The virtual 1969-76 Yankees, Red Sox, and Indians (Part 1: 1968-69)

Recently we had some fun with a counterfactual scenario involving three National League franchises over the period of about a decade. That got the imagination stirring enough to consider the hypothetical interactions of a different trio of teams.

The period extending from the expansion of 1968-69 until the dawn of Free Agency in 1976-77 was notoriously turbulent off the field of play, but it also produced some extremely competitive, interesting, and just plain fun baseball. This was particularly true in the American League East Division.

This was the period in which the New York Yankees gradually rose from the detritus of their mid-1960s collapse and rebuilt into a champion. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox strove to capture another flag to join their “Impossible Dream” banner from 1967, but despite producing prodigious young talent, came close but repeatedly fell short until finally achieving a title in 1975. And playing the role of “fall guy,” the Cleveland Indians stumbled along in a state of relentless mediocrity, fully assuming the sad-sack franchise character that would still be their unfortunate label in the 1989 movie Major League—and the Tribe did it while trading significant talent to the Red Sox and, especially, to the Yankees.

Were these paths inevitable for the Yankees, Red Sox, and Indians in the early-to-mid-1970s? Or might things have plausibly turned out quite a bit differently?

Let’s find out.

Our three adopted franchises enter our exercise in interestingly similar postures: they finished third (Cleveland), fourth (Boston), and fifth (New York) in the 10-team A.L. in 1968. For the Indians, 1968 represented their strongest showing since 1959; for the Red Sox, ’68 was a disappointing comedown from their thrilling ’67 pennant, and for the Yankees, it was an encouraging improvement after three straight second-division disasters.

The 1968-69 offseason: Actual deals we will make

Oct. 21, 1968: The New York Yankees sold pitcher Jim Bouton to the Seattle Pilots.

It’s all too clear that the once-terrific Bouton is never going to be that kind of pitcher again. Like the actual Yankees, our version will send him along to pursue his dreams with the expansion Pilots. (We don’t believe the rumor that he’s thinking of writing a book.)

Oct. 21, 1968: The New York Yankees purchased pitcher Don Nottebart from the Cincinnati Reds.

We’ll give this journeyman the roster spot instead. Nottebart was never nearly as good as Bouton at his best, but he’s had more recent success.

Oct. 21, 1968: The Cleveland Indians traded first baseman Bill Davis to the San Diego Padres for cash and a player to be named later. (On Dec. 2, 1968, the Padres sent shortstop Zoilo Versalles to the Indians, completing the deal.)

Speaking of once-terrific players who’ve fallen on hard times … like the real-life Indians, we’ll take a look and see if Versalles has anything left. He’s only 29.

Nov. 6, 1968: The New York Yankees sold infielder Ruben Amaro to the California Angels.

No room for this veteran.

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

We think Ducky can help as a utility infielder.

Dec. 4, 1968: The New York Yankees traded pitcher Dooley Womack to the Houston Astros for outfielder Dick Simpson.

And we like a guy with Simpson’s tools.

Dec. 4, 1968: The New York Yankees traded outfielder-first baseman Andy Kosco to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Mike Kekich.

Kosco performed better than Kekich in 1968, but Kekich is three years younger, and left-handed pitchers are always in shorter supply than right-handed-batting corner outfielders.

Dec. 6, 1968: The New York Yankees traded third baseman Charley Smith to the San Francisco Giants for infielder Nate Oliver.

We’re not particularly interested in Oliver, but Smith is looking pretty toasty.

Jan. 8, 1969: The New York Yankees purchased catcher John Orsino from the Washington Senators.

Before a knee injury derailed his career, Orsino could hit. We’ll give him a chance at the third-string catcher role.

March 11, 1969: The Boston Red Sox traded pitcher Mark Schaeffer to the Houston Astros for catcher Hal King.

Another guy who’ll never win any defensive awards, but King has put up some outstanding offensive numbers in the minors.

April 4, 1969: The Cleveland Indians traded outfielder Lou Johnson to the California Angels for outfielder-infielder Chuck Hinton.

