The virtual 1969-76 Phillies, Cardinals, and Mets (Part 7:  1974-75)

We’ve reached the three-quarter point in our re-imagining of the opening chapters of the National League East Division saga. Though our Mets and our Phillies have had their moments, mostly it’s been the Cardinals’ show.

          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
 1970    73   88  5    594  730    76   86  4    744  747    83   79  3    695  630
 1971    67   95  6    558  688    90   72  2    739  699    83   79  3    588  550
 1972    59   97  6    503  625    75   81  4    568  600    83   73  3    528  578
 1973    71   91  6    642  717    81   81  2    643  603    82   79  1    608  588
 1974    80   82  3    676  701    86   75  2    677  643    71   91  5    572  646

          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
 1970    77   84  5    596  691    80   82  4    742  703    84   78  3    687  619
 1971    86   76  4    629  598   102   60  1    787  647    89   73  3    643  561
 1972    68   88  5    585  638   105   51  1    675  478    93   63  2    551  523
 1973    93   69  1    680  572    80   82  3    621  593    91   70  2    625  539
 1974    86   76  2    679  654   100   61  1    738  591    83   79  4    648  622

But with St. Louis facing an extraordinary roster challenge this off-season, might the time be right for a change in the pattern?

The 1974-75 offseason: Actual deals we will make

Oct. 14, 1974: The St. Louis Cardinals traded catcher Marc Hill and infielder Tom Heintzelman to the San Francisco Giants for pitchers Elias Sosa and Jim Willoughby and catcher Ken Rudolph.

Hill is a nice prospect who looks ready for the majors. Like the actual Cardinals, with Ted Simmons on hand we decide that makes Hill tradeable. This offer from the Giants is more than adequate.

Dec. 6, 1974: The St. Louis Cardinals traded first baseman-outfielder Ed Kurpiel and infielder Rudy Kinard to the Montreal Expos for first baseman-outfielder Ron Fairly.

We’ve suddenly got an opening at first base (see below). Fairly is on the decline but he can still hit, and the price the Expos are asking is a bargain.

Feb. 28, 1975: The New York Mets purchased first baseman-outfielder Dave Kingman from the San Francisco Giants for $150,000 cash.

While Kingman surely carries baggage, he’s a mighty rare young talent. Our Mets are fed up with being good-but-not-good-enough, so we’ll bail out the cash-strapped Giants, and invest in finding out if we can get this long tall sapling to blossom.

March 22, 1975: The New York Mets traded catcher Ike Hampton to the California Angels for pitcher Ken Sanders.

Stocking up on a bit of bullpen depth, as it looks as though Bob Apodaca may open the season on the Disabled List.

April 4, 1975: The New York Mets traded catcher Joe Nolan to the Atlanta Braves for infielder Leo Foster.

Our need for organizational depth is greater in the middle infield than behind the plate.

The 1974-75 offseason: Actual deals we will not make

Oct.13, 1974: The St. Louis Cardinals traded first baseman-third baseman Joe Torre to the New York Mets for pitchers Ray Sadecki and Tommy Moore.

Our Cards aren’t seeking to part with Torre, who’s no longer a star and can’t get much slower, but can still lay out the line drives. And our Mets, much as we respect him, don’t see a need for Torre.

Oct. 22, 1974: The New York Mets traded catcher Duffy Dyer to the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Gene Clines.

We no longer have Dyer, and aren’t interested in Clines.

Oct. 24, 1974: The St. Louis Cardinals sold outfielder Jose Cruz to the Houston Astros.

As previously noted:

The superbly all-around-talented Cruz had been an enigma: After breaking in wonderfully in mid-1971 and grabbing the starting center field job, he spent the next two seasons failing to hit well, and by 1974 he was no longer a first-stringer. But in the utility role in ’74, Cruz perked up and performed splendidly, his bat productive again.

It wasn’t necessarily a bad idea for the Cardinals to be dealing Cruz at this point. What was strange was the notion of just selling him for nominal cash, and moreover doing so in October, at the very outset of the trading season. If they were going to put Cruz on the market, why not shop him around, and find the best deal out there? Cruz was just 27, and if perhaps he wasn’t going to become the star it had seemed he would, he was certainly still looking like a highly useful asset. It’s inconceivable that this marginal offer from the Astros was the best the Cardinals could have yielded for this ballplayer.

Our Cardinals won’t “sell low” on this asset.

Nov. 18, 1974: The St. Louis Cardinals traded pitchers Rich Folkers, Alan Foster, and Sonny Siebert to the San Diego Padres for shortstop Ed Brinkman and a player to be named later. (On Dec. 10, 1974, the Padres sent catcher Danny Breeden to the Cardinals, completing the deal.)

Another Bing Devine head-scratcher. This is an awful lot of pitching to be exchanged for a 33-year-old all-glove-no-bat shortstop.

Dec. 11, 1974: The New York Mets traded infielder Ted Martinez to the St. Louis Cardinals for infielder Jack Heidemann and outfielder Mike Vail.

