Thursday, August 2, 2018

In the Doghouse with Rocky

Tigers acquire Fred Merkle.
As my readers know, my hobbies are APBA Baseball and Out of the Park Baseball for the PC. I have been playing a project named 'Leveling the Field' which I started in 1901 and have been playing as an alternate reality, the only difference really is the division setup, which I have 4 team divisions (2 divisions) in each league.... basically adding a League Championship element early on.

I am the General Manager & Manager of the Detroit Tigers, and we are currently playing the 1915 season. My Tigers won the 1912 World Series over Christy Mathewson & the New York Giants, we have unfortunately not reached the playoffs since due to a lot of bad luck & the injury bug that seems to strike at the worst moments possible.

Prior to the season, my owner Rocky McQueary expressed that we needed to make an upgrade at second base, I couldn't have agreed more, I have wanted to move Hans Lobert back over to third for some time & was ready to deal Frank LaPorte (our starting third baseman).

The 1914 MLB Draft really had nothing for me at second base, while I ended up drafting 1B High Pockets & pitchers Lee Meadows, Carl Mays and Duster Mails.

So on Christmas Day, I blew up other owners phones & sent endless telegrams in my attempt to shake up the roster. The Boston Braves actually ended up calling me by offering first baseman Fred Merkle with their eyes on OF/IF Possum Whitted and pitcher Jack Coombs... after much discussion the Tigers traded Whitted, Coombs, pitcher Ray Caldwell & prospects Joe H Kelly (OF) and Tracy Baker (1B) to the Braves for Merkle.

My upgrade at second base would be Jack Barry, I would acquire him from the St. Louis Cardinals, along with reliever Rube Benton in exchange for up-and-coming starting pitcher "Seattle Bill" James & 3B Frank LaPorte. I didn't want to see Seattle Bill go, since I have a soft spot for him after pitching a no-hitter with him through my APBA Crazy 48's Project.

Benton would not be a Tiger for long, as I added him in my third trade of the day, in a package to the Philadelphia Athletics. Detroit would send 1B Chick Gandil, LF Dode Paskert, SP Frank Allen, Benton & $1,500 in cash to the A's in exchange for left fielder Frank Schulte (32) and corner outfield depth in Ted Cather. I always loved Gandil, he has a solid glove while producing in most projects, but he has been overall a disappointment in Detroit, plus with Merkle on the roster now that leaves no room for Gandil.

I decided to move Rube Waddell back to the rotation from his closer role, since my 4th slot of the rotation was now Lee Meadows who was not quite seasoned to take that role just yet.

So entering Spring Training, my starting lineup looked like this...

  • 1) Fred Merkle - 1B
  • 2) Gus Williams - RF
  • 3) Ty Cobb - CF
  • 4) Frank Schulte - LF
  • 5) William Fischer - C
  • 6) Jack Barry - 2B
  • 7) Tom Downey - SS
  • 8) Hans Lobert - 3B
  • 9)  (Pitcher)
My rotation was as follows...
  • 1) Walter Johnson
  • 2) Hugh Bedient
  • 3) Guy Morton
  • 4) Rube Waddell
'Big Train' is the ace in Motown.
Oh, yes... I forgot to mention, I own Walter Johnson, never in the world would I have imagined my team having him on this roster. He was drafted 1st Overall by the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1906 MLB Draft, which he would be amount 115 wins between 1907-1913, while winning three consecutive A.L. Cy Young Awards (1911-1913), four strikeout titles between (1907-1912) & the 1907 A.L. Rookie-of-the-Year Award. It should be noted that he missed the entire 1908 season with a torn flexor tendon in his elbow.

The Athletics once tried to waive the 'Big Train' in front of my face, but the trade involved the pursuit of acquiring Ty Cobb, which I had to shoot them down.

