Tag Archive | "Gary Gaetti"

Billy Butler Awarded Silver Slugger

Kansas City, MO (November 8, 2012) – Louisville Slugger announced this evening that Royals player Billy Butler is the 2012 Silver Slugger™ Award winner at Designated Hitter in the American League.  Butler becomes the seventh-different Royals player to win a Silver Slugger award (10th time overall), the first since third baseman Dean Palmer in 1998.

The Silver Slugger award winners were determined by a vote of Major League Baseball coaches and managers who named the players they felt were the best offensive producers at each position in both the American and National leagues in 2012. Selections were based on a combination of offensive statistics, including batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, as well as the coaches’ and managers’ general impressions of a player’s overall offensive value.  Managers and coaches were not allowed to vote for players on their own teams. Tabulation of the balloting was verified by the accounting firm of Mountjoy Chilton Medley LLP.

Butler, 26, was awarded his third Les Milgram Royals Player of the Year award (also 2009 and 2010) yesterday.  Appearing in 138 games as the Royals designated hitter, Butler batted .315 (170-for-539) with 23 home runs, 29 doubles and 93 RBI.  He led all designated hitters with 61 runs, 170 hits, 29 doubles and 93 RBI while ranking second in average and home runs.  Overall, Butler batted .313 with 32 doubles, 29 home runs and 107 RBI in 161 contests.

Royals Silver Slugger Award winners (award was instituted in 1980):
George Brett – 1980, 1985 and 1988 (1980 and 1985 at third base, 1988 at first base)
Willie Wilson – 1980 and 1982 (outfield)
Hal McRae – 1982 (designated hitter)
Frank White – 1986 (second base)
Gary Gaetti – 1995 (third base)
Dean Palmer – 1998 (third base)
Billy Butler – 2012 (designated hitter)

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UCB: Top Five Iconic Moments

The United Cardinal Bloggers puts together monthly projects and post ideas for the group of us to chime in on.  Next month will start another run of round-table discussions, a personal favorite.  This month they have asked us each to summarize our top five iconic moments in St. Louis Cardinal history.

That’s a lot of history to pour through, even for a historian like myself.  My top five will be moments that I personally remember, whether on television or in attendance, that are ingrained in my mind and truly define my love for that franchise.

Number Five: Where 1998 Started
A lot of writers will plug in the great home run chase into their top fives, but I’m not sure many would utilize Opening Day of the 1998 season.

As a fan, it is one of my favorite games to attend.  The fanfare and celebrations around the city are a holiday like no other.  From the parade of champions to the player introductions, it is a ballgame that rivals any other.  In 1998, long before anyone realized the special season we were about to witness, the player we would all cheer for to chase the unreachable record would start things off in grand style.

During a scoreless game entering the bottom of the fifth inning, Dodger starter Ramon Martinez would find himself in some trouble.  A lead off double to Gary Gaetti followed by a base hit by Tom Lampkin would have runners at the corners with no one out.  Back-to-back strikeouts of Cardinal hurler Todd Stottlemeyer and lead off man Royce Clayton had Martinez back on top.  When the Dodger pitcher failed to retire Delino DeShields, Mark McGwire stepped to the plate with the bases full.  The one ball, no strike pitch to McGwire landed deep in the left field seats, an opening day home run in front of a crowd of just under 48,000.  The city of St. Louis would erupt in the middle of the game and while home runs 61, 62 and 70 would not only be etched in the record books, it was the opening day grand slam that I was in attendance for that started it all.

Number Four: The Passing Of The Guard
A tumultuous few years seen a Cardinals franchise changed forever.  Fan favorite manager Whitey Herzog would leave, former popular player Joe Torre would arrive and take the reigns of a team that had very little support from upper management, and a new era would be ushered in with the arrival of Tony LaRussa.

Tony would stick around for a long time, making decisions that would make the most die hard fan question his methods, only to find that his methods lead to victories, and championships, along the way.  The biggest change, and the one that most fans could not bring themselves to move past, happened after the arrival of LaRussa, however.

Prior to that arrival, in 1992, franchise legend Ozzie Smith had filed for free agency.  By December, the team had reached an agreement on what was being called a “Lifetime Contract”.  That contract guaranteed the short stop three million dollars a year and automatically renewed the following season if he reached a modest amount of plate appearances.  The contract also included a $500,000 signing bonus, payable upon retirement, and a 10-year personal services contract.

in 1996, with the arrival of Tony LaRussa, Walt Jocketty, and a new ownership, the team reached an agreement with former Giants short stop Royce Clayton.  It was the beginning of the end for the man known as “The Wizard”, Ozzie’s playing time was cut drastically and his contract would not roll over.  While Ozzie had reached the age of 41, many fans believed him still capable of handling the position and was forced out of the league by the new regime.  Ozzie would retire after the season and enter the Hall Of Fame later as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, but the decision to remove him from the short stop position in St. Louis was the single most iconic personnel change in my life at the time.

Number Three: Go Crazy Folks
On a personal note, my family moved to Missouri in 1985.  I was a young, eight year old boy that was just truly discovering the beauty of the game.  That summer, I attended a Cardinals game against the Chicago Cubs and had fallen in love with the beauty of listening to the game on the radio.

I was sitting on the living room floor, not to far from our console television, with the sound on mute so that we could hear Jack Buck instead of the national announcers.  I can remember the feeling of anxious anticipation with Ozzie at the plate.  No one, not one baseball fan anywhere, can say honestly that they expected what happened next.

Angela at Diamond Diaries explains that reprinting the words and recounting the scene does not do it justice.  The moment, as provided by Ozzie Smith, was shared by Jack Buck.  It was the combination of the two that created a moment in my mind that will live forever.  Without Jack’s call, it was a great walk off moment.  But with Jack Buck on the mic and Ozzie Smith hitting his first home run of the year from the left side of the plate, the moment became iconic.

Number Two: Grief
It is hard to believe that number two on our countdown will have happened 10 years ago by this summer.

I remember the news on June 18, 2022 announcing the passing of a man that I had grown to idolize.  The reason I wanted to write and do radio and continue being around this game was Jack Buck.  The sight of him, frail and suffering, in front of a crowd days after the September 11th tragedy was hard to watch and harder to process.  Legends like him are not supposed to die.  When he passed away, I wept openly.  A man I had never met face to face, yet I felt I spent a portion of my adult life with, was gone and I reacted as if he was family.  Because he was.  One of my first articles for Baseball Digest contained the simple phrase “I miss Jack Buck…” and I don’t think I have written another line with as much feeling as I did that day.

As iconic of a moment as the passing of Jack Buck was, it was four days later that the moment came to close in Chicago.  Settling in to watch a game with the Cubs, I could not understand what the delay was.  The game was delayed but there was no rain and the announcers were not saying why, other than an emergency.  A tearful Joe Girardi, the Cubs catcher and team captain at the time, approached a microphone near the plate and announced that the game would be postponed due to “a death within the Cardinal family”.  We would later find out that Darryl Kile, the Cardinals ace of their pitching staff, had lost his life in his hotel room the night before.  Ironically, Kile’s last pitching performance was a 7-2 Cardinal victory over the Anaheim Angels on the day Jack Buck passed away.

In four short days, the Cardinals family had been shaken to the core.  The moment, all four days of it, is etched in our minds.

Number One: We Will See You Tomorrow Night
Maybe it ranks this high because it was so recent.  Maybe it is because I am a sucker for announcers.  Maybe it is because of who I watched the game with.  Maybe it is all of those reasons.  However you count it, this past post season was magical.

The night of Game Six was amazing, no doubt.  From the game tying hits, the come from behind moments, and the “they just won’t go away” moments, it was an emotional roller coaster ride that I had never experienced as a fan.  The end of the game, however, is what ensured that I would never forget it.

David Freese would send the crowd home happy with a game winning home run to center field that would fit the mold of the season.  A game-six, walk off home run was enough to make it iconic.  What came across the television cinched it as a moment I will never forget.  When I heard Joe Buck exclaim as the ball landed in the grass beyond the center field wall, “We will see you …. tomorrow night,” I immediately commented that he used his father’s call.  A moment for the ages suddenly spanned a generation of fans.  It brought back memories of Jack.  It created a new found respect for Joe.  It wasn’t forced.  It didn’t feel scripted.  It simply flowed across the screen and then, as friend Bob Netherton points out, he and Tim McCarver did the thing that most broadcasters fail to do.  They shut up.  The let the fans at home be overflowed with the emotion of the moment and share in the joy of the fans at the park.  Cardinal Nation, from coast to coast, was united.  It was an amazing, and iconic, feeling.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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The Cardinals In Time: Long Home Runs And Tony’s Arrival

During the offseason we have been taking a look at the past, giving readers a timeline of St. Louis baseball throughout history. Last time we learned about the some tough times for the Cardinals as the roster was weak, the front office was in shambles, and the team was going nowhere fast. In 1995 Anheuser-Busch put the team up for sale and the team finished the season without a manager. Who was coming in to take over?

Walt Jocketty wasted little time trying to turn things around after taking over as general manager of the Cardinals. He had to show a little patience, however, to get the manager he wanted. Joe Torre was out after roughly five rather lackluster years, and at the end of the 1995 season Jocketty got his man. He called up good friend Tony LaRussa and lured him to the Gateway City after spending ten years in Oakland, picking up three AL pennants and one World Series title.

Tony had his own way of doing things, and many fans initially balked at some of his decisions. The number one choice? Choosing to give a stronger portion of playing time to young shortstop Royce Clayton rather than stalwart and fan favorite Ozzie Smith. Ozzie still had a strong year at the plate, hitting .282/.358/.370 over 82 games, and his competition was weaker. Clayton had a .277/.321/.371 line.

The turnover in players between 1995 and 1996 was startling. The pitching rotation added Andy Benes and Todd Stottlemyre in the rotation as well as closer Dennis Eckersley, while the starting nine saw newcomers Gary Gaetti, Ron Gant, and old friend Willie McGee. The biggest switch on the field for the year was the actual field – the team returned to natural grass after using Astroturf since 1970.

The team started slowly, going just 41-40 in the first half. After the All-Star game, they started to climb. An eight game winning streak from August 30 to September 7 took Tony’s team from 2.5 back to 1.5 up, and they never looked back. After winning the division on the backs of Andy Benes’ 18 win season, the team ran into the machine known as the 1990’s Braves in the NLCS. They battled, but could not win out over the starting rotation of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Denny Neagle. For a young Cardinals’ fan experiencing her first memories of Cardinals postseason baseball, this was a bittersweet end to the season. I still hold a grudge.

A 88-74 season in 1996 went almost completely backwards in 1997, as the team finished 73-89 and found themselves fourth in the five team NL Central. Rookie Matt Morris had a strong year for the starting rotation, finishing with a team best 12-9 record, 3.19 ERA, 217 innings pitched and 1.276 WHIP. This earned him second place in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Never over .500, Jocketty nevertheless made a July 31 trade with the A’s. The Cardinals passed Eric Ludwick, TJ Matthews and Blake Stein to the A’s in return for Mark McGwire. McGwire hit 24 home runs over the final two months, but only hit .253. In fact, no one on the team hit over .300 on the season. The closest was none other than Willie McGee, who hit .300 exactly. Four outfielders played in 115+ games – some things never change with LaRussa.

Does anyone remember anything about the 1998 season besides the home run chase? I do not. Considering Houston absolutely ran away with the division, winning 102 games, no one cared about anything besides waiting for Big Mac to hit his next blast. The team was already back 10.5 games at the break, and although they did put together an 18-7 September, they were much too far out of contention to ever put any pressure on the division leaders.

Yes, the real story for the Cardinals was McGwire. He and Cubs’ outfielder Sammy Sosa were neck and neck all season, trading blasts and actually becoming somewhat of friends over the course of the season. On September 7, McGwire tied the single season record of 61 home runs in a season, only to break it the next night with Roger Maris’ family in attendance, against Sosa’s Cubs no less! Baseball was on the way back up after having received such a large black eye with the 1994 strike. People were finding reasons to come back to the ballpark, and baseball was smiling again.

As for the team, 1999 was another forgetful year. I absolutely did not remember how dominant Houston was for a few years. It makes the Astros current issues that much more awful. This year did not have much to offer the Cardinals. McGwire had 65 home runs, and Kent Bottenfield had the only good year of his career, going 18-7, but this team was going nowhere fast, and no one seemed to care.

One interesting footnote to this season is 25 year old rookie starting pitcher Jose Jimenez. His season looks unremarkable, his career even more so, but for two games in 1999, Jimenez outdueled a future Hall of Famer. On June 25 in Arizona, Jimenez faced Randy Johnson and matched him out for out through the first eight innings. In the top of the ninth the Cardinals pushed a run across through two walks and a single to left. Jimenez closed out the ninth to finish a no hitter. It is not every day that a rookie outdoes Randy Johnson, but then he did it twice. Just two starts later the two squared off again, this time in St. Louis. Jimenez again came out on top of a 1-0 score, although this time the Cardinals only made him wait until the fourth to get a run, and he gave up two hits. These were literally the two greatest games of his career, and they came in the course of three games on the way to a 5-14, 5.85 ERA season.

2000 showed a team that started out very strong in April (17-8), then fluctuated for the next 4 months, playing a little better than .500 ball from May through August. However, two trades in July bringing relief pitcher Mike Timlin and veteran infielder Will Clark to the Cardinals primed the team to finish the year strong. Rookie pitcher Rick Ankiel showed his phenom status by going 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA, which earned him a second place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting. Newcomer Darryl Kile felt a career resurgence in his first year out of the thin Denver air and went 20-9, the only twenty win season of his career that ended too soon. All five starting pitchers had eleven or more wins.

On the offensive side, another newcomer in centerfielder Jim Edmonds led the team with a .295/.411/.583 batting line, racking up 103 walks, 167 strikeouts (does the term ‘free swinger’ mean anything to you?), 42 home runs and 108 runs batted in. With all that he eventually accomplished in St. Louis, it almost seems unreal that he was 30 years old already when he arrived to the Cardinals.

The team made a solid run in the postseason, pushing past the Braves in the Division Series despite a bout of wildness by starting pitcher Rick Ankiel. However, they were run over by the scorching hot Mets in the NLCS, and the Mets were the ones that went on to the Series, squaring off against the Yankees in the Subway Series.

Tony had pushed the team back into the upper half of baseball, and the team had the pieces in place to stay there for awhile. Would they?

Angela Weinhold covers the Cardinals for i70baseball.com and writes at Cardinal Diamond Diaries. You may follow her on Twitter here or follow Cardinal Diamond Diaries here.

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The Balboni Line

After Adam Dunn’s recent signing with the White Sox, I pulled up his career stats, and could hardly believe his home run totals from the last seven seasons: 46, 40, 40, 40, 40, 38, 38. The consistency is stunning, but being a Royals obsessive, something else struck me: Adam Dunn has out-homered the Royals single season record for seven straight years. (The only other player I’ve been able to find with such a streak is Babe Ruth, who hit at least 41 for seven consecutive years, 1926—32.) Dunn’s incredible stretch prompted me to delve deeper into just how pitiful the Royals lack of home run power has been.

Steve Balboni

Royals fans have enjoyed some great players over the years, but the team has somehow never had a hitter bust out with even a 40 home run season. They are the only current franchise without a 40 homer hitter. The team mark is an embarrassingly low 36, set by Steve “Bye-Bye” Balboni in 1985. Barry Bonds’ all-time record of 73 is more than twice the Royals record.

Only ten times has a Royals player reached 30 homers:

Steve Balboni 36 1985
Gary Gaetti 35 1995
John Mayberry 34 1975
Dean Palmer 34 1998
Danny Tartabull 34 1987
Jermaine Dye 33 2000
Bo Jackson 32 1989
Danny Tartabull 31 1991
George Brett 30 1985
Chili Davis 30 1997

Some of the lack of power is explained by the home run graveyard that is Royals/Kauffman Stadium. In recent years, the Royals inability to hang on to power hitters has also helped keep the record intact: Carlos Beltran had 15 home runs with KC in 2004 before he was traded to the Astros—he finished the year with 38, and then peaked at 41 with the Mets in 2006. Ex-Royal Jermaine Dye knocked 44 in 2006. Health problems have also played a role: had Bo Jackson and/or Mike Sweeney been able to stay healthy, they may have taken a run at the record.

Only the Twins join the Royals in failing to have a player hit more than 36 home runs in a season since 1985. The Twins do at least have the memory of some huge home run years: Harmon Killebrew alone had nine seasons over the Balboni line.

Some astonishing numbers:

The average home run record for the 29 non-Royals franchises: 53
Average number of 37+ home run seasons per franchise: 15
Times a Yankee has hit 37+: 38
Number of individual seasons of 37+ home runs since 1985: 244
Average number of seasons of 37+ per team since 1985: 8 (In other words, if the Royals had kept pace with home run hitters around the bigs, Balboni’s mark would have been surpassed eight times in the last 25 years.)

I posted a few of these stats on Twitter recently, prompting this response from Jