without significant weakness. With an assist from Pythagoras, who allows us to outperform our projection by seven full games, we cruise to a glittering 106-55 record, tying the all-time franchise record for wins set way back in 1904.

In most seasons, that would be more than enough for a runaway pennant, but not this year. We do capture the flag, our fourth outright (plus one first-place tie) in nine seasons since coming West. But it turns out to be a magnificent squeaker of a race, and we’re grateful for every last bit of that good Pythagorean fortune as we sweat it out.

Reds

We’ve made minimal changes to the roster that finished second by an eyelash in 1965. Ricketts is taking over as third-string catcher, and sophomore Tommy Helms beats out Chico Ruiz for one of the backup infielder spots. Nottebart and rookie Ted Davidson will join the bullpen.

1966 Cincinnati Reds     Won 87    Lost 73    Finished 5th

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  B. White*      32  144 471  81 140  19   5  21  85  59  82 .297 .372 .493 .865  129
  2B  P. Rose#       25  156 654 107 205  38   5  16  70  37  61 .313 .347 .460 .807  114
  SS  L. Cardenas    27  144 454  52 116  20   3  16  65  36  70 .256 .307 .419 .725   92
3B-1B D. Johnson     27  128 404  66 104  20   2  19  65  31  70 .257 .309 .458 .766  102
  RF  F. Robinson    30  155 576 124 189  36   3  47 123  75  92 .328 .410 .646 1.056 177
  CF  V. Pinson*     27  156 618  77 178  35   6  16  76  33  83 .288 .323 .442 .765  102
  LF  T. Gonzalez*   29  132 384  58 114  21   4   7  40  25  61 .297 .342 .427 .769  105
  C   J. Edwards*    28   98 282  24  54   8   0   6  39  31  42 .191 .266 .284 .550   47

  OF  T. Harper      25   99 277  45  75  11   3   3  16  27  44 .271 .337 .365 .701   88
  C   J. Azcue       26   93 272  24  81  10   1   8  44  15  21 .298 .332 .430 .762  102
  3B  T. Perez       24   99 257  25  68  10   4   4  41  14  44 .265 .302 .381 .683   82
  IF  T. Helms       25   69 181  24  50   7   0   3  16   7  11 .276 .302 .365 .667   78
  UT  C. Tovar       25   67 116  14  30   5   2   1  10   8  14 .259 .302 .362 .664   77
  C   D. Ricketts#   30   46  75   7  20   2   1   0   5   3   3 .267 .288 .320 .608   62
  LF  J. Lynch*      35   64  56   5  12   2   0   1   6   4  11 .214 .267 .304 .570   52

      Others                  34   5   9   2   0   1   4   2   7 .265 .306 .412 .717   90

      Pitchers               417  31  67  10   2   1  18  19 131 .161 .188 .203 .391    5

      Total                 5528 769 1512 256 41 170 723 426 847 .274 .323 .427 .750   99

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      C. Osteen*     26   39  38   9  18  12   0 252 260 101  97   11   70  141 3.46  114
      J. Maloney     26   32  32  10  17   7   0 225 174  75  70   18   90  216 2.80  141
      S. Ellis       25   37  32   6  12  14   0 199 201 120 115   31   71  140 5.20   76
      J. O'Toole*    29   25  24   2   5   6   0 142 139  65  56   16   49   96 3.55  111
      J. Jay         30   27  12   1   6   4   1 103 118  60  58   11   44   65 5.07   78
      H. Fischer     26   29  12   0   2   8   0  86 108  52  49    5   30   47 5.13   77

      D. Nottebart   30   59   1   0   5   4  12 111  97  45  38   11   43   69 3.08  128
      B. McCool*     21   57   0   0   8   7  19 105  76  32  29    5   41  104 2.49  159
      T. Davidson*   26   54   0   0   5   4   4  85  82  41  37   11   23   54 3.92  101
      J. Pizarro*    29   34   9   1   8   4   3  89 109  54  49   13   33   43 4.96   80
      D. Zanni       34   15   0   0   1   1   0  25  20   9   8    2   11   20 2.88  137
      D. Osteen      23   13   0   0   0   2   1  15  26  21  20    3    9   17 12.00  33

