The virtual 1969-76 Phillies, Cardinals, and Mets (Part 1:  1968-69)

We had some fun a while back imagining a virtual scenario in the American League East Division in the years immediately following the 1968-69 expansion. How about this time we run a similar exercise in the National League East over the same years. Our participating franchises each undertook quite a few big-talent trades in this period, not all of which were, well, entirely well-founded. How might have things plausibly gone differently?

1968-69 offseason: Actual deals we will make

(We’ll assume all three of our ball clubs surrendered the players they actually did in the October 1968 expansion draft.)

Oct. 11, 1968: The St. Louis Cardinals traded catchers Johnny Edwards and Tommy Smith to the Houston Astros for pitcher Dave Giusti and catcher Dave Adlesh.

We’ve discussed before just what a baffling trade this was on the part of the Astros. For now, suffice to say our Cardinals will gladly accept the durable right-hander Giusti for this bargain price.

Oct. 16, 1968: The New York Mets sold outfielder Don Bosch to the Montreal Expos.

Dec., 1968: The St. Louis Cardinals traded pitcher Jim Cosman to the New York Mets for infielder Jerry Buchek.

Dec. 3, 1968: The St. Louis Cardinals traded infielder Dick Schofield to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Gary Waslewski.

Reasonable tinkerings at the marginal end of the rosters.

Dec. 3, 1968: The St. Louis Cardinals traded outfielder Ron Davis, third baseman Ed Spiezio, catcher Danny Breeden, and pitcher Phil Knuckles to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Dave Giusti.

And our Cardinals will be fine with re-acquiring Giusti, as did the actual Cardinals, after surrendering him in the expansion draft.

Dec. 3, 1968: The Philadelphia Phillies purchased infielder-outfielder Deron Johnson from the Atlanta Braves.

The power-hitting Johnson’s fall from fleeting mid-1960s stardom has been swift. But he’s still only 30, and can handle multiple defensive positions. It makes sense for our rebuilding Phillies to give him a chance to get re-established.

Dec. 4, 1968: The New York Mets traded catcher Hector Valle to the Detroit Tigers for pitcher Jack DiLauro.

Feb. 12, 1969: The St. Louis Cardinals purchased outfielder Byron Browne from the Houston Astros.

More of that tinkering stuff.

March 17, 1969: The St. Louis Cardinals traded first baseman Orlando Cepeda to the Atlanta Braves for catcher-first baseman Joe Torre.

Blockbusters don’t get much bigger. As we’ve explained this one:

Yes, Cepeda had been once been a terrific player; as recently as his MVP season of 1967, in fact. And yes, Torre had suffered an injury-nagged, sub-par performance in 1968.

But Cepeda had slumped even worse than Torre in ’68. Moreover, Cepeda was three years older than Torre, and had a history of serious knee trouble. All in all, the notion that Torre-for-Cepeda was a sensible talent swap from the Braves’ perspective was, well, nuts.

However, a clear-eyed analysis of the talent really wasn’t what was motivating Atlanta GM Paul Richards.

Like the real-life Cardinals, we’ll be quite eager to be the beneficiary of The Wizard of Waxahachie’s tantrum.

March 25, 1969: The St. Louis Cardinals traded catcher Dave Adlesh to the Atlanta Braves for infielder Bob Johnson.

April 3, 1969: The St. Louis Cardinals sold pitcher Bo Belinsky to the California Angels.

April 3, 1969: The St. Louis Cardinals traded infielder Jerry Buchek and infielder-outfielder Jim Hutto to the Philadelphia Phillies for first baseman Bill White.

And some final end-of-spring-training tinkering.

1968-69 offseason: Actual deals we will not make

Oct. 11, 1968: The St. Louis Cardinals traded outfielder Bobby Tolan and pitcher Wayne Granger to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Vada Pinson.

What was going on with this Blockbuster?

The wager here was on the question of whether the longtime star Pinson would rebound at age 30 from the leg trouble that had nagged him in 1968: [Cardinals’ GM Bing] Devine bet yes, and Reds’ GM Bob Howsam … bet no. Howsam would be proven correct, and moreover Tolan and Granger, who’d both shown promise in St. Louis, would immediately blossom as stars in Cincinnati.

Our Cards won’t take that action. The combination of the not-yet-23-year-old Tolan and the 24-year-old Granger is just too steep a price. Instead, we’ll give Tolan the full shot at our right field job, and keep Granger in our bullpen.

Oct. 21, 1968: The St. Louis Cardinals traded pitcher Pete Mikkelsen to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Jim Ellis.

Ellis is a youthful left-hander, and they’re always nice to have. But he’s only a so-so prospect. The knuckleballing Mikkelsen, meanwhile, has had major league success in the past, had a tremendous season in triple-A in 1968, and is still a year shy of 30. He deserves a chance at winning a bullpen job in spring training.

Oct. 29, 1968: The Philadelphia Phillies released pitcher Dick Hall.

He’s just turned 37 years old, and delivered a poor year in 1968. But on the other hand, Hall was terrific in 1967. While he’s not a good candidate for our roster as we rebuild, we think the long tall right-hander with the herky-jerky delivery probably still has some market value. We’ll shop him around.

Feb. 5, 1969: The New York Mets traded catcher-first baseman Greg Goossen and cash to the Seattle Pilots for a player to be named later. (On July 14, 1969, the Pilots sent outfielder Jim Gosger to the Mets, completing the deal.)

As we put it here:

Goossen had failed to develop good defensive skills behind the plate, prompting the actual Mets to give up on him. But he was still only 23, and his minor league power stats were impressive. Given that we’ve got room for a right-handed-batting platoon partner at first base, we’ll keep Goossen around and see if he might be able to handle that.

March 29, 1969: The St. Louis Cardinals purchased pitcher Dennis Ribant from the Kansas City Royals.

Precisely because our Cardinals still have the likes of Granger and Mikkelsen on hand, we have no need to be bottom-feeding in our bullpen.

The 1968-69 offseason: Deals we will invoke

Dec., 1968: The New York Mets traded outfielder Ron Swoboda, first baseman Ed Kranepool, and pitchers Danny Frisella and Steve Renko to the Philadelphia Phillies for outfielder Johnny Callison, pitcher Woodie Fryman, and infielder-outfielder Rick Joseph.

They’re both still quite young, but our Mets are frustrated with the stalled progress of Swoboda and Kranepool. Our Phillies need to get younger, and are concerned with the deteriorating performance of the erstwhile star Callison, even though he hasn’t yet turned 30.

So both clubs will take the chance that a change of scenery might do some good. We’ll expand on that by giving the Phils a pair of pretty good right-handed pitching prospects in exchange for the journeyman southpaw Fryman and the utilityman Joseph.

Dec., 1968: In a three-club deal, the Philadelphia Phillies traded outfielder Don Lock and pitcher Dick Farrell to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Bill Schlesinger. The Red Sox sent pitcher Fred Wenz to the Washington Senators, and the Senators sent catcher Billy Bryan to the Phillies.

The Lock-for-Schlesinger exchange would actually take place in the spring of 1969. We’ll build on that to provide the Red Sox with some veteran bullpen help (which they could use), the Senators a hard-throwing prospect (which they could use), and our Phillies with a left-handed-batting catcher (which we can use).

Jan. 20, 1969: The Philadelphia Phillies traded catcher Clay Dalrymple and pitcher Dick Hall to the Baltimore Orioles for pitcher Fred Beene and outfielder-first baseman Ron Stone.

The actual trade on this date was Dalrymple-for-Stone. We know the Orioles also like Hall (they would sign him as a free agent in the spring of ’69), and it’s plausible they’d have surrendered the second-tier prospect Beene to get him.

March, 1969: The St. Louis Cardinals sold pitcher Gary Waslewski to the Cincinnati Reds.

March, 1969: The St. Louis Cardinals sold pitcher Ron Willis to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Neither of these right-handers makes our staff. The Reds will have to take Waslewski instead of Granger, and the Dodgers will have to take Willis instead of Mikkelsen.

March, 1969: The Philadelphia Phillies purchased pitcher Jim Ellis from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

And our Phillies will take Ellis off the Dodgers’ hands.

April 3, 1969: The New York Mets sold pitcher Al Jackson to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Our Cardinals do have an opening for a lefty in the bullpen, and the veteran Jackson is being squeezed off our Mets’ staff by some younger arms.

April 7, 1969: The Philadelphia Phillies traded pitchers John Boozer and Tony Giresi, outfielder Rich Barry, and cash to the New York Mets for pitcher Don Cardwell and infielder Kevin Collins.

Neither the veteran Cardwell nor the youngster Collins are going to make the New York roster this spring, so our Mets will accept this package of triple-A filler plus a low-level prospect from our Phils.

The 1969 season: Actual deals we will make

May 22, 1969: The St. Louis Cardinals traded infielder John Sipin and catcher Sonny Ruberto to the San Diego Padres for infielder Jerry DaVanon and and first baseman Bill Davis.

DaVanon and Davis were rookies who’d been given first-string opportunities with the maiden-voyage Padres in 1969, and neither hit at all in the season’s opening weeks. It was something of an overreaction for San Diego GM Buzzie Bavasi to abruptly dispose of them like this, but like the actual Cardinals, we’ll be happy to accommodate. Among this quartet, DaVanon is the guy we still think has the best chance of a major league future.

May 30, 1969: The St. Louis Cardinals traded outfielder Jim Hicks to the California Angels for outfielder Vic Davalillo.

When provided the offer to exchange a minor league journeyman for a major league journeyman, the proper response is “yes.”

June 13, 1969: The St. Louis Cardinals sold pitcher Al Jackson to the Cincinnati Reds.

We’ll let Cincinnati be the last stop for the veteran southpaw.

Aug. 12, 1969: The New York Mets sold outfielder-infielder Billy Sorrell to the Kansas City Royals.

We can afford to part with this minor league journeyman.

Sep. 6, 1969: The Philadelphia Phillies traded pitcher Gary Wagner to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Mike Jackson.

A way to get a little younger.

The 1969 season: Actual deals we will not make

April 12, 1969: The Philadelphia Phillies traded catcher John Sullivan and pitcher Tony Giresi to the Baltimore Orioles for catcher Vic Roznovsky.

We fail to grasp the point of exchanging a 28-year-old left-handed-batting backup catcher for a 30-year-old left-handed-batting backup catcher, plus tossing in a prospect.

June 3, 1969: The St. Louis Cardinals traded pitcher Gary Waslewski to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Mudcat Grant.

Our Cardinals don’t have Waslewski any more, so no Mudcat for us. Presumably it would be Cincinnati making this deal with the Expos.

June 15, 1969: The New York Mets traded infielder Kevin Collins and pitchers Steve Renko, Jay Carden and Dave Colon to the Montreal Expos for first baseman Donn Clendenon.

Our Mets still have Greg Goossen, and so have no need for the veteran Clendenon. Our Phillies have Collins and Renko, but are similarly disinterested in Clendenon.

The 1969 season: Deals we will invoke

April 17, 1969: The Philadelphia Phillies purchased pitcher Bo Belinsky from the California Angels.

Ace southpaw Chris Short has been sidelined with a back injury, so our Phillies are in sudden need of a left-hander. We believe the Angels, who actually sent Belinsky to the minors in the spring before selling him to Pittsburgh in July, would accept a cash offer for the ultra-colorful left-hander.

May 17, 1969: The Philadelphia Phillies traded pitcher Bo Belinsky and cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitcher Jim Shellenback.

On this date the Pirates actually traded Shellenback to the Senators for Frank Kreutzer. For all his faults, Belinsky is better than Kreutzer (and, of course, the Pirates would actually acquire Belinsky in the summer of ’69), so we presume they’d prefer Belinsky instead of Kretuzer now. And we don’t understand why the Pirates were casting off the soft-tossing 25-year-old lefty Shellenback anyway, so our Phillies are happy to exchange Belinsky for him.

July 12, 1969: The St. Louis Cardinals traded infielder Bob Johnson and cash to the Oakland Athletics for infielder Jim Driscoll.

Actually the Cardinals traded Johnson to the A’s for journeyman outfielder Joe Nossek, but our Cards will take the minor league journeyman Driscoll instead.

1969 season results

Phillies

In a full-stop rebuilding year, we’re introducing new faces all over the place. Rookies will get the opportunity to win first-string jobs at shortstop (Don Money) and center field (Larry Hisle), and, well, just about every spot in the bullpen. Newly-acquired young veterans will take over at first base (Kranepool) and right field (Swoboda).

Journeymen with checkered pasts will get serious shots at third base (Deron Johnson), catcher (Bryan), and the starting rotation (Cardwell). A couple of young pitchers with limited experience, Grant Jackson and Jerry Johnson, will find out what they can do as starters.