Our Mets no longer have Martinez. Not that our Cardinals would be especially eager to acquire him.

Jan. 3, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals sold infielder Jerry DaVanon to the Detroit Tigers.

Especially since our Cardinals aren’t discarding an incumbent utility infielder.

Jan. 14, 1975: The Philadelphia Phillies signed pitcher Joe Hoerner as a free agent.

March 11, 1975: The Philadelphia Phillies traded outfielder Nellie Garcia to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Tom Hilgendorf.

Our Phils don’t need to be bottom-feeding for either of these veteran southpaw relievers.

March 29, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals traded outfielder Danny Godby to the Boston Red Sox for first baseman Danny Cater.

April 4, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals traded a player to be named later to the Boston Red Sox for infielder Mario Guerrero. (On July 4, 1975, the Cardinals sent pitcher Jim Willoughby to the Red Sox, completing the deal.)

Nor do our Cards have a need for either of these surplus Boston spare parts.

The 1974-75 offseason: Deals we will invoke

Dec. 3, 1974: The New York Mets traded pitchers Tug McGraw and Tim Juran and outfielder Luis Melendez to the Philadelphia Phillies for outfielder Bill Robinson and pitchers Ray Sadecki and Mac Scarce.

The actual deal that sent McGraw to Philadelphia was on a bigger scale than this one, and involved Del Unser and John Stearns going to the Mets in return. Whatever the questionable merits of that deal, the abiding issue is the Tugger’s two-year-long slump, and a Philly hope that a change of scenery is what he needs.

Dec. 3, 1974: The St. Louis Cardinals traded first baseman Dick Allen to the Atlanta Braves for cash and a player to be named later. (On May 15, 1975, the Braves sent first baseman Doug Ault to the Cardinals, completing the deal.)

Here’s the sudden opening at first base for our Cardinals.

We can’t know whether Allen in St. Louis would have pulled the same “I’m retiring” move he did with the White Sox in the autumn of 1974, but in fairness we have to assume the worst when considering the behavior of this ever-troublesome slugger. Like the actual White Sox, our Cardinals give the Braves negotiating rights to Allen and wish them luck. He’s given us an exceptionally productive, if rarely serene, five-year run, but it’s time to turn the page.

Dec. 4, 1974: The Philadelphia Phillies traded outfielder Johnny Briggs to the Baltimore Orioles for outfielder Rich Coggins.

The Orioles actually traded Coggins to Montreal on this date as part of a package in which they received Ken Singleton. Our Mets aren’t interested in that, so the Orioles will have to settle for Briggs instead.

Our Phils are taking a risk in surrendering the consistently solid Briggs in exchange for Coggins, who suffered a bad case of the Sophomore Jinx in 1974 after a marvelous rookie season. But Coggins is seven years younger than Briggs, and his tools are first-rate.

Dec., 1974: The St. Louis Cardinals traded pitcher Nelson Briles to the Kansas City Royals for infielder-outfielder Kurt Bevacqua.

Briles has been a terrific Cardinal, but we aren’t seeing room for him on our staff this time around.

Jan., 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals sold catcher Ken Rudolph to the Houston Astros.

We took Rudolph because the Giants included him in the package for Marc Hill, but we don’t really have a need for him. We’ll cash him in.

March, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals traded pitcher Bob Reynolds to the Detroit Tigers for pitcher Fred Holdsworth and cash.

The Tigers would actually trade Holdsworth for Reynolds later in the spring of 1975. For our Cards, it’s just a case of roster-trimming, as we’ll stash Holdsworth in triple-A.

March, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals sold first baseman Tom Hutton to the Montreal Expos.

March, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals sold first baseman-outfielder Ron Fairly to the Houston Astros.

Neither of these contestants for our first base cast is passing the final audition.

March 29, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals released infielder Billy Grabarkewitz.

And Bevacqua beats out this guy for a utility spot.

April 5, 1975: The New York Mets traded outfielder Bill Robinson to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitcher Wayne Simpson.

When we acquired Robinson, we hadn’t yet brought Kingman on board. Kong wins the battle of the right-handed corner bats.

The 1975 season: Actual deals we will make

April 25, 1975: The New York Mets signed pitcher Bill Laxton as a free agent.

Though he’s assuredly control-challenged, this lefty’s stuff is good enough for a triple-A flyer.

May 4, 1975: The Philadelphia Phillies traded first baseman-outfielder Willie Montañez to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Garry Maddox.

Montañez has turned out to be a fine ballplayer (and has interestingly reconstructed himself from a low-average power guy into a high-average contact hitter), but he’s a year-and-a-half older than Maddox, and doesn’t have nearly Maddox’s tools. The Giants are severely overreacting to a bad April from their fleet-footed young center fielder.

July 28, 1975: The New York Mets purchased pitcher Skip Lockwood from the Oakland Athletics.

This journeyman is throwing well in triple-A, and our bullpen can use a fresh arm.

The 1975 season: Actual deals we will not make

April 12, 1975: The New York Mets signed outfielder Jesus Alou as a free agent.