Then on May 24, 1914 the Athletics came around calling again, and offered Walter to the Tigers in exchange for SS Steve Yerkes, RP Ferdie Schupp, SS Roger Peckingpaugh & RP Ben Van Dyke... with no tweaking to the deal, I said yes, without almost blinking. The acquisition of Yelkes helped the Tigers win the World Series in 1912, but in the chance of acquiring Johnson, he had to go.

So with all these moves and my team looking in its best shape since that title year in 1912, the sky should be the limit, right?


Almost like clockwork, the injury bug struck & he was a striking away...

First came Jack Barry back in spring training with a torn back muscle (Out for 4-5 months), then after two excellent season starts by Rube Waddell (0.82 ERA), Waddell torn his meniscus (knee)... out for 3-4 months. Then came the real stinger, losing Hugh Bedient with a torn UCL, out for 10-11 months.

Barry was Tigers' 2B upgrade for 1915.
Bedient was lightning in a bottle for me, since the day I drafted him 11th Overall during the 1911 MLB Draft, he would finish 2nd in the A.L. Rookie-of-the-Year voting, while helping my Tigers win the World Series (1912 World Series MVP) while winning 4 games that postseason. He would lead the league with wins (21), ERA (2.21) & WHIP (1.040) during his 1913 campaign, only to narrowly lose the Cy Young bid to the 'Big Train'. 

He would have another strong year in 1914, winning 15 games with a 2.96 ERA -- giving him a 53-37 record during his first three seasons. He was having a strong season again (7-4, 2.38 ERA) until his recent injury here in 1915. 

Tom Downey, our team's starting shortstop that we acquired from Cleveland last season, was in and out of the lineup dealing with back issues, until he ultimately landed on the disabled list for 2-3 months with a different injury all together (hip strain).

Starting pitcher Jack Quinn was already nursing an injury dated back to last August which required elbow ligament reconstruction surgery. He was diagnosed to be out for 12-13 months, and should be returning in 7 weeks for me. 

So which all leads to my letter from my owner Rocky, labeled 'Mid-Season Report' (July 6th, 1915), which I will share some of the elements of that letter with you...

Under 'Upgrade a position', he mentions...

"Not only did you fail to find an upgrade at second, I look through our roster and can't even figure out who you plan to play there moving forward. I can't very well give you credit for improving a position when you can't commit to a player there."

My thoughts are: "Ummm... we did upgrade at second base in Jack Barry, but he happened to get hurt during Spring Training".

Under 'Increase Attendance', he mentions...

"I'm very disappointed in our progress, or lack thereof, in increasing the number of fans in the seats at our games. I know while the season is going on there's not much you can do to change things, but start thinking about how to increase the numbers for next year."

My thoughts are: "You're right, there were a few things I was concerned about in those three deals in the off-season, there was a lot of players we traded, very popular players among our fans that were dealt, which all happened in one day. It is obvious now that those trades made an impact in the hearts and heads of our fans... plus raising ticket prices by two cents probably didn't help matters."

Ticket prices were raised from 83 cents to 85 cents.

Then came the 'Do Something' part of the letter...
Under the 'Dump a Player' segment, he mentions...

"While I understand that you might feel loyal to Ty Cobb, you need to understand that he just isn't the right fit for our roster. I'll give you some more time to do what you need to do. But I want this done before the season ends."

It should also be stated that the owner prior to the season mentioned that he expects our team to be in the playoffs, which is fair, I expected just as much, but our team has been ravaged by dumb luck, we currently lead the A.L. West (37-32) by only a half-game over the St. Louis Browns and 2.5 games over the Chicago White Sox.

During my tenure as the GM & Manager of the Tigers, this is the closest to being in the dog house with the owner. While I do want to make my owner happy, I really wanted to keep Cobb here, it was so strange seeing him play for the Boston Braves, and I felt I restored the nature order of things or at least in the Detroit Tigers universe having Cobb wearing the old english D again... then again, he could bring in bushels of talent, but then again there is only one Ty Cobb.

By the way, it should be noted, I can absolutely get fired.

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