1969 Philadelphia Phillies     Won 64    Lost 98    Finished 5th

 Pos      Player    Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  E. Kranepool*  24  106 318  32  75   8   3   9  32  32  30 .236 .301 .365 .666   88
  2B  C. Rojas       30  110 391  35  89  11   1   4  27  23  28 .228 .266 .292 .557   58
SS-3B D. Money       22  127 450  41 103  22   2   6  39  43  83 .229 .292 .327 .619   75
3B-2B T. Taylor      33  124 446  53 117  19   4   2  21  34  50 .262 .316 .336 .653   85
  RF  R. Swoboda     25   99 294  34  68   9   3   7  35  38  83 .231 .320 .354 .674   91
CF-RF L. Hisle       22  145 482  73 128  23   5  20  53  48 152 .266 .337 .459 .796  123
LF-1B R. Allen       27  118 438  78 126  23   3  32  86  64 144 .288 .375 .573 .949  165
  C   B. Bryan*      30  105 300  33  68  10   0   9  28  33  85 .227 .304 .350 .654   85

  UT  D. Johnson     30  138 475  50 121  19   4  17  77  60 111 .255 .332 .419 .751  112
  OF  J. Briggs*     25  124 361  50  86  20   3  12  43  64  78 .238 .351 .410 .761  115
  C   M. Ryan        27   89 223  20  44   8   1   6  20  14  34 .197 .246 .323 .569   60
SS-2B T. Harmon      25   87 201  25  48   8   1   0  14  22  31 .239 .322 .289 .610   74
  IF  K. Collins*    22   88 201  14  44  11   2   4  21  13  49 .219 .264 .353 .617   73
  OF  R. Stone*      26   77 167  18  39   5   1   1  16  21  22 .234 .320 .293 .613   75
  C   J. Sullivan*   28   48  98   6  19   4   0   1   7   7  19 .194 .245 .265 .511   45
  OF  B. Schlesinger 27   22  39   5   8   1   0   2   5   3  11 .205 .256 .385 .640   79

      Others                 163  20  41   5   1   1  10  14  23 .252 .311 .313 .624   77

      Pitchers               391  24  72   6   1   4  28  11 140 .184 .196 .233 .429   21

      Total                5438 611 1296 212 35 137 562 544 1173 .238 .305 .366 .671   89

      * Bats left

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      G. Jackson*    26   38  31  11  13  17   1 228 211  98  83   14   83  163 3.28  109
      R. Wise        23   33  31  14  15  13   0 220 215  97  79   17   61  144 3.23  110
      D. Cardwell    33   30  21   4   7  10   1 152 144  58  50   14   47   60 2.96  121
      J. Johnson     25   33  21   4   6  13   1 147 151  76  70   18   57   82 4.29   83
      J. Shellenback 25   30  11   2   3   7   1  85  95  43  40    7   43   54 4.24   84
      J. James       27    6   5   1   2   2   0  32  36  20  19    5   14   21 5.34   67
      C. Short*      31    2   2   0   0   0   0  10  11   8   8    2    4    5 7.20   50

      A. Raffo       27   45   0   0   1   3   3  72  81  35  33    6   25   38 4.13   87
      F. Beene       26   43  13   3   7   7   5 148 161  76  67   17   42   77 4.07   88
      J. Ellis*      24   39   8   1   2   6   2  99 106  49  44    3   56   50 4.00   89
      B. Wilson      26   37   0   0   2   5   6  62  53  26  23    6   36   48 3.34  107
      D. Frisella    23   28   7   2   4   2   2  93  96  39  37   10   26   43 3.58  100
      G. Wagner      29    9   2   0   0   3   0  19  31  22  17    3    7    8 8.05   44
      B. Belinsky*   32    8   3   0   0   3   0  18  18  10   9    1   13   14 4.50   79

      Others                   7   1   2   7   1  57  59  34  33    7   30   40 5.21   69

      Total                  162  43  64  98 23 1442 1468 691 612 130  544  847 3.82   93

      * Throws left

The multitude of changes is overshadowed by the Philadelphia season’s big story, which is the festering feud between superstar left fielder Richie Allen and management. He ends up spending a full quarter of the season on one suspension or another.

Though Allen hits up his usual storm when in the lineup, his frequent absence isn’t something this ball club can afford. Hisle has a terrific rookie year, and Deron Johnson resurrects his career with a strong supersub contribution, but by and large the hitters struggle.

Jackson and young Rick Wise step forward as solid starters, and Cardwell comes through in modulated usage, but by and large the pitchers struggle as well.

So we aren’t a good team. And to make a tough situation worse, we underperform our Pythagorean record by seven wins. Coming in at 64-98, it’s the worst Phillies’ finish since 1961.

