This week’s questions, and remembering Matty Alou


Matty Alou

Matty Alou's average jumped 111 points from his .231 as a part-time outfielder with the 1965 Giants to .342 as a starter and batting champion for the 1966 Pirates

This year’s Game 6: the greatest ever?

Not if you’re a Rangers fan. Ask Red Sox fans where they rank 1986’s Game 6 vs. the Mets, or Giants fans where they rank 2002’s Game 6 vs. the Angels (wonder whatever did Russ Ortiz do with the ball Dusty Baker gave him?)

Otherwise this year’s Game 6 ranks favorably with any that came before, although comparing the three aforementioned games with 1960’s Game 7 (Mazeroski’s homer) or 1975’s Game 6 (Carlton Fisk’s homer) or 1924’s Game 7 (Walter Johnson wins the Senators’ only title in relief) depends really on whose team’s colors you wear.

1975 has the advantage of its moment being maintained by Good Will Hunting and 1986 by Curb Your Enthusiasm. If you want to lobby for 2011’s Game 6 to be remembered a generation hence as the greatest ever, it wouldn’t hurt if a Cardinal fan/artist included it in some like field for perpetuity.

What should we remember about  outfielder Matty Alou, who died this week?

The nut graph, of course — he was one of three brothers to man the same outfield for the Giants; he was the 1966 batting champion for the Pirates — but much more.

Alou’s big run was brief, from 1966-69 with the Pirates. He didn’t walk much or steal bases well, but for those four years, he hit like Ichiro, bunting, running and slapping past .330 each season.

He retired with a .307 career average and 1,777 career hits, second to Felipe (2,101) in the family (when Alou led the National League in batting in 1966, Felipe was second at .327, according to the New York Times). Jesus, who had his moments with Doug Rader in Ball Four, had 1,216.

Together, the Alous had 5,144 hits — more than the more-famous DiMaggios (4,653), although not — as any good Pirate fan could tell you –as many as two Waners (5,611).

A few more tidbits on Alou’s career:

  • He was stranded on third base in the Giants’ Game 7 1-0 1962 World Series loss to the Yankees when Bobby Richardson caught Willie McCovey’s line drive. Alou led off the bottom of the ninth with a bunt single but couldn’t score on Willie Mays’ two-out double because of Roger Maris’ defensive play in right.
  • He retired with an 0.00 ERA, having hurled two shutout innings for the 1965 Giants, fanning three.
  • He was part of two of the best trades in Pirates history, coming in 1965 for pitcher Joe Gibbon and catcher Ozzie Virgil (he had just 90 at-bats left in his career; his son of the same name had 98 career homers); leaving he brought Nelson Briles, who won 36 games in three seasons and Game 5 of the 1971 World Series with a two-hit shutout.
  • Denied a World Series title with the 1962 Giants and dealt before the Pirates’ win in 1971, Alou did win in 1972 with the Oakland A’s, coming in a late-August trade from St. Louis (where he went for Briles). Alou didn’t do much to help win the Series — he was 1-for-24 — but he hit .381 in the A’s five-game win over Detroit in the ALCS.
  • He was reunited with Felipe on the 1973 Yankees, who purged their roster of both on the same day — Sept. 6, 1973. Yes, George Steinbrenner had bought the Yankees by then, and yes, it sounds like the plot for a Seinfeld episode.

Who goes in from Golden Era list of nominations for the Hall of Fame?

If none of the 10 — Allie Reynolds, Ron Santo, Ken Boyer, Luis Tiant, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Gil Hodges, Charlie Finley, Buzzie Bavasi or Tony Oliva — is not an option, let’s whittle it down to the three best candidates: Tiant, Santo and Hodges.

Reynolds’ and Oliva’s careers were too short, Kaat’s too long, Minoso’s too undistinguished (he had a .298 career average and .389 career on-base percentage — our interest is piqued — but was a bad base stealer. You shouldn’t be nicknamed the Cuban Comet if you succeed at 60% of your attempts and lead the league in caught stealings six times).

Hodges wasn’t quite good enough as a player (370 career home runs, an .846 OPS; yes, he had seven straight 100-RBI seasons, which has a lot to do with why Jackie Robinson is in the Hall) or a manager (.467 winning percentage, thanks to five years with the Senators, and one World Series). Perhaps he is if you add one career to the other.

If you take Santo (342 homers in 15 seasons, five Gold Gloves, a career .826 OPS, career 125 OPS+) do you have to take Boyer, too (282 homers in 15 seasons not in Wrigley, five Gold Gloves, a career .810 OPS, 116 OPS+, 1964 MVP and game-winning grand slam in Game 4 of that year’s Series)? Expect Cardinals fans to squawk if Santo gets in and Boyer doesn’t.

Tiant had a career much like last year’s inductee Bert Blyleven — one with lots of swings, the very same .668 OPS against, and  a 115 ERA+ average compared to Blyleven’s 118. Twice Tiant led the league in ERA; four times it was more than 4.00. He won 20 games four times, lost 20 games once.

Blyleven had more innings, shutouts and strikeouts. He started at age 19, Tiant at 23, and the latter effectively lost 1970 and 1971 to injuries. Perhaps that’s just enough of a distinction. 

If we only get one of the three, and that would suffice here, a Rangers’ bullpen nod — i.e., shaky — to Santo.

Who manages the Cardinals and Red Sox next year? 

Far more important is who plays first base for the former and pitches for the latter.

The new Cardinals manager will be a lot smarter if Albert Pujols is around; the new Red Sox manager is already a lot smarter now that John Lackey won’t be.

Most managers have only subtle impacts on the regular-season record; the postseason, as Tony La Russa in 2011 demonstrated, is different.

There’s a reason every team that needs a manager is looking at the same people. It’s like shopping for paper towels — they all look the same in the supermarket aisle, and they all clean up about the same.

Should the Braves trade Jair Jurrjens?

Quickly, before someone else notices that low strikeout rate (6.2 in his career over nine innings, 5.3 in 2011) and frequent injury rate (116.1 innings in 2010, 152 innings).

And he can take Martin Prado with him — if Chipper Jones returns, there’s no place in the infield for Prado.

Nothing against either player, but they can help somebody else more than the Braves and not as much as someone who gets on base would help the Braves. Atlanta was 22nd this year in MLB in runs scored, and that’s not all because of their pitcher-friendly stadium — they were eighth in home runs (and we’ll stipulate they’d be better if Jason Heyward hits more than .227 and 14 home runs).

But the Braves are No. 1 in young pitching — Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizcaino and Julio Teheran are all ascending; Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor have already arrived. Add those to Tim Hudson’s consecutive good seasons, and Jurrjens is eminently available.

The Braves won’t be treating Jurrjens and/or Prado like they did Derek Lowe — and good for them for doing that much — but if they still have both next April, then something’s more wrong with Atlanta than Michael Bourn.

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2 Responses to This week’s questions, and remembering Matty Alou

  1. Jeff Navin says:

    My father and I loved watching Matty Alou hit at the original Yankee Stadium during his brief tenure with the New York Yankees. He was a poor man’s Rod Carew.

    • Pretty good comparison. There probably wasn’t too much else memorable about the 73 Yankees — 80-82 — although you’d have to be the only person I know who would know without looking it up what a great year Lindy McDaniel had at age 37 for the 73 Yankees: 12-6, 10 saves, 160.1 innings despite making only 3 starts. Alas, Felipe was pretty much finished by then, but not as much as a childhood favorite of mine — Johnny Callison hit just .176 in 136 at-bats.

      Interesting thing about Matty is though most people remember him as a Giant or Pirate, he played for 6 teams in all and won the World Series with a team with whom he spent the least time.

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