No, gracias.

May 7, 1975: The Philadelphia Phillies traded catcher Jim Essian, outfielder Barry Bonnell, and $150,000 cash to the Atlanta Braves for first baseman Dick Allen and catcher Johnny Oates.

We’re tempted. We’re surely tempted; what fun it would be to at last have Allen’s bat on our side in those 18 games against the Cardinals each year.

But our Phils decide against it. We’ve deployed Greg Luzinski at first base (his minor league position) all along instead of in left field. This has minimized the defensive exposure The Bull yields, and in order to make room for Allen we’d have to shift Luzinski to left field in mid-season, when he’s coming off a knee injury. That doesn’t seem like a good idea.

And then, of course, there’s also the issue of Allen’s personality (and no organization better than ours knows what fun that can be), as well as his own extensive injury history, and the fact that he’s 33 and has, well, never exactly been a stickler for the conditioning.

We just don’t like the risk/reward calculation. Sorry, Dick.

May 9, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals traded outfielder Larry Herndon and pitcher Tony Gonzalez to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Ron Bryant.

Our Cardinals will let somebody else take on this pool-slide-punctured project.

June 4, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals traded shortstop Ed Brinkman and pitcher Tommy Moore to the Texas Rangers for outfielder Willie Davis.

We’ve always liked 3-Dog, but he’s 35 now and he doesn’t fill a need. Besides, we don’t have Brinkman.

June 13, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals purchased pitcher Mike Wallace from the New York Yankees.

June 30, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals traded a player to be named later and cash to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Buddy Bradford. (On July 7, 1975, the Cardinals sent pitcher Bill Parsons to the White Sox, completing the deal.)

July 22, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals traded pitcher Ken Crosby to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Eddie Solomon.

Our Cards won’t do any of this tinkering.

July 25, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals traded outfielder-first baseman Jim Dwyer to the Montreal Expos for infielder Larry Lintz.

Nor this. Dwyer is just a much better baseball player than Lintz.

The 1975 season: Deals we will invoke

April 15, 1975: The New York Mets traded pitchers Harry Parker and Mac Scarce to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Tom Hall and cash.

The actual trade was Scarce for Hall, straight up. We’ll take that action, and while we’re at it we’ll let the Reds buy Parker.

May 3, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals selected infielder Mike Phillips off waivers from the San Francisco Giants.

Actually it was the Mets picking up Phillips. Our Cards will do it instead.

May 3, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals sold infielder-outfielder Kurt Bevacqua to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Bumped off the roster by Phillips.

May 28, 1975: In a three-club deal, the St. Louis Cardinals traded pitcher Clay Kirby to the New York Mets and pitcher Elias Sosa to the Atlanta Braves. The Mets sent pitcher Ray Sadecki to the Braves, and pitcher Randy Sterling to the Cardinals. The Braves sent pitcher Ron Reed and a player to be named later to the Cardinals. (On June 2, 1975, the Braves sent outfielder Wayne Nordhagen to the Cardinals, completing the deal.)

The actual deal was Sosa and Sadecki from the Cardinals to the Braves in exchange for Reed and Nordhagen. Our Mets will help make it happen.

May 28, 1975: The New York Mets traded pitcher Sonny Siebert to the Oakland Athletics for pitcher Mike Barlow.

Bumped off the roster by Kirby.

June 25, 1975: The New York Mets traded a player to be named later to the Houston Astros for outfielder Mike Easler. (On Sep. 30, 1975, the Mets sent pitcher Mike Barlow to the Astros, completing the deal.)

In reality it was the Cardinals picking up this minor league masher. Our Mets will do the honors.

July 28, 1975: The New York Mets sold pitcher Tom Hall to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Blade once flashed one of the great fastballs. Not so much these days. We’ll give Lockwood a try instead.

1975 season results

Phillies

Our off-season alterations to the roster that finished in second place in 1974 have been minor. In the outfield, Coggins replaces Briggs, and rookie Jerry Martin replaces Bill Robinson. In the bullpen, McGraw replaces Sadecki.

In early May, Maddox takes over as the full-time center fielder.

1975 Philadelphia Phillies     Won 82    Lost 80    Finished 4th

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  G. Luzinski    24  161 596  85 179  35   3  34 122  89 151 .300 .394 .540 .934  154
2B-3B T. Sizemore    30  128 375  42  93  15   1   3  33  31  24 .248 .295 .317 .612   68
  SS  L. Bowa#       29  136 554  72 169  17   9   2  38  23  30 .305 .325 .379 .704   92
  3B  M. Schmidt     25  158 562  93 140  34   3  38  98 101 180 .249 .364 .523 .887  140
  RF  R. Smith#      30  135 477  90 141  26   2  22  81  63  59 .296 .376 .497 .873  137
  CF  G. Maddox      25   99 374  50 109  25   8   4  46  36  54 .291 .359 .433 .792  116
LF-RF M. Anderson    24  115 322  32  82  13   4   6  35  25  83 .255 .307 .376 .683   86
  C   B. Boone       27  135 413  40 104  21   3   3  40  43  26 .252 .317 .339 .656   80