Hinton offers far more defensive versatility than Sweet Lou.

The 1968-69 offseason: Actual deals we will not make

Oct. 8, 1968: The Cleveland Indians traded pitcher Eddie Fisher to the California Angels for pitcher Jack Hamilton.

Hamilton’s the sort of talent it could be worthwhile picking up cheaply, via the waiver wire or as a Rule 5 pick or something. But he isn’t worth the expenditure of Steady Eddie Fisher.

Nov. 13, 1968: The New York Yankees sold infielder John Kennedy to the Seattle Pilots.

We don’t think we’ve got the kind of infield depth to allow casting away the good-field, no-hit Kennedy.

The 1968-69 offseason: Deals we will invoke

Nov. 13, 1968: The New York Yankees traded infielder-outfielder Tom Tresh and pitchers Thad Tillotson and Pete Magrini to the Seattle Pilots for outfielder Tommy Davis.

But we do think we can do some trading business with the Pilots.

The multi-talented Tresh has encountered accelerating struggle with the bat over the past couple of years, and we just have to find a change of scenery for him. It’s quite plausible that Seattle would take him exchange for Davis—another former star who’s had a rough go of it recently; he was unprotected in the expansion draft, after all—so long as we also provide them with a couple of useful arms. Tillotson and Magrini are both “quadruple-A” types, exactly the sort for whom an expansion team can provide an opportunity and perhaps be pleasantly surprised.

Our interest in acquiring Davis is that with the retirement of Mickey Mantle, we find ourselves in need of a replacement middle-of-the-order bat. While we hold no illusion that even an in-his-prime Davis is a shadow of Mantle, we like his chances of offensive production going forward more than those of Tresh, and we’re willing to sacrifice Tresh’s superior defensive ability accordingly.

We’ll put Davis at first base, where Mantle had been in 1968.

Dec. 3, 1968: The Boston Red Sox traded catcher Jerry Moses and cash to the New York Yankees for catcher Frank Fernandez.

We love the three-true-outcomes package that Fernandez offers, but Yankee Stadium is the completely wrong ballpark for his right-handed power. Meanwhile, Fenway Park is completely right for it. So our Red Sox are willing to swap Moses, who’s four years younger than Fernandez and is a far better hitter for average.

Dec. 5, 1968: In a three-club deal, the Cleveland Indians traded pitcher Steve Hargan and outfielder Jimmie Hall to the New York Yankees for pitcher Bill Burbach and outfielder Tom Shopay, the Yankees sent third baseman Bobby Cox to the Seattle Pilots, and the Pilots sent pitcher Darrell Brandon to the Indians.

Hargan and Hall are far more talented than anyone else here, but both were also flops in Cleveland in 1968. Therefore our Indians are willing to expend them for the so-so prospects Burbach and Shopay, plus the journeyman Brandon.

March 31, 1969: The Cleveland Indians traded outfielder Lee Maye and pitcher Woody Woodson to the Washington Senators for outfielder Cap Peterson and first baseman-outfielder Gary Holman.

Actually on this date these teams completed the Woodson-for-Peterson portion of this one. Our Indians will add Maye (whom we know the Senators like, as they would actually purchase him in mid-summer), not because we don’t love Arthur Lee’s sweet swing, but just because we’ve filled our quota of left-handed bats in the outfield. We can park Holman in triple-A.

March 1969: The Boston Red Sox released outfielder George Thomas.

He doesn’t make the cut.

The 1969 season: Actual deals we will make

May 5, 1969: The Boston Red Sox traded outfielder Bill Schlesinger to the Philadelphia Phillies for outfielder Don Lock.

The right-handed power-hitting veteran Lock is a good fit for a Boston backup role.

May 7, 1969: The Boston Red Sox sold outfielder Jose Tartabull to the Oakland Athletics.

A better fit, indeed, then the slap-hitting Tartabull.

June 10, 1969: The New York Yankees purchased pitcher Ken Johnson from the Atlanta Braves.

June 23, 1969: The Boston Red Sox sold pitcher Garry Roggenburk to the Seattle Pilots.

July 5, 1969: The Boston Red Sox purchased pitcher Ron Kline from the San Francisco Giants.

Aug. 11, 1969: The New York Yankees sold pitcher Ken Johnson to the Chicago Cubs.

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

Back-end-of-the-bullpen maintenance that all seems reasonable.

Sep. 11, 1969: The New York Yankees traded outfielder Jimmie Hall to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Terry Bongiovanni, a player to be named later, and cash. (On Jan. 6, 1970, the Cubs sent outfielder Rick Bladt to the Yankees, completing the deal.)

And this is a fair return for the struggling veteran Hall.

The 1969 season: Actual deals we will not make

April 26, 1969: The New York Yankees returned pitcher Don Nottebart to the Cincinnati Reds following previous purchase.

We’ll give Nottebart a chance in our ‘pen.

May 19, 1969: The New York Yankees traded outfielder Dick Simpson to the Seattle Pilots for outfielder Jose Vidal.

And we don’t see the point in exchanging a 25-year-old, right-handed-batting, toolsy-but-strikeout-prone outfielder for a 29-year-old, right-handed-batting, toolsy-but-strikeout-prone outfielder.

May 20, 1969: The New York Yankees traded pitcher Fred Talbot to the Seattle Pilots for pitcher Jack Aker.

Talbot’s nothing special, but he has the capacity to handle starting assignments, and thus we see more use for him on our staff than the strictly-reliever Aker.

June 12, 1969: The Cleveland Indians traded pitcher Rob Gardner to the New York Yankees for catcher John Orsino.

Our Indians don’t like the idea of trading a 24-year-old left-handed pitcher for a 31-year-old backup catcher.

June 13, 1969: The Cleveland Indians traded pitcher Jack Hamilton to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Sammy Ellis.

We don’t have Hamilton, and don’t want Ellis.

June 14, 1969: The New York Yankees traded infielder-outfielder Tom Tresh to the Detroit Tigers for outfielder Ron Woods.

The Tigers will have to make this deal with Seattle.

June 15, 1969: The Boston Red Sox traded catcher Joe Azcue to the California Angels for catcher-infielder Tom Satriano.

Our Red Sox won’t have Azcue (see below), so can’t make this one.

June 20, 1969: The Cleveland Indians traded outfielder Lee Maye to the Washington Senators for pitcher Bill Denehy and cash.

We already sent Mr. Maye to Washington.

July 26, 1969: The Cleveland Indians sold infielder Zoilo Versalles to the Washington Senators.

And we don’t wish to send Señor Versalles there.

Sep. 21, 1969: The Cleveland Indians sold pitcher Juan Pizarro to the Oakland Athletics.

Our Indians don’t have Pizarro. Our Red Sox do, and he isn’t for sale.

The 1969 season: Deals we will invoke

April 19, 1969: The Boston Red Sox traded third baseman-first baseman George Scott and pitcher Lee Stange to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Sonny Siebert and third baseman Max Alvis.

Think this one’s a bombshell? Actually on this date, the Red Sox sent Ken Harrelson—who’d burst into stardom in 1968—to Cleveland along with Pizarro and another key pitcher, Dick Ellsworth, in exchange for Siebert, Azcue, and the Indians’ top reliever, Vicente Romo. That would be your serious Blockbuster:

Young fans may be familiar with “Hawk” Harrelson only as a free-spirited broadcaster, but trust me on this, he was a free-spirited ballplayer too. At the time of this trade, he was 27, wore longish “mod” hair and frequently sported a Nehru jacket, and had already been fired by Charlie Finley for having too much attitude — no small feat. He’d also led the major leagues in RBIs in 1968, but with the 1969 return of Tony Conigliaro from his terrible injury, the Red Sox accepted this Indians’ offer of a substantial pitching upgrade.

Harrelson, for his part, immediately announced he would retire from baseball instead of reporting to Cleveland. He was persuaded to change his mind after a few days; the Indians’ sudden offer of a two-year contract that nearly doubled his salary was probably helpful in that regard.

Our version of the Red Sox is unwilling to part with Harrelson, who despite his checkered past, is still just 27 and was so terrific in ’68 that we expect him to produce several more big years in Fenway. So no refusing-to-report-to-Cleveland dramatics on Hawk’s part will be forthcoming in our scenario.

But our Red Sox do share the notion that with Tony C.’s return, we’re in a position to expend a right-handed bat in order to shore up the pitching. And our Red Sox aren’t yet convinced that young Boomer Scott, who flopped so horribly in 1968 and is hitting just .194 so far in ’69, is ready to bounce back. (Conigliaro, for his part, is off to a .267 start, with two homers.) So despite his great potential, we’ll offer up Scott as the bait to attract a Cleveland pitcher.

Our Indians, distinctly in need of hitting talent, will take the Scott gamble. But we won’t surrender as big a package as Cleveland actually did; in particular we aren’t giving up Romo. Siebert, a solid, steady, good-but-not-great 32-year-old starter, seems a fair exchange for Scott at this point. And we can balance out the rosters by sending Boston the faded star third baseman Alvis in return for the veteran swingman Stange.

Aug. 29, 1969: The New York Yankees traded pitcher Fred Talbot to the Oakland Athletics for outfielder-first baseman Pete Koegel and pitcher Bob Meyer.

Actually on this date it was Seattle making this deal with the A’s. Our Yankees, far out of the division race, will take the Oakland offer of a prospect and a veteran minor leaguer.

Aug. 30, 1969: The New York Yankees traded first baseman-outfielder Tommy Davis to the Houston Astros for outfielder Danny Walton and cash.

And the Pilots also made this one, which makes just as much sense for our Yankees.

1969 season results

Yankees

Even by 1968 standards, the 1968 Yankees had some holes in the batting order, and we’re doing what we can to enliven the attack. We’re replacing Mantle at first base with Davis. The rest of our additions are rookies: Moses, acquired from the Boston organization, has the opportunity to take over as our primary catcher; at third base, we’re installing highly-touted prospect Bobby Murcer (an error-prone shortstop in the minors); and at shortstop, we’ll go with the smoother-fielding, slap-hitting Jerry Kenney. We also think 26-year-old Bill Robinson, in his third big league season, is ready to step forward as a productive regular in right field.

The strength of the ’68 team was its pitching. We’ve surrendered no key pitchers, and we’ve added Hargan and Kekich in trades, and moreover we’re anticipating southpaw Al Downing to make his way back from a sore arm.

1969 New York Yankees     Won 80    Lost 81    Finished 5th

  Pos   Player         Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1B-LF  T. Davis        30  117 409  54 110  27   2   4  58  28  42 .269 .316 .374 .690   96
   2B   H. Clarke#      29  156 641  82 183  26   7   4  46  53  41 .285 .340 .367 .707  102
 SS-3B  J. Kenney*      24  130 447  49 115  14   2   2  32  48  36 .257 .329 .311 .640   83
 3B-OF  B. Murcer*      23  152 564  82 146  24   4  26  80  50 103 .259 .319 .454 .773  118
 RF-CF  B. Robinson     26   87 222  23  38  11   2   3  19  16  39 .171 .227 .279 .506   44
 CF-1B  J. Pepitone*    28  135 513  49 124  16   3  27  68  30  42 .242 .284 .442 .726  104
   LF   R. White#       25  130 448  61 130  30   5   7  65  81  51 .290 .399 .426 .825  135
   C    J. Moses        22   96 256  22  70  14   2   5  26  14  45 .273 .311 .402 .713  102

   SS   G. Michael#     31   89 248  24  67  14   3   1  17  26  33 .270 .339 .363 .702  100
   C    J. Gibbs*       30   71 197  16  44   8   2   0  14  21  27 .223 .298 .284 .582   67
   1B   D. McDonald*    26   78 197  21  45   7   1   8  24  19  40 .228 .296 .396 .692   96
   OF   J. Hall*        31   67 178  18  40   6   4   2  19  17  30 .225 .292 .337 .629   79
 3B-SS  J. Kennedy      28   61 128  16  30   3   2   3  12  15  26 .234 .315 .359 .674   92
   C    J. Orsino       31   42  99   7  22   3   0   2  11  14  11 .222 .319 .313 .632   81
   OF   J. Lyttle*      23   28  83   7  15   4   0   0   4   4  19 .181 .218 .229 .447   28
   OF   D. Simpson      25   32  62  10  12   4   1   1   7   8  24 .194 .286 .339 .624   77
   IF   L. Boehmer      28   15  36   2   6   1   0   0   2   3   3 .167 .231 .194 .425   22

        Others                  257  27  62   5   4   6  27  24  54 .241 .309 .362 .671   91

        Pitchers                381  24  47   8   1   2  20  26 159 .123 .167 .165 .333   -5

        Total                  5366 594 1306 225 45 103 551 497 825 .243 .304 .360 .664   89

        * Bats left
        # Bats both

        Pitcher        Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
        M. Stottlemyre  27   39  39  24  20  14   0 303 267 105  95   19   97  113 2.82  124
        F. Peterson*    27   37  37  16  17  16   0 272 228  95  77   15   43  150 2.55  138
        S. Bahnsen      24   40  33   5   9  16   1 221 222 102  94   28   90  130 3.83   92
        A. Downing*     28   30  15   5   7   5   0 131 117  57  49   12   49   85 3.37  104
        F. Talbot       28   25  15   1   5   5   0  95 101  48  41    8   36   59 3.88   90
        M. Kekich*      24   25  13   1   4   5   1  94  82  52  48   10   44   59 4.60   76
        S. Hargan       26    7   3   0   1   2   0  20  18  23  21    3   21    9 9.45   37

        L. McDaniel     33   51   0   0   5   6   9  84  84  37  33    4   23   60 3.54   99
        S. Hamilton*    33   38   0   0   3   4   4  57  39  22  21    7   21   39 3.32  106
        R. Klimkowski   25   29   3   1   5   2   2  72  63  25  19    3   23   19 2.38  148
        D. Nottebart    33   20   0   0   1   1   1  24  30  15  14    3    8   12 5.25   67
        K. Johnson      36   12   0   0   1   2   1  26  19  11  10    1   11   21 3.46  101
        J. Cumberland*  22   11   2   0   2   2   1  32  37  20  17    3   15   12 4.78   73

        Others                    2   0   0   1   0  11  11   5   4    1    3    6 3.27  107

        Total                   162  53  80  81 20 1442 1318 617 543 117  484  774 3.39  104

        * Throws left

First, the good news: all of the rookies come through nicely, especially Murcer, who has defensive struggles at third base, but emerges as one of the better young power hitters in the league. Our holdover regulars—Roy White in left field, Joe Pepitone in center, and Horace Clarke at second base—all deliver as expected. And on the mound, righty Mel Stottlemyre and lefty Fritz Peterson are a solid pair of aces.

But the rest of the outcomes are less favorable. Davis doesn’t impress, and so we cash him in for a prospect at the end of August. Robinson is ghastly, and right field becomes a gaping hole. Sophomore starting pitcher Stan Bahnsen falls well short of his 1968 Rookie of the Year form, and Hargan is a disaster, banished to the minors in June.

Thus on balance it’s a one step forward, one step back kind of year. The Yankees were a .500-ish, middle-of-the-pack performer in 1968, and that’s where we wind up again in ’69. There’s still a ways to go for the once-feared Bombers to return to contention.

Red Sox

The trade of Scott opens up third base for line-drive-hitting Dalton Jones. He disappointed in 1968, but we believe he’ll emerge as a good platoon player, paired with the sore-backed veteran Alvis, who’s superior defensively, and might thrive in a limited role. Behind the plate, we’re giving opportunities to the sophomore Fernandez and the rookie King.

While we’re confident this team will produce runs, we’re concerned about the pitching. Too much depends on the return to 1967 Cy Young Award form of ace Jim Lonborg, devastated by a knee injury in ’68.

 1969 Boston Red Sox     Won 85    Lost 77    Finished 4th

  Pos   Player         Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
   1B   K. Harrelson    27  152 513  85 114  13   4  29  80  90  93 .222 .337 .433 .770  108
   2B   M. Andrews      25  121 464  79 136  26   2  15  59  71  53 .293 .383 .455 .837  127
 SS-3B  R. Petrocelli   26  154 535  92 159  32   2  40  97  98  68 .297 .401 .589 .990  167
   3B   D. Jones*       25  111 336  50  74  18   3   3  33  39  36 .220 .302 .318 .620   69
   RF   T. Conigliaro   24  141 506  57 129  21   3  20  82  48 111 .255 .320 .427 .747  102
   CF   R. Smith#       24  143 543  87 168  29   7  25  93  54  67 .309 .367 .527 .894  141
 LF-1B  C. Yastrzemski* 29  162 603  96 154  28   2  40 111 101  91 .255 .362 .507 .870  135
   C    F. Fernandez    26  107 286  48  65   6   0  20  42  79  83 .227 .400 .458 .858  133

   IF   D. Schofield#   34   94 226  30  58   9   3   2  20  29  44 .257 .349 .350 .698   91
   IF   S. O'Brien      25   95 237  42  58   9   5   8  26  13  33 .245 .282 .426 .709   91
   OF   J. Lahoud*      22   91 174  26  32   5   0   7  17  32  34 .184 .314 .333 .647   77
   C    H. King*        25   71 171  18  45   6   1   3  16  22  43 .263 .350 .363 .713   95
   3B   M. Alvis        31   44 127  11  29   4   0   1  10   9  18 .228 .277 .283 .561   53
   C    R. Gibson       30   43  96   7  23   3   0   1   8   4   9 .240 .265 .302 .567   54
   OF   D. Lock         32   53  58   8  13   1   0   1   2  11  21 .224 .343 .293 .636   75
   IF   L. Alvarado     20   39  62   7  13   2   1   0   3   2  12 .210 .242 .274 .517   41
   3B   G. Scott        25    9  36   2   7   0   0   2   4   3   6 .194 .275 .361 .636   72

        Others                   54   7  13   3   1   2   5   6  15 .241 .328 .444 .772  118

        Pitchers                417  23  55   8   0   2  23  27 170 .132 .174 .165 .340   -7

        Total                  5444 775 1345 223 34 221 731 738 1007 .247 .335 .422 .757 105

        * Bats left
        # Bats both

        Pitcher        Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
        R. Culp         27   32  32   9  17   7   0 227 195 103  96   25   79  172 3.81  101
        S. Siebert      32   33  27   2  15  10   2 179 170 106  79   25   71  136 3.97   97
        D. Ellsworth*   29   30  27   3   7  10   0 176 217  99  85   17   49   61 4.35   88
        J. Lonborg      27   29  23   4   7  11   0 144 148  78  72   15   65  100 4.50   85
        B. Farmer       22   29  17   4   8   9   0 140 171  87  72   14   53   67 4.63   83
        G. Janeski      23   28  14   4   6   8   0 124 167  71  64    7   30   43 4.65   83
        L. Stange       32    3   2   1   1   1   0  18  18   7   6    0    6    3 3.00  128

        S. Lyle*        24   71   0   0   8   3  19 103  91  33  29    8   48   93 2.53  152
        J. Pizarro*     32   57   4   1   4   4  10 100  84  44  38   10   56   52 3.42  112
        B. Landis*      26   45   5   0   5   5   1  82  82  53  48    7   49   50 5.27   73
        F. Wenz         27   39   0   0   1   1   6  46  34  20  20   10   34   39 3.91   98
        G. Roggenburk*  29   19   3   1   3   2   1  36  44  28  23    4   15   21 5.75   67
        R. Kline        37   16   0   0   0   1   1  17  24  11   9    4   17    7 4.76   81
        J. Santiago     28   10   0   0   0   0   0   8  11   5   3    2    4    4 3.38  114

        Others                    8   1   3   5   0  67  69  36  34    7   39   37 4.57   84

        Total                   162  30  85  77 40 1467 1525 781 678 155  615  885 4.16   92

        * Throws left

The Jones/Alvis third base platoon proves to be a dud. But shortstop Rico Petrocelli busts out with a huge year, and generally the offense more than meets expectations, particularly in terms of power production, shattering the Boston franchise record for team home runs with the third-highest tally in major league history. Moreover, we draw the most walks of any big league team since 1951.

But it’s an extreme “three true outcomes” attack, as numerous hitters struggle with batting average. Both Harrelson and Carl Yastrzemski, while delivering home runs aplenty, see their averages drop by some 50 points from their 1968 marks.

But the real problem is, as feared, pitching. Siebert helps, but not enough, as Lonborg remains ineffective, and rookies Billy Farmer and Gerry Janeski are pressed into too-prominent roles. Though southpaw Sparky Lyle blossoms as a first-rate ace reliever, overall our staff is far below contender-quality. We’re a good team, but the magic of 1967 remains elusive.

Indians

The third-place Cleveland team of 1968 was pitching-rich but hitting-thin. The Siebert-for-Scott swap is one step we’ve taken to address that. We’re also counting on significant contributions from a pair of youngsters being moved into starting roles: switch-hitter Richie Scheinblum in right field, and speedster Dave Nelson at second base.

Still, we understand that the major strength of this ball club remains our hard-throwing ace pitcher duo: right-hander Luis Tiant and southpaw Sudden Sam McDowell.

1969 Cleveland Indians     Won 68    Lost 93    Finished 6th

  Pos   Player         Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
   1B   T. Horton       24  159 625  77 174  25   4  27  94  37  91 .278 .318 .461 .779  113
   2B   V. Fuller       25  108 254  25  60  11   1   4  22  20  53 .236 .293 .335 .628   73
   SS   L. Brown        29  132 469  48 112  10   2   4  24  44  43 .239 .301 .294 .596   66
   3B   G. Scott        25  137 494  57 124  13   5  13  50  55  66 .251 .328 .377 .704   95
   RF   R. Nagelson*    24   83 254  32  55   6   3   9  29  40  64 .217 .322 .370 .692   91
   CF   J. Cardenal     25  146 557  75 143  26   3  11  46  49  58 .257 .312 .373 .685   89
 LF-CF  R. Snyder*      35  122 266  26  66  10   0   2  24  25  33 .248 .311 .308 .619   72
   C    D. Sims*        28  114 326  40  77   8   0  18  46  66  80 .236 .373 .426 .800  121

 OF-2B  L. Klimchock*   29  115 351  34  98  15   2  10  40  24  21 .279 .323 .419 .742  104
   IF   Z. Versalles    29  103 292  30  70  13   2   1  19  24  59 .240 .302 .308 .610   69
   OF   C. Peterson     26   84 183  19  45   7   0   2  24  39  29 .246 .379 .317 .696   95
   UT   C. Hinton       35   94 202  30  53   6   3   6  32  14  36 .262 .312 .411 .723   99
   RF   R. Scheinblum#  26   61 191  17  40   7   1   2  20  20  25 .209 .282 .288 .570   58
   C    J. Azcue        29   57 149  10  32   3   0   1  11  15  19 .215 .287 .255 .542   51
   IF   E. Leon         22   64 142  13  33   4   0   2  13  13  25 .232 .291 .303 .594   65
   2B   D. Nelson       25   52 123  11  25   0   0   0   6   9  26 .203 .255 .203 .459   29
   C    K. Suarez       26   36  43   4  11   2   0   1   4   7   7 .256 .353 .372 .725  101
   3B   M. Alvis        31    8  16   1   2   0   0   0   1   0   2 .125 .118 .125 .243  -33

        Others                   84   7  15   1   1   2   8   5  21 .179 .220 .286 .505   39

        Pitchers                355  20  56   8   1   2  24  17 129 .157 .184 .201 .384    6

        Total                  5376 576 1291 175 28 117 537 523 887 .240 .306 .348 .654   81

        * Bats left
        # Bats both

        Pitcher        Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
        S. McDowell*    26   39  38  18  18  14   1 285 222 111  93   13  102  279 2.94  127
        L. Tiant        28   38  37   9   9  20   0 250 229 123 103   37  129  156 3.71  101
        L. Stange       32   33  15   2   5   8   1 123 123  59  50   13   51   54 3.66  102
        B. Rohr*        23   15  10   1   4   6   0  66  89  37  34    5   29   26 4.64   81
        S. Siebert      32    2   2   0   0   1   0  14  10   5   5    1    8    6 3.21  116

        V. Romo         26   55  11   4   8  10   9 135 122  50  46   13   55   96 3.07  122
        S. Williams     32   49  15   3   5  13   8 160 141  79  71   24   59  124 3.99   94
        E. Fisher       32   47   1   0   4   2   1  73  74  33  30    7   21   36 3.70  101
        M. Paul*        24   43  14   0   5  10   2 117 106  49  48   13   53   97 3.69  101
        D. Brandon      28   31  10   1   4   3   0  79  86  40  32    5   35   51 3.65  103
        G. Kroll        27   19   0   0   0   0   0  24  16  14  11    3   22   28 4.13   91
        B. Allen*       31   18   0   0   2   0   0  31  40  13  13    2    9   13 3.77   99
        H. Pina         24   16   2   0   2   1   1  24  22  15  14    3   14   16 5.25   71

        Others                    6   0   2   5   0  57  54  30  27    5   34   34 4.26   88

        Total                   161  38  68  93 23 1438 1334 658 577 144  621 1016 3.61  104

        * Throws left

A few things go well. McDowell has another big year, and first baseman Tony Horton and catcher Duke Sims both deliver outstanding power.

But our list of problems is distressingly long. It starts with Tiant, who slumps so badly that he leaps directly from 20-game-winner to 20-game-loser. Scheinblum hits so poorly that he’s sent back to the minors in mid-season; his replacement, rookie Russ Nagelson, hits better than Scheinblum, but not well. Nelson suffers a leg injury and is essentially useless.

Scott doesn’t hit poorly, but reinventing his approach following his disastrous 1968, focuses on putting the ball in play and doesn’t produce much thump.

Altogether, there just isn’t enough quality on this roster to overcome such setbacks. The result is a dreadful last-place season, indeed the worst performance by a Cleveland team since 1928.

          Yankees:  Actual          Red Sox:  Actual          Indians:  Actual
 Year     W    L  Pos   RS   RA     W    L  Pos   RS   RA     W    L  Pos   RS   RA
 1969    80   81   5   562  587    87   75   3   743  736    62   99   6   573  717

          Yankees:  Virtual         Red Sox:  Virtual         Indians:  Virtual
 Year     W    L  Pos   RS   RA     W    L  Pos   RS   RA     W    L  Pos   RS   RA
 1969    80   81   5   594  617    85   77   4   775  781    68   93   6   576  658

Next time

We’ll find out if our Yankees and Red Sox can get some forward traction. And if our Indians can stop the backward slide.

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Comments

  1. Cliff Blau said...

    Mickey Mantle hadn’t retired in November 1968, so the Yankees didn’t have to replace him with Tommy Davis.  He didn’t quit until spring training of 1969.

    My real objection is I fear this series isn’t going to end well for the Yankees.  You’ve already kept them from obtaining some of my favorite players.

  2. Steve Treder said...

    “Mickey Mantle hadn’t retired in November 1968, so the Yankees didn’t have to replace him with Tommy Davis.  He didn’t quit until spring training of 1969.”

    D’oh!

    “My real objection is I fear this series isn’t going to end well for the Yankees.  You’ve already kept them from obtaining some of my favorite players.”

    Jack Aker?  Ron Woods?

  3. John Agius said...

    The Mantle error is forgivable.  He hit .230 and was pretty much done.  It would be plausable that the Yankees would be looking for a replacement at that point.

  4. John C said...

    It was pretty much known that Mantle was done at the end of ‘68. That’s why Denny McLain threw him a gopher ball on purpose in a blowout late in the season. If McLain knew it, I am sure the Yankees’ front office did, too.

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