      Others                   0   0   0   0   0   1   3   2   2    0    1    0 18.00  22

      Total                  160  29  87  73 40 1438 1413 677 628 137  515 1012 3.93  100

      * Throws left

Robinson emphatically vindicates our decision to keep him by delivering perhaps his greatest year, leading the majors in home runs, runs scored, RBIs, slugging, and OPS. Our hitting encounters just one problem, an inexplicably terrible year from catcher Johnny Edwards, and while we aren’t the juggernaut we were in ’65, our offense is very good, scoring the most runs in the major leagues.

On the mound, we get strong years from top starters Claude Osteen and Jim Maloney and ace reliever Billy McCool. But we also get a host of problems. Neither Fischer nor Jay are effective. Our sore-armed lefties of 1965, Jim O’Toole and Juan Pizarro, both avoid the DL this time, but neither is an ace like before, as O’Toole is so-so and Pizarro pretty bad.

But the worst problem is that young Sammy Ellis, a relief sensation as a rookie in 1964 and a 20-game winner as a sophomore in ’65, becomes extremely hittable this time around, his ERA ballooning well over 5.00.

The result is a Cincinnati team dropping to fifth place after finishing first or second for five straight years. It isn’t our Reds who challenge the Giants for the pennant this time.

Cardinals

Despite finishing in fifth in 1965, we liked what we were seeing at most positions and have made only a few alterations for ’66. Rookie left-hander Larry Jaster will compete for a spot in the starting rotation, and the Rule 5 pick Hoerner will claim a role in our bullpen.

There will be a big change in venue, as in 1966 St. Louis unveils brand-new, circular, state-of-the-art Busch Memorial Stadium.

1966 St. Louis Cardinals     Won 105    Lost 57    Finished 2nd

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  L. Thomas*     30  114 275  26  62   5   1   6  29  24  30 .225 .294 .316 .610   70
  2B  J. Javier      29  140 414  35  95  12   5   6  35  23  57 .229 .267 .326 .593   64
SS-2B J. Buchek      24  123 358  32  85  13   5   6  36  29  90 .237 .289 .352 .641   78
  3B  M. Shannon     26  137 459  61 132  20   6  16  77  37 106 .288 .337 .462 .799  120
RF-1B F. Alou        31  154 633  94 211  31   7  24  92  23  48 .333 .365 .518 .883  143
  CF  C. Flood       28  152 563  77 150  19   5   9  61  23  45 .266 .295 .366 .661   83
  LF  L. Brock*      27  156 643 103 183  24  12  15  51  31 134 .285 .320 .429 .749  106
  C   T. McCarver*   24  146 516  64 143  18  13  11  64  34  36 .277 .321 .426 .748  106

1B-OF A. Shamsky*    24   96 257  37  63   8   1  16  42  35  52 .245 .330 .471 .801  120
  SS  D. Maxvill     27  112 263  17  64   9   2   0  18  25  41 .243 .307 .293 .600   68
 1B-C D. Pavletich   27   83 235  28  70  14   2   8  36  18  39 .298 .348 .477 .824  127
3B-2B P. Gagliano    24   90 213  23  54   8   2   2  19  24  29 .254 .326 .338 .664   85
  OF  T. Savage      29   70 123  21  28   8   2   3  20  16  27 .228 .312 .398 .710   96
  C   B. Uecker      31   39  52   4   9   1   0   2   7   4  10 .173 .224 .308 .532   46
  IF  J. Williams    22   19  30   2   7   1   0   0   2   2   7 .233 .281 .267 .548   54

      Others                  94   9  20   6   1   1   8   7  13 .213 .272 .330 .602   67

      Pitchers               410  34  68  14   1   4  26  15 154 .166 .182 .234 .416   15

      Total                 5538 667 1444 211 65 129 623 370 918 .261 .305 .392 .698   93