  OF  J. Martin      26   91 273  33  58  10   1   7  28  29  47 .212 .290 .333 .623   70
2B-SS D. Doyle*      31   97 260  40  76  15   2   3  29  13  10 .292 .317 .400 .717   95
  OF  R. Coggins*    24   85 240  21  58   7   2   2  21  15  38 .242 .273 .313 .586   60
  C   T. McCarver*   33   68 138  15  38   6   2   2  18  27  14 .275 .393 .391 .784  115
  OF  L. Melendez    25   55 146  18  38   4   2   2  15   8  13 .260 .289 .356 .645   76
SS-2B C. Robinson    26   68 118  14  19   3   1   0   5   6  22 .161 .195 .203 .399    9
1B-OF B. Beall#      27   65  90   9  17   3   0   1   8  16  26 .189 .308 .256 .564   56
  UT  B. Sudakis#    29   50  83   7  13   2   0   1   8  14  18 .157 .283 .217 .500   38
  LF  W. Montanez*   27   21  84   9  24   8   0   2  16   4  12 .286 .311 .452 .763  107
  UT  A. Bannister   23   24  61  10  16   3   1   0   0   1   9 .262 .270 .344 .614   67
 P-PH K. Brett*      26   26  52   5  13   4   0   1   4   1   7 .250 .259 .385 .644   74

      Others                  59   8  13   3   0   0   6   8  10 .220 .309 .271 .580   60

      Pitchers               335  22  45   5   0   1  17  17 124 .134 .162 .158 .320  -12

      Total                5612 715 1445 259  44 134 668 570 957 .257 .322 .391 .712   94

      * Bats left
      # Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      C. Morton      31   39  39  11  19  12   0 278 306 118 107   16   81   76 3.46  108
      D. Ruthven     24   34  30   7   8  14   0 194 207 103  90   13  108  134 4.18   90
      W. Twitchell   27   36  28   0   6  13   0 164 163 104  83   12   97  116 4.55   82
      J. Lonborg     33   27  26   6   8   6   0 159 161  84  73   12   45   72 4.13   91
      K. Brett*      26   23  16   4   8   4   0 118 117  49  47   10   41   46 3.58  105
      T. Underwood*  21   12  12   2   4   4   0  73  74  37  34    4   28   41 4.19   89
      G. Stone*      28    7   6   1   2   1   0  29  40  19  17    2   11   11 5.28   71
      H. Webb        25    3   2   0   1   1   0  12  11   6   6    1    6    4 4.50   83

      G. Garber      27   71   0   0   7   9   4 110 104  48  44   13   27   69 3.60  104
      D. Giusti      35   61   0   0   5   4  13  92  87  38  32    3   40   37 3.13  120
      T. McGraw*     30   56   0   0   9   6   9 103  84  38  34    6   36   55 2.97  126
      G. Jackson*    32   55   0   0   4   4   3  72  74  32  32    6   35   57 4.00   94
      M. Wallace*    24    9   0   0   0   0   0  10  17   8   8    1    4    6 7.20   52
      T. Moore       26    6   0   0   0   1   0  11  17  11  10    1    7    8 8.18   46

      Others                   3   1   1   1   0  29  29  17  17    3   10   18 5.28   71

      Total                  162  32  82  80 29 1454 1491 712 634 103  576  750 3.92   96

      * Throws left

The good news is that Luzinski bounces back wonderfully from his injury-ruined ’74, and delivers his best year yet. McGraw produces a fine comeback too.

But we encounter a long list of annoyances. A kidney ailment weakens Coggins. Injuries bother Maddox, Reggie Smith, Larry Bowa, and Ken Brett. The pitching in general is slumpy.

The middle of our order, with Smith, Mike Schmidt, and Luzinski back-to-back-to-back, is as good as there is. But our supporting cast this year isn’t enough to allow anything more than a mediocre finish. The division championship season of 1973 suddenly seems like a long time ago.

Cardinals

The departure of Allen is obviously our biggest concern, by far. And by the conclusion of spring training we decide that rookie Keith Hernandez is ready to take over the first base job, backed up by Jim Dwyer.

By the end of May, we’ve completed a bit of retooling of the pitching staff, with Reed replacing Kirby, and Fred Holdsworth getting a bullpen spot.

