Wednesday, January 23, 2013

1974 TOPPS BOBBY GRICH

WHO WANTS A SNOW-CONE?


IMAGINE THE HYPE IF GRICH PUT UP THESE
MINOR-LEAGUE STATS IN 2012.


THE FRONT PAGE

  • Despite Topps stubbornly referring to him as "Bob'' throughout his career, Bob Grich always will be known as Bobby Grich to me and most fans.
  • Super nice action shot of a second baseman whose sabermetric numbers -- specifically power and defense -- put him among the best at his position.
  • Hit 19 home runs with 82 RBI in 1974 for the AL East champs.
  • When I think of underrated second basemen of the '70s and '80s, I think of Grich and Lou Whitaker.

THE BACK PAGE

  • Damn, he hit .383 in 235 at-bats for Triple-A Rochester in '70, which earned him his first trip to The Show. I would think it should've.
  • He didn't stick, so what did he do? Quit? Sulk? No, he went out and put up a monster Triple-A season in '71.
  • Gary Beban won the '67 Heisman Trophy with UCLA.
  • Grich also went to school with '74 AL MVP Jeff Burroughs.
  • Despite a great arm and vast range at shortstop, the O's had Mark Belanger there, so Grich was groomed to take over second from Davey Johnson, who was traded in '73 as part of a package to the Braves for catcher Earl "Small Change'' Williams, who sucked defensively. 
  • I remember being bummed when Davey was traded; always loved him. I grew to love Grich more. That is, until he signed with the Angels in the '76 off-season.

PHOTO PLAY

  • Lots to like here: a snow-cone grab, a play at second and lots of dust.
  • That sliding Brewer is Pedro Garcia.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • Although Grich left the Orioles, I couldn't hate him. He combined power with defense during an era when middle infielders were bottom-of-the-order outs. He was a pioneer of the modern second baseman. 
  • Because second base was my position in Little League, Grich was one of my favorite players growing up. When many of my Little League teammates were fantasizing they were Reds All-Stars like Joe Morgan, I was channeling my inner Bobby Grich.
  • Grich was one of the game's best prospects in the late '60s, but Baltimore had a logjam of infield talent blocking his promotion. 
  • He had outstanding WAR numbers during a five-year stretch beginning in '72, when he averaged 7.3. From '73-'75, his season WAR numbers were 8.0, 7.0 and 7.0.
  • Interesting story from his early Oriole days: Frank Robinson overheard a conversation about hitting between Grich and another player. "What does a rookie like you know about hitting in the big leagues?'' Grich answered. "Tell you something, pal, I'll be hitting for 10 years around here after you're gone.''
  • Grich was right. He averaged 10 homers and 44 RBI with the Orioles from '70-'76 and 15/56 with the Angels from '77-'86.
  • When he was demoted to Rochester in '71, Manager Earl Weaver told Grich he needed to be more aggressive at the plate and pull the ball more.
  • In '72 despite not having a regular position, Grich nearly got 500 at-bats, filling in at all four infield positions.
  • The Yankees offered more money to Grich but he decided to head back west, where he grew up. Thank the good Joe Pesci almighty he didn't wind up in the Bronx.
  • Had his best year in 1979, reaching career-highs in homers with 30 and RBI with 101 and hit .294. The West champs would lose to the Orioles in the ALCS and were led by another former Baltimore prospect, Don Baylor.
  • He was on course for perhaps an even better year in '81, but the players strike killed that possibility. In 100 games, he tied for the AL lead in homers with 22 and had 61 RBI and batted a career-high .304. He also added a league-leading .543 slugging percentage and 165 OPS+
  • Retired after the Angels lost that epic seven-game ALCS against the Red Sox, saying he felt overmatched by the Red Sox's Roger Clemens. A lot of batters felt that way.
  • In '92, he was eligible for the Hall of Fame voting but recevied only 2.6 percent and was dropped from the ballot.
  • A travesty, but hopefully the Veterans Committee will give him serious consideration.

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