      *  Bats left

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      B. Gibson      30   35  35  20  24   9   0 280 210  90  76   20   78  225 2.44  148
      L. Jackson     35   38  35  10  16  11   0 230 230  91  84   22   58  103 3.29  110
      A. Jackson*    30   36  30   9  16  10   0 210 197  72  57   16   41   82 2.44  148
      L. Jaster*     22   23  21   6  12   4   0 145 117  54  52   16   42   87 3.23  112
      N. Briles      22   28  17   0   5   8   2 104 110  46  40   11   40   69 3.46  105
      J. Gelnar      23   27  17   1   6   4   0  99 111  46  44   13   31   49 4.00   91

      E. Fisher      29   60   0   0   5   5  15  86  77  30  26    4   24   47 2.72  133
      H. Woodeshick* 33   59   0   0   3   0   4  70  57  17  15    5   23   30 1.93  188
      L. McDaniel    30   58   0   0   9   3   5  98  80  33  27    3   29   76 2.48  146
      J. Hoerner*    29   57   0   0   6   0  13  76  57  16  13    5   21   63 1.54  235

      Others                   7   3   3   3   2  59  48  19  16    2   19   40 2.44  148

      Total                  162  49 105  57 41 1457 1294 514 450 117  406  871 2.78  130

      * Throws left

It isn’t a season in which everything goes according to plan. First baseman Lee Thomas slumps so badly that he loses his starting role. Second baseman Julian Javier hits quite poorly, as well, though his slick glove allows him to retain his first-string job, more or less. And The Phantom’s fellow defensive whiz, center fielder Curt Flood, wields a third slump-ridden bat.

But the parade of good news is long and boisterous. Right fielder Felipe Alou delivers his best year, leading the league in hits and finishing second in batting average. Third baseman Mike Shannon breaks through as a productive regular. Art Shamsky comes off the bench with outstanding power to grab the first-base job from Thomas. With solid years from left fielder Lou Brock and catcher Tim McCarver, and robust lefty-mashing work from platoon hitter Don Pavletich, we mount a league-average offense despite our slumps.

And this competent offense is paired with a pitching staff of rare and exquisite excellence. Ace Bob Gibson has never been more terrific. Southpaw Al Jackson, a humdrum innings-eater in seasons past, comes up with a marvelous performance of his own, combining with Gibson and veteran right-hander Larry Jackson to form an outstanding top three. Jaster and sophomore Nelson Briles provide reliable spot starting.

Hoerner is tremendous. He joins fellow lefty Hal Woodeshick and right-handers Lindy McDaniel and Eddie Fisher to form a four-man relief unit that is an impervious and dazzling gem.

No major league ball club since 1954 has presented an ERA+ better than ours. Led by this phenomenal staff (and helped a little bit by a three-win Pythag cushion), our 105 victories are the second-most in St. Louis history. We finish, heartbreakingly, in second, but there is no question that our long struggle to produce a contender is over. These Cardinals are, at last, absolutely for real.

Next time

In a suddenly new reality, we find ourselves asking if it’s the Reds who might be able to get within hailing distance of the front-runners in 1967.

          Giants:  Actual             Reds:  Actual               Cardinals:  Actual
 Year    W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA
 1958    80   74  3    727  698      76   78  4    695  623      72   82  5T   619  704
 1959    83   71  3    705  613      74   80  5T   764  738      71   83  7    641  725
 1960    79   75  5    671  631      67   87  6    640  692      86   68  3    639  616
 1961    85   69  3    773  655      93   61  1    710  653      80   74  5    703  668
 1962   103   62  1    878  690      98   64  3    802  685      84   78  6    774  664
 1963    88   74  3    725  641      86   76  5    648  594      93   69  2    747  628
 1964    90   72  4    656  587      92   70  2T   660  566      93   69  1    715  652
 1965    95   67  2    682  593      89   73  4    825  704      80   81  7    707  674
 1966    93   68  2    675  626      76   84  7    692  702      83   79  6    571  577

          Giants:  Virtual            Reds:  Virtual              Cardinals:  Virtual
 Year    W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA
 1958    83   71  2T   747  692      73   81  5    683  637      77   77  4    640  677
 1959    87   67  1T   737  615      87   67  1T   802  662      84   70  4    725  685
 1960    93   61  1    709  561      76   78  6    705  666      86   68  4    661  632
 1961    88   66  2    787  648     106   48  1    813  629      72   82  6    689  724
 1962   103   59  1    800  632     101   61  2T   779  663      84   78  6    809  703
 1963    97   65  3    726  578     100   62  1    704  540      80   82  6    664  668
 1964   100   62  2    726  576     101   61  1    689  533      87   75  4    662  657
 1965    99   63  1    697  587      98   64  2    843  646      85   76  5    692  622
 1966   106   55  1    739  581      87   73  5    769  677     105   57  2    667  514

References & Resources
In case you’re wondering what a league might look like that has its top two teams combining for 211 wins, and its fifth-place team capturing 87…

I certainly haven’t “spreadsheeted” any of the other teams the way I have our three protagonists, but through this exercise, I have kept an off-the-top-of-the-head estimate of how each year’s NL standings would turn out, given the probable moves everyone else would be making in this scenario. And here’s how the 1966 National League standings might have been:

Team                   W       L   Pos
SAN FRANCISCO         106      55   1
ST. LOUIS             105      57   2
Pittsburgh             90      72   3
Los Angeles            89      73   4
CINCINNATI             87      73   5
Philadelphia           71      91   6T
Houston                71      91   6T
Atlanta                70      92   8
New York               62      99   9
Chicago                57     105   10

Quite a peculiar outcome, no doubt: a league not only with extreme totals at both ends, but also with no team close to .500, just five clear winners and five clear losers.

Print Friendly
« Previous: Dissecting a mystery pitch
Next: Reflections after a long offseason »

Comments

  1. DrBGiantsfan said...

    My problem with the Cepeda non-trade and your projections is they are based on offense only, right?  I don’t believe either Cepeda or McCovey could play in the OF and they both could not play 1B.  They had to choose one or the other.  Of the two, I think keeping McCovey was the right choice.

    Sadecki didn’t pitch all that badly for the Giants, but was plagued by poor run support, ironic pitching for a team that had Mays, McCovey and Hart in the middle of the lineup.  The big problem for the Giants was they had nobody getting on base in front of the big 3.

  2. Steve Treder said...

    “I don’t believe either Cepeda or McCovey could play in the OF and they both could not play 1B.”

    All the evidence we have indicates that McCovey was a horrible defensive LF, and adequate at 1B, while Cepeda was an adequate defender in LF, and average-to-good at 1B. 

    “Sadecki didn’t pitch all that badly for the Giants”

    Over his entire 1966-69 stint with the Giants, he didn’t pitch badly.  In 1966, however, he did pitch badly, very very much so.

  3. Steve Treder said...

    Thanks for the kind words, will.

    Re:  Matty Alou.  An interesting question to ponder (and I can be accused of chickening out on addressing it in this series) is to what degree Matty’s blossoming in 1966 was a function of Harry Walker’s influence, or whether Alou would have made the adjustment he did that year (adopting the huge “bottle bat” and choking up and shortening his stroke even more than it had been) and enjoyed the same remarkable results no matter where he was playing.

  4. Steve Treder said...

    And, oh, just because it’s fun:  one of my brothers-in-law was such a huge Matty Alou fan that he named his first son (born in the early ‘70s) Matthew, and when he was little they called him Matty.

  5. will hammons said...

    Love this series, Steve.  When I read of the Matty Alou trade though I thought what a shame.  An outfield of Brock, Flood and M. Alou with F. Alou at 1B would have been a slash and dash dream.  Such a team would not have had a lot of power but would sure have been fun to watch.  As a lifetime Reds fan this series is enlightening and sad.  I always felt the Reds had traded away a pennant or two during the 60’s, but the dominance in this series from 1961-65 is amazing.  This series I think highlights the absolute importance of a good GM.  It also highlights the damage a poor one can do.

  6. Lyle said...

    A fascinating look, particularly for this Giants fan who was just discovering baseball in the mid-60’s.  And I’m with you on the Cepeda/McCovey logjam; you don’t trade low, and of the two Cepeda was the better choice for LF.  Even coming off an injury, you put him in LF and see how things develop.

    Thanks for an unusual and entertaining trip down memory lane!

  7. Steve Treder said...

    “Even coming off an injury, you put him in LF and see how things develop.”

    Yeah, and what’s really weird (these being the Giants, a certain degree of weirdness is a given) is that in the early weeks of the ‘66 season that’s what they were doing.  Pretty much for the first time since 1959, they were just deploying Cepeda as the primary LF and McCovey as the primary 1B, the simplest and most obvious choice, but being such, had perennially eluded the grasp of Alvin Dark.  And then, boom, they trade Cepeda for Sadecki.

    As far as we can tell, the advocates for accepting the St. Louis offer were Chub Feeney and Herman Franks.  Stoneham wasn’t in favor, but got tired of telling Feeney and Franks no, and let them win this one.  Oops.

    And apparently Franks’ motivation was just that he was sick and tired of Cepeda bitching and moaning about having to play LF, something that McCovey had never indulged in, though if anyone would have the right it would have been McCovey.

  8. DrBGiantsfan said...

    I don’t know where you get a statement like “all the evidence we have indicates that……Cepeda was an adequate defender in LF”.  I”m wondering if you could educate me about what that evidence is.  As far as I know Cepeda only played a handful of games in LF after coming back from the knee injury before being traded.  Is it possible that the Giants, and Cepeda himself, saw that he was unable to cover LF and that is what prompted the trade?

  9. Steve Treder said...

    I’m describing Cepeda’s defensive capability before the knee injury, not following it.  There is every reason to believe Cepeda was displaying miniscule range in the early weeks of 1966.  You’re correct that it’s clear that this weighed heavily in the Giants’ decision to trade him.

    But all that’s simply the details of a sell-low dynamic.  It would have been vastly more prudent for the Giants to demonstrate some patience and see how well Cepeda would be moving after he fully regained his playing shape, which he did over the balance of ‘66, and certainly by 1967, when among other features of his MVP performance was an 11-for-13 as a base stealer.

    The notion isn’t that Cepeda would have been a good defensive outfielder from 1966 forward.  But far slower, less defensively adept athletes than Cepeda have managed to play left field in the major leagues.  Cepeda could run circles around a Rico Carty, a Frank Howard, or a Harmon Killebrew.  The idea that Cepeda alone couldn’t handle catching routine flies in left field is unfounded. 

    The dynamic was that Cepeda handled the situation in a selfish, immature manner, constantly whining and complaining about how unfair it was for him to have to play left field (something McCovey never, ever did), and the Giants spent nearly all of the 1959-66 period giving in to his peevish tantrums, the trade just being the cherry on top.  A stronger organization would have been decisive and firm in doing what was best for the team, and telling Cepeda to man up and focus on helping the team win games.

  10. DrBGiantsfan said...

    Cepeda could run circles around Carty, Howard and Killebrew?  Really?  After the knee injury?  And you know this how?

    You also know that the Giants did not tell him to man up and go play LF?

    Again, maybe you could educate me about your sources for this information.

    Again, I believe the preponderance of evidence is that Cepeda could not play LF, McCovey was the better choice at 1B going forward and Cepeda was not going to rebuild his value with no position to play.

  11. will hammons said...

    Think the Giants would have loved the “DH” rule about then?  How many players over the years would have altered pennant races if they could play their best position-hitter?  Instead some very good, maybe even great players just sat or were traded like Cepeda.  One rule change might have had a big effect in some of the close races through the years.

  12. Steve Treder said...

    “Cepeda could run circles around Carty, Howard and Killebrew?  Really?  After the knee injury?  And you know this how?”

    Did you watch these guys play?

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 *