1975 St. Louis Cardinals     Won 98    Lost 64    Finished 1st

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  K. Hernandez*  21  134 410  59 110  24   3   8  49  50  69 .268 .350 .400 .750  105
  2B  D. Cash        27  162 699 111 214  40   4   3  58  56  34 .306 .358 .388 .745  104
  SS  M. Tyson       25  116 331  41  87  14   3   2  37  21  36 .263 .307 .341 .649   77
3B-1B J. Torre       34  114 361  36  95  17   3   5  40  35  57 .263 .330 .368 .698   91
RF-CF L. Stanton     29  123 352  58  97  18   4  10  71  45  69 .276 .358 .435 .792  116
CF-RF B. McBride*    26  102 333  59 107   8   9   4  34  28  38 .321 .372 .435 .807  120
  LF  L. Brock*      36  136 528  79 163  27   6   3  51  38  64 .309 .357 .400 .756  107
  C   T. Simmons#    25  157 581  81 193  32   3  18 106  63  35 .332 .396 .491 .887  142

RF-CF J. Cruz*       27  120 315  45  88  15   2   9  53  54  44 .279 .377 .425 .803  119
  OF  L. Hisle       28   80 255  38  80  10   3  10  55  30  39 .314 .380 .494 .874  138
OF-1B J. Dwyer*      25  100 244  30  71  10   2   3  30  30  41 .291 .354 .385 .739  102
  SS  M. Phillips*   24   97 255  23  66   7   6   1  23  16  34 .259 .301 .345 .646   76
  3B  K. Reitz       24   81 237  18  63  10   0   2  28   8  23 .266 .292 .333 .625   71
  IF  J. DaVanon     29   66 108  15  28   5   1   0  12  15  12 .259 .349 .324 .673   85
LF-RF W. Nordhagen   26   37  89  10  26   5   0   3  16   4  26 .292 .330 .449 .779  112
LF-RF M. Vail        23   25  65   8  19   4   1   1   9   4  16 .292 .333 .431 .764  108
  C   S. Jutze       29   26  47   5  10   1   0   0   3   2   2 .213 .235 .234 .469   29
  CF  J. Mumphrey#   22   24  41   5  12   3   0   1   3   7  10 .293 .396 .439 .835  128
  IF  K. Bevacqua    28    5  13   2   3   1   0   0   1   1   2 .231 .286 .308 .593   62

      Others                  52   7   8   2   2   0   6   2   5 .154 .179 .269 .448   21

      Pitchers               386  32  65   8   2   1  28  19 122 .168 .190 .206 .396    8

      Total                5702 762 1605 261  54  84 713 528 778 .281 .339 .390 .729   99

      * Bats left
      # Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      S. Carlton*    30   37  37  14  16  13   0 255 220 116 102   22  107  196 3.60  105
      L. McGlothen   25   30  25   6  13   8   1 191 183  85  80   16   78  119 3.77  100
      B. Forsch      25   30  24   5  13   6   0 184 166  78  56   11   56   88 2.74  138
      R. Reed        32   24  22   6   9   6   0 158 162  70  56    4   33   90 3.19  119
      F. Norman*     32   29  20   2   9   4   1 150 132  66  62   17   70  100 3.72  102
      J. Curtis*     27   39  18   4   9   7   1 147 151  70  56   13   65   67 3.43  110
      B. Gibson      39   25   9   1   4   6   3  87  94  52  48    8   50   50 4.97   76
      C. Kirby       27    9   6   1   2   4   0  38  46  24  21    4   15   23 4.97   76

      A. Hrabosky*   25   65   0   0  14   2  26  97  72  27  18    3   33   82 1.67  226
      M. Garman      25   66   0   0   4   6  12  79  73  31  21    3   48   48 2.39  158
      F. Holdsworth  23   23   0   0   1   1   0  31  31  15  12    2   13   23 3.48  109
      E. Sosa        25   13   0   0   1   1   0  23  16   9   7    2    9   12 2.74  138

      Others                   2   0   3   0   1  17  18   9   7    2    6   11 3.71  102

      Total                  163  39  98  64 45 1457 1364 652 546 107  583  909 3.37  112

      * Throws left

While he’s hardly a replacement for Allen’s bat (who is?) at this point, Hernandez holds his own. And despite some issues here and there—injuries to outfielders Larry Hisle and Bake McBride, a decline in the performance of veteran Joe Torre, and a rough final season for Bob Gibson—this ball club displays remarkable depth and adaptability.

Particular star turns are presented by catcher Ted Simmons, second baseman Dave Cash, and ace reliever Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky. Right-hander Bob Forsch, in his first full year, comes through splendidly. Our team batting average of .281 is the highest of any major league team since the Cardinals of 1954.

The top-to-bottom package is enough to bag our fourth division title in five years, and our seventh 97-plus-victory season in nine years. The St. Louis Cardinals of this era are widely recognized as achieving one of the better dynastic runs in history. The only players on board since this dynamo got started in 1967 are Gibson, Lou Brock, and Steve Carlton.

Mets

We’re giving Kingman the inside track on the left field job, but he’s going to have to hit the way we think he can in order to keep it, as holdovers John Milner and Jay Johnstone can both swing the bat too. Young Craig Swan will get a chance to become our primary spot starter behind The Big Four, and we’re doing quite a bit of tinkering in the bullpen.