Cardinals

Coming off back-to-back pennant-winning seasons, we haven’t made many alterations to the roster. Torre replaces Cepeda at first base, and Giusti replaces Larry Jaster (lost in the expansion draft) as the fifth starter. With the retirement of Roger Maris, young Bobby Tolan will get the chance to win the right field job.

1969 St. Louis Cardinals     Won 98    Lost 64    Finished 2nd

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1B-C J. Torre       28  159 602  77 174  29   6  18 113  66  85 .289 .361 .447 .808  126
  2B  J. Javier      32  143 493  63 139  28   2  10  48  40  74 .282 .333 .408 .741  107
  SS  D. Maxvill     30  116 279  22  48   7   2   1  24  33  38 .172 .257 .222 .479   36
  3B  M. Shannon     29  144 513  51 131  14   5  11  58  46  81 .255 .315 .366 .682   91
RF-CF B. Tolan*      23  152 637  95 195  26  12  16  86  28  90 .306 .344 .460 .804  124
  CF  C. Flood       31  149 576  84 164  29   3   4  61  46  54 .285 .340 .366 .706   98
  LF  L. Brock*      30  157 655 107 195  33  10  12  54  50 115 .298 .348 .434 .781  118
  C   T. McCarver*   27  138 515  49 134  27   3   7  58  49  26 .260 .321 .365 .686   92

  IF  S. Huntz#      23   79 161  17  32   5   0   4  18  31  38 .199 .328 .304 .632   79
  2B  P. Gagliano    27   62 128   8  29   2   0   1  12  14  12 .227 .301 .266 .566   60
 P-PH B. Gibson      33   37 118  11  29   6   0   1   8   3  36 .246 .252 .322 .574   60
3B-1B B. Johnson     33   35  72   6  18   2   0   2   9   5   9 .250 .291 .361 .652   82
  SS  J. Driscoll*   25   34  68   9  15   3   1   1   5   7  16 .221 .286 .338 .624   75
  OF  V. Davalillo*  32   53  65  11  17   2   0   1   8   5   5 .262 .314 .338 .653   83
  1B  B. White*      35   49  57   7  12   1   0   0   5  11  15 .211 .338 .228 .566   62
  OF  B. Browne      26   32  53  10  11   0   1   1   8  11  14 .208 .344 .302 .646   83
OF-1B J. Hague*      25   27  50   4   8   1   1   1   5   5  13 .160 .236 .280 .516   45
  C   D. Ricketts#   33   30  44   2  12   1   0   0   6   4   5 .273 .320 .295 .615   74
  RF  J. Hicks       29   16  29   3   5   0   1   1   3   3   9 .172 .250 .345 .595   66

      Others                 102  14  26   5   2   1  15  13  24 .255 .336 .373 .709   99

      Pitchers               328   9  50   9   1   2  17  15 131 .152 .179 .204 .383    7

      Total                5545 659 1444 230  50  95 621 485 890 .260 .319 .371 .690   93

      * Bats left
      # Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      B. Gibson      33   35  35  28  22  11   0 314 251  84  76   12   95  269 2.18  164
      S. Carlton*    24   31  31  12  19   9   0 236 185  66  57   15   93  210 2.17  164
      N. Briles      25   36  33  10  17  11   0 228 218 104  89   17   63  126 3.51  102
      R. Washburn    31   23  19   2   4   8   0 132 139  60  48    9   47   79 3.27  109
      C. Taylor      27   19  16   6   8   4   0 127 111  41  40   10   29   58 2.83  126
      D. Giusti      29   17  14   2   5   7   0 100 102  45  42    7   38   63 3.78   94
      M. Torrez      22   13   7   1   5   2   0  53  45  19  19    3   28   25 3.23  111

      W. Granger     25   67   0   0   6   4  15  97  91  34  26    4   27   50 2.41  148
      J. Hoerner*    32   45   0   0   3   2  12  53  44  18  17    5    9   35 2.89  124
      P. Mikkelsen   29   32   0   0   5   3   2  54  38  19  16    5   20   35 2.67  134
      T. Hilgendorf* 27   15   4   0   2   2   1  31  33  15  13    3    9   19 3.77   95
      A. Jackson*    33    9   0   0   0   0   0  11  18  13  13    1    4   10 10.64  34

      Others                   3   0   2   1   0  23  22  10  10    2   12   17 3.91   91

      Total                  162  61  98  64 30 1459 1297 528 466  93  474  996 2.87  124

      * Throws left

A couple of things don’t go so well. The always light bat of shortstop Dal Maxvill becomes featherweight, and Giusti is hampered by a back injury.

But nearly everything else goes as expected, or better than expected. Tolan blossoms into stardom, as does third-year starter Steve Carlton. Veteran second baseman Julian Javier comes up with a career year at the plate. Sophomore reliever Wayne Granger emerges as a superior fireman.

Combined with another brilliant year from ace Bob Gibson, excellent performances from Torre and left fielder Lou Brock, and solid seasons from center fielder Curt Flood, catcher Tim McCarver, and starting pitcher Nelson Briles, this two-time defending champion cruises to a 98-victory season.

But it isn’t enough.

Mets

Though we were a ninth-place team in 1968, as ninth-place teams go, we were pretty good: a 73-89 record, and a 77-85 Pythagorean record. Despite the ghastly history of our young franchise, it’s reasonable for us to think we’re ready to step up to middle-of-the-pack status.

On that basis we swapped Swoboda and Kranepool for Callison and Fryman, exchanging youth and potential for current-day productivity. We remain a distinctly young ball club, but we’re ready to step up our level of expectation of performance. We believe our humiliating tenure as a tail-ender is ready to end this year.

1969 New York Mets     Won 101    Lost 61    Finished 1st

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
1B-LF A. Shamsky*    27  100 303  42  91   9   3  14  47  36  32 .300 .372 .488 .861  138
  2B  K. Boswell*    23  131 460  53 125  16   9   3  40  43  62 .272 .333 .365 .699   95
  SS  B. Harrelson#  25  123 395  39  98  11   6   0  24  54  54 .248 .337 .306 .643   80
3B-OF A. Otis        22  131 394  42  96  15   3   8  42  34  81 .244 .298 .358 .656   82
  RF  J. Callison*   30  134 495  66 132  29   4  18  69  50  71 .267 .335 .451 .785  117
  CF  T. Agee        26  149 565  97 153  23   4  26  76  59 137 .271 .339 .464 .802  121
  LF  C. Jones       26  137 483  92 164  25   4  12  75  64  60 .340 .421 .482 .904  151
  C   J. Grote       26  113 365  38  92  12   3   6  40  32  59 .252 .308 .351 .659   83

 1B-C G. Goossen     23   99 269  30  73  13   2  11  39  23  59 .271 .338 .457 .795  120
3B-1B R. Joseph      29   99 264  30  73  15   0   7  37  23  56 .277 .331 .413 .744  106
  IF  W. Garrett*    21   83 200  18  42   5   2   1  19  19  39 .210 .276 .270 .546   53
  OF  R. Gaspar#     23   91 193  21  44   5   1   1  13  22  17 .228 .304 .280 .583   64
SS-2B A. Weis#       31   93 198  15  42   7   2   2  18  11  42 .212 .247 .298 .544   51
  C   J. Martin*     32   66 177  12  37   5   1   4  21  12  32 .209 .255 .316 .572   58
  3B  E. Charles     36   61 169  19  35   8   1   3  18  18  31 .207 .286 .320 .605   68
 1B   B. Sorrell*    28   20  56   4  12   2   0   1   5   7  10 .214 .302 .304 .605   69

      Others                  31   3   8   2   0   1   2   5   7 .258 .361 .419 .780  117

      Pitchers               420  17  44   6   0   1  19  14 203 .105 .130 .126 .257  -28

      Total                5437 638 1361 208 45 119 604 526 1052 .250 .315 .371 .685   90

      * Bats left
      # Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      T. Seaver      24   36  35  18  25   7   0 273 202  75  67   24   82  208 2.21  165
      J. Koosman*    26   32  32  16  17   9   0 241 187  66  61   14   68  180 2.28  160
      G. Gentry      22   35  35   6  13  12   0 234 192  94  89   24   81  154 3.42  106
      W. Fryman*     29   30  21   5   9   9   0 152 152  79  68   10   59  105 4.03   90
      J. McAndrew    25   27  21   4   6   7   0 135 112  57  52   12   44   90 3.47  105
      N. Ryan        22   25  10   2   6   3   1  89  60  38  35    3   53   92 3.54  103

      R. Taylor      31   59   0   0   9   4  13  76  61  23  23    7   24   42 2.72  134
      T. McGraw*     24   42   4   1   9   3  12 100  89  31  25    6   47   92 2.25  162
      C. Koonce      28   40   0   0   6   3   7  83  85  53  46    8   42   48 4.99   73
      J. DiLauro*    26   23   4   0   1   4   1  64  50  19  17    4   18   27 2.39  152
      J. Boozer      30    9   0   0   0   0   0  16  18  10   8    2    7    9 4.50   81

      Others                   0   0   0   0   1   5   8   5   4    0    4    4 7.20   51

      Total                  162  52 101 61  35 1468 1216 550 495 114  529 1051 3.03  120

      * Throws left

Well, then!

The media dubs us the “Miracle Mets” for this stunning performance. To be sure, we benefit from a stroke of exceptionally good fortune, outperforming our Pythagorean projection by eight wins, enough to vault us past the Cardinals into first place.

But a 93-win Pythag team is an excellent team. Led by star turns from the rapidly-developing Cleon Jones and the strongly-rebounding Tommie Agee, and ably assisted by a solid contribution from Callison and a superb first base platoon of Art Shamsky and Greg Goossen, our run production isn’t a strength, but it’s competent.

And our run prevention is terrific. While not quite as brilliant as that of St. Louis, our pitching, fronted by the dazzling young aces Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, is sensational, and the fielding—particularly Agee in center, Bud Harrelson at shortstop, and Jerry Grote behind the plate—is unsurpassed.

We had raised our expectations for 1969, but this crew soared far above them. Let the champagne flow.

          Phillies:  Actual         Cardinals:  Actual        Mets:  Actual
 Year     W    L  Pos   RS   RA     W    L  Pos   RS   RA     W    L  Pos   RS   RA
 1969    63   99  5    645  745    87   75  4    595  540   100   62  1    632  541

          Phillies:  Virtual        Cardinals:  Virtual       Mets:  Virtual
 Year     W    L  Pos   RS   RA     W    L  Pos   RS   RA     W    L  Pos   RS   RA
 1969    64   98  5    611  691    98   64  2    659  528   101   61  1    638  550

Next time

We’ll see what happens to our boys as the Me Decade dawns.

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Comments

  1. HP3 said...

    I thought I remembered Pete Mikkelsen as palm ball pitcher and not a knuckleballer.  I have also seen references to Mikkelsen as a fork ball pitcher, too.

  2. Señor Spielbergo said...

    Looks like this’ll be a good series.

    I remember redoing the 1969-1992 NL with one difference – the Cardinals in the West, and the Reds in the East, which makes more geographic sense – then adjusted the schedules to reflect their different divisions, rounding the real-life records. Here’s how the ‘70s would’ve turned out:

    Cincinnati Reds – 7 division titles (instead of 6)
    Los Angeles Dodgers – 7 division titles (instead of 3)
    Pittsburgh Pirates – 1 division title (instead of 6)

    In Brandon Isleib’s “a league divided” series (an inspiration for that experiment), he points out that the 1970s Reds and Dodgers get “dynasties out of nowhere,” “once they’re not direct competitors.” His experiment included a third division, but even in a two-division setup those teams would’ve paced their respective divisions.

    With the Pirates having to play 18 games against the Reds and 12 against the Cardinals every year, they wouldn’t have won a single division title between 1971 and 1990. (The ‘90 Pirates, who won 10 of their last 11 games in September, would edge out the Reds, 95 wins to 94. The ‘91 Pirates would win 99 games; the Cubs, Mets and Phillies would finish in a three-way tie for second with 78.)

    As for ‘79, the Pirates would lose two wins, falling to 96-66; the Montreal Expos would stay the same at 95-65, requiring them to make up both games against Atlanta to qualify for the postseason. I gave the division to Montreal there for three reasons: because 95-65 is a better winning percentage than 96-66; because they lost only once to the Braves all season; and because Expos fans have suffered enough.

    The only other team to win the NL East that decade would be the 1977 Phillies; Philadelphia would miss out to Cincinnati by a single game in both 1976 and 1978, with the ‘76 race being 101 wins to 100.

    The biggest surprise of all was the 1975 Cardinals, who would go all the way up from 82 wins to 89 and beat the Dodgers by a game for the NL West title. Their secret: aside from Cincinnati, the ‘75 Cards had winning records against every team in the West.

    St. Louis would win the West in 1971, as well (91 wins to San Francisco’s 90); the Houston Astros would win it in ‘79.

    And to think, all of that came from simply switching two teams’ divisions. I can only imagine what kind of craziness this series has in store.

  3. Señor Spielbergo said...

    “the Cardinals in the West, and the Reds in the East, which makes more geographic sense”

    More than I remembered, actually – I renamed East to North, and West to South, and indeed it is a straight sort. Cincinnati was the sixth-northernmost team in the NL from 1969-1992; St. Louis was seventh.

  4. Steve Treder said...

    “I thought I remembered Pete Mikkelsen as palm ball pitcher and not a knuckleballer.  I have also seen references to Mikkelsen as a fork ball pitcher, too.”

    You are correct, he wasn’t a knuckleballer, at least according to the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, which has to be understood as the most comprehensive reference we have.  You’ve caught me in the act of relying too heavily upon all-too-fallible memory, and not performing due diligent research before publication.

    I watched Mikkelsen pitch on TV many times, and live a couple of times, in his ‘69-‘72 Dodger tenure.  His signature pitch was a heavy-sinking lollipop slowball, which you’ve correctly identified as a palm ball, and to my juvenile eye looked so weird and wobbly as to be a knuckleball.  I stand corrected.  He could paint corners pretty well, kind of a master of junk.

  5. Philip said...

    This looks like to be another fine chapter in Steve’s What-Ifs.

    Steve, I know this is a Phillies-Cardinals-Mets ‘‘What If’‘, but any consideration of what the Pirates did in the mid and late 70s has to take into account where the Phillies are as a contender (or not). And if the Pirates are sitting prettier then…

    …Just make sure that when Gabe Paul returns Joe Brown’s call about Doc Medich, Brown laughs off the suggestion of sending Dock Ellis, Ken Brett and Willie Randolph to the Bronx for Medich.

    And since the Yankees then don’t go out looking for a quality starter to replace Medich, they don’t trade Bobby Bonds to the Angels for Ed Figueroa and Mickey Rivers. The Red Sox will then end up repeating in the AL East.

    And since I understand that the Bucs were trying to acquire Bert Blyleven for 1976 and were dangling Richie Zisk to the Twins, that might be a possible trade-to-invoke scenario.

    My thought would have been for the Pirates to trade Ellis, Brett and Randolph to the Mets for Koosman – arguably a better pitcher than Medich anyway. Then ship Koosman and Zisk to Minnesota for Blyleven (and use Bill Robinson in left and eventually Tony Armas). The Mets, initially unsure of Bud Harrelson’s return, plan on using Randolph at short but move Milan to third. The Pirates would also keep Craig Reynolds, who replaces Frank Taveras at short. Taveras is sent to the Yankees since George Steinbrenner is adamant that the Yankees won’t win a World Series with Fred Stanley playing shortshop. The Yankees do inquire about Ted Sizemore but the Cardinals turn down an offer of Bonds for the second baseman and Reggie Smith.

    Alomar plays another full year for the Yankees at 2nd and, having picked up Willie Davis at the end of the 75 season as insurance in case Elliot Maddox injury keeps him out for 76, the Yankees lineup for 1976 looks like this:

    C Munson
    1B Chambliss
    2B Alomar
    SS Taveras
    3B Nettles
    LF White
    CF Davis
    RF Bonds
    DH Piniella

    Rotation: Hunter, Medich, May, Dobson, Tidrow

    (That’s right; the Indians keep Oscar Gamble)

    Señor Spielbergo, I have done a similar analysis of the Wild West without the Reds. Yes, the Dodgers would have cleaned up. I like that you took into account actual head-to-head play, rather than assume the realigned clubs would have had the same record in another division.

    Question: did you only flip the Cards and Reds, or move the Braves and Cubs as well? As I understand it, the Cubs and Cardinals essentially lobbied together to stay in the East and the Braves had little say having just moved from Milwaukee. It’s doubtful the NL would have broken up the St Louis – Chicago rivalry. One way or the other, those two clubs would have remained in the same division. Thus, necessitating the likely move of the Braves to the East along with the Reds if you place the Cardinals and Cubs in the West.

    I was surprised to see the Reds could have bested the Pirates in 1979 if both clubs were in the East. Perhaps that could that change depending on the full division makeup.

    I’d give the nod to the Pirates for a different reason though. Despite the difference in their W-L records, the Mets would have been unlikely to trade Tom Seaver to a division foe in 1977. That probably would have let the Phillies keep the ‘78 title as well (and still lose to the Dodgers) and let the Pirates edge out the Reds in 1979. And if the Mets do trade Seaver to the Reds, then perhaps the other contenders have a reason to try to improve as well.

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