1975 New York Mets     Won 92    Lost 70    Finished 2nd

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  A. Thornton    25  112 319  54  89  18   3  15  51  75  53 .279 .412 .495 .908  157
  2B  F. Millan      31  162 676  81 191  37   2   1  58  36  28 .283 .322 .348 .669   90
SS-3B T. Foli        24  133 429  38  97  19   1   1  22  28  36 .226 .268 .282 .550   56
  3B  W. Garrett*    27  143 493  71 126  15   4  10  60  87  80 .256 .366 .363 .729  108
  RF  K. Singleton#  28  155 586  88 175  37   4  15  75 130  82 .299 .421 .452 .874  148
  CF  A. Otis        28  132 470  77 109  26   4   9  51  73  48 .232 .335 .362 .697   98
LF-1B D. Kingman     26  121 402  51  92  18   1  29  70  26 123 .229 .279 .495 .774  116
  C   M. May*        24  105 347  26  85  14   1   5  47  24  36 .245 .289 .334 .623   77

1B-OF M. Jorgensen*  26  123 311  41  74  12   0  13  47  56  52 .238 .360 .402 .762  116
LF-CF J. Johnstone*  29   98 210  31  65  11   1   5  25  23  23 .310 .377 .443 .819  132
  C   J. Grote       32   79 193  14  57   7   3   1  21  19  12 .295 .360 .378 .738  110
  LF  J. Milner*     25   73 176  19  33   9   0   6  25  25  19 .188 .296 .341 .636   80
3B-1B T. Taylor      39   79 103  12  24   5   1   1  17  17  17 .233 .339 .330 .669   91
  IF  L. Foster      24   47 101  10  19   2   1   0   6  11  21 .188 .270 .228 .497   42
  C   C. Sands*      27   53  72  10  15   2   0   3  12  16  23 .208 .356 .361 .717  104
  SS  B. Harrelson#  31   34  73   5  16   2   0   0   3  12  13 .219 .322 .247 .568   63
  LF  G. Theodore    28   11  14   1   3   0   0   0   1   1   2 .214 .267 .214 .481   38

      Others                  31   3   6   2   0   0   1   1   8 .194 .219 .258 .477   35

      Pitchers               391  26  59   5   0   0  20  32 154 .151 .201 .154 .365    5

      Total                5397 656 1335 241  26 114 613 694 830 .247 .331 .365 .696   98

      * Bats left
      # Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      T. Seaver      30   36  36  15  22   8   0 280 217  81  74   11   88  243 2.38  145
      J. Koosman*    32   36  34  11  14  12   2 240 234 105  91   19   98  173 3.41  101
      J. Matlack*    25   33  32   8  16  11   0 229 224 104  86   15   58  154 3.38  102
      N. Ryan        28   26  26   9  13   9   0 185 137  83  72   12  135  175 3.50   98
      C. Swan        24   30  23   5   8   8   1 139 126  51  49    9   41   70 3.17  109
      S. Siebert     38    4   2   0   2   1   0  14  19   7   7    1    5    5 4.50   77

      W. Fryman*     35   60   2   0   5   5   9  85  61  28  24    4   37   69 2.54  136
      B. Apodaca     25   46   0   0   3   4  13  85  66  18  14    4   28   45 1.48  233
      S. Lockwood    28   23   0   0   1   3   2  43  25   8   7    3   23   56 1.47  235
      T. Hall*       27   29   1   0   2   2   2  40  39  26  21    7   21   32 4.73   73
      C. Kirby       27   18   4   0   2   2   0  35  34  17  16    2   20   16 4.11   84
      B. Laxton*     27   18   0   0   1   1   1  29  21   9   9    3   15   21 2.79  124
      K. Sanders     33   16   0   0   1   1   2  19  14   5   5    1    6    3 2.37  146
      R. Sadecki*    34    8   0   0   1   0   0  11  13   6   4    0    7    8 3.27  105
      H. Parker      27    2   0   0   0   0   0   5   5   3   3    1    3    5 5.40   64

      Others                   2   0   1   3   1  27  31  17  17    1   13   17 5.67   61

      Total                  162  48  92  70 33 1466 1266 565 499  93  598 1092 3.06  113

      * Throws left

Kong doesn’t disappoint, exactly. He delivers tremendous power, as expected, and on balance is a good offensive producer. But in no other phase of his game does the 26-year-old demonstrate even modest development, and indeed in his plate discipline Kingman regresses. Over the final portion of the season, the line-drive-hitting (and far better all-around performing) Johnstone begins to get most of the left field starts.

Off-years by Amos Otis and Milt May are offset by strong seasons from Ken Singleton and Andre Thornton, and on balance our offense is good.

One pitching frustration is that Nolan Ryan comes down with arm and leg injuries, and fizzles in the second half. But Tom Seaver is, well, terrific, bouncing back to top form after his injury-inhibited 1974. And our largely re-tooled bullpen performs strongly, led by veteran Woodie Fryman, sophomore Bob Apodaca, and mid-season scrap-heap pickup Skip Lockwood. Overall our pitching is once again excellent.

We’re a very good team, good enough to win some divisions. It’s again our frustration to be bracketed in the same division as that St. Louis outfit.

Next time

Our Phillies and Mets will get one last chance to try and intercept the high-flying Cardinals.

          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
 1970    73   88  5    594  730    76   86  4    744  747    83   79  3    695  630
 1971    67   95  6    558  688    90   72  2    739  699    83   79  3    588  550
 1972    59   97  6    503  625    75   81  4    568  600    83   73  3    528  578
 1973    71   91  6    642  717    81   81  2    643  603    82   79  1    608  588
 1974    80   82  3    676  701    86   75  2    677  643    71   91  5    572  646
 1975    86   76  2    735  694    82   80  3T   662  689    82   80  3T   646  625

          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
 1970    77   84  5    596  691    80   82  4    742  703    84   78  3    687  619
 1971    86   76  4    629  598   102   60  1    787  647    89   73  3    643  561
 1972    68   88  5    585  638   105   51  1    675  478    93   63  2    551  523
 1973    93   69  1    680  572    80   82  3    621  593    91   70  2    625  539
 1974    86   76  2    679  654   100   61  1    738  591    83   79  4    648  622
 1975    82   80  4    715  712    98   64  1    762  652    92   70  2    656  565
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Comments

  1. John A said...

    Last chance for the Mets.  Seaver, Matlack and Koosman had strong years in ‘76 and Ryan is a nice upgrade over Mickey Lolich.  They need to do something about catcher and thirdbase.  Is there a trade brewing?  Move Kingman or Otis?  Anything is better than Wayne Garrett and Roy Staiger.

  2. Steve Treder said...

    “In light of his refusal to play for Atlanta, is Allen off for Japan?”

    That’s possible.  It’s also possible that not being able to locate a home in Philadelphia would have persuaded Allen to play for Atlanta, which certainly could have used him.  Or perhaps some A.L. team would open up a DH slot for him.

  3. Anon said...

    …  and the Red Sox win their first World Series in 57 years.

    One problem worth mentioning, Philip. You’re assuming the Reds are in the WS.

    Big Red Machine? In this virtual world, it could be the Big Redbird Machine instead.

  4. Steve Treder said...

    Fun stuff.

    Both the Pirates and especially the Reds are among the teams taking a significant hit in this counterfactual scenario.  In this world, the Reds have missed out on Bobby Tolan, Wayne Granger, Tom Hall, Fred Norman, and Clay Kirby.  There’s no way they could get close to compensating for that kind of talent with what was otherwise available.  The Reds here would have been a contender through the early-to-mid ‘70s, for sure, but by no means would they have been as formidable as they actually were.

  5. Philip said...

    Red Schoendienst is now considered by many as one of the greatest managers since World War II. It will later be said that Joe Torre learned from one of the best.

    It’s too bad the alternate time-line Phillies G.M. Paul Owens didn’t sign free agent Catfish Hunter.

    Then again, maybe in this time-line A’s owner Charlie Finley sends that payment in on-time for that annuity he was supposed to purchase, Hunter never leaves Oakland and Dick Tidrow stays in the Yankees rotation for 1975.

    re: the invoked trade:
    “Dec. 4, 1974: The Philadelphia Phillies traded outfielder Johnny Briggs to the Baltimore Orioles for outfielder Rich Coggins.

    “The Orioles actually traded Coggins to Montreal on this date as part of a package in which they received Ken Singleton. Our Mets aren’t interested in that, so the Orioles will have to settle for Briggs instead.”

    That means this transaction gets scrapped, too:
    June 20, 1975: Rich Coggins purchased by the New York Yankees from the Montreal Expos.

    Without Coggins and Ken Brett (who is with the alternate-timeline Phillies) to send to Chicago, the Yankees don’t get Carlos May from the White Sox on May 18, 1976.

    It’s also unlikely the Yankees were going to be able to swing that off-season deal with the Bucs that netted them Willie Randolph since Brett was part of that deal, too.

    The Yankees don’t make the deal with the Angels since they only traded for Ed Figueroa as the precursor to replacing Doc Medich, who the Pirates insisted on getting for Doc Ellis, Brett and Randolph. (And since The Ryan Express hasn’t left the Mets, the weakened Angels’ rotation can’t afford to lose Figgy anyway).

    So Bobby Bonds remains a Yankee heading into 1976. His power numbers are effected by moving into the remodeled Yankee Stadium and a hand-injury and Bonds hits only 8 homeruns, down from 32 in 1975.

    On the bright side for Yanks, Gabe Paul astutely picks up Willie Davis from the San Diego Padres (who in the 1975 alternate timeline acquired Davis from Texas for Ed Brinkman.)

    Davis helps fill the hole left by the injured Elliott Maddox in center but a lineup of…
    Chambliss-Alomar-Stanley-Nettles-White-Davis-injured Bonds-Munson-Piniella
    and a rotation of…
    Medich-Dobson-May-Tidrow-Pagan

    …is going to be hard-pressed to finish ahead of Cleveland, let alone be anywhere near first place Boston and runner-up Baltimore.

    re: The 1974-75 offseason: Actual deals we will not make
    “April 4, 1975: The St. Louis Cardinals traded a player to be named later to the Boston Red Sox for infielder Mario Guerrero. (On July 4, 1975, the Cardinals sent pitcher Jim Willoughby to the Red Sox, completing the deal.)”

    Nice…

    Thanks, Steve.

    On October 14, 1975, Boston reliever Dick Drago (instead of Willoughby) strikes out the Reds’ Cesar Geronimo, who is leading off the bottom of the 10th.

    Without the lead-off runner on, Cincy manager Sparky Anderson keeps Ed Armbrister on the bench, leaving Rawley Eastwick in the game. The Reds fail to score and, leading off the top of the 11th, Fred Lynn belts a home run. Roger Moret holds the Reds in the bottom of the inning and Boston takes a 2-1 game lead in the World Series.

    A week later, Carlton Fisk hits a dramatic Series-winning home run off the left field foul pole at Fenway and the Red Sox win their first World Series in 57 years.

  6. Paul E said...

    Steve:
        I believe Allen was convinced that Atlanta was a racist town based on the Hank Aaron home run chase (and perhaps a 1/2 century of rural lynchings), his own experience with racism in Philadelphia in the ‘60’s, etc…. and would have possibly gone into horse racing or some other interest or another rather than play in Atlanta. (Disclaimer: I only read this somewhere in his autobiography)
        He really was adamant he didn’t want to DH. Whether he has the courage of his conviction or would have gotten bored in April 1975, might have determined where he ended up…

  7. Philip said...

    Re: The Big Red Machine

    I agree with Steve’s analysis of the early 70s Reds’ clubs.

    But unlike 1973, whereas the Los Angeles Dodgers would almost certainly have won the N.L. West under Steve’s alternate time line scenario (mostly due to the Reds not having Fred Norman), the 1975 Cincinnati Reds are clearly the dominant team in the National League.

    Though the Reds wouldn’t have had Granger and Tolan in the early 70s, as Steve pointed out, the lose of those players wouldn’t have any impact with respect to the 1975 team, nor would have Hall.

    Unless I over-looked some butterfly trade effect, the core of the Big Red Machine for 1975 is largely unaffected by any of the other alternative time-line trades and is pretty much firing on all cylinders.

    Yes, they won’t have Fred Norman or Clay Kirby.
    The Reds went 17-9 in Norman’s 26 starts and 11-8 in Kirby’s 19 starts. (28-17 combined)

    But the ‘75 Reds went 108-54, winning the N.L. West by 20 games over the defending N.L. Champion Dodgers.

    Let’s put this into perspective: even had the Reds gone 9-36 during Norman and Kirby’s replacements in the rotation, they would still have won the N.L. West.

    Now, does this lineup look like a 9-36 or worse club with even replacement level starting pitchers on the mound?

    3B Pete Rose – 112 Runs, 210 hits, 47 2B, .317
    RF Ken Griffey – 95 runs, .305
    2B Joe Morgan – 17 HR, 94 RBI, .327, 132 BB, 67 SB, 10 CS
    C Johnny Bench – 28 HR, 110 RBI, .283, 11 SB, 0 CS (that’s no typo. 11 for 11)
    1B Tony Perez – 20 HR, 109 RBI, .282
    LF George Foster – 23 HR, 78 RBI, .300
    CF Cesar Geronimo – 25 2B, .257
    SS Dave Concepcion – .274, 33 SB, 6 CS

    Rotation:
    Don Gullett 15-4 in 22 starts
    Gary Nolan 15-9
    Jack Billingham 15-10
    Pat Darcy 11-5
    Wil McEnaney, Clay Carroll, Pedro Borbon and Rawly Eastwick in the bullpen.

    Who replaces Norman and Kirby?

    By 1975, the Cincinnati farm system was well stocked. Pat Zachry or Santo Alcala could have been recalled from Indianapolis or Pat Darcy asked for more starts from the mound. They also have a hot-tempered but promising young pitcher named Joaquin Andujar in their system.

    Maybe Dan Driessen fetches a good quality starting pitcher.

    When the Cardinals meet Cincinnati in the 1975 NLCS, Johnny Bench’s arm takes away the Lou Brock stolen base threat.

    In 12 regular season games in 1975, Brock stole only one base again Bench and the Reds – and that was with Fred Norman on the mound!

    Facing Don Gullett in game one would be Brock (.214 vs Gullett that year), Simmons (.200) and Tyson, McBride, Cash and Hernandez (a combined .000 – 0 for 12). And given how the Reds roughed up Steve Carlton in game one in 1976, maybe his loss to the Reds in a NLCS game merely takes place a year earlier.

    I think it likely the Reds would have made quick work of the Redbirds, showing the baseball world that, while they had a good run, the St. Louis dynasty of the 1960s and 70s was coming to a close.

    And that sets the stage for:

    ‘‘There it goes… a long fly… if it stays fair… homerun! … Red Sox win it 7-6 … their first World Championship in 57 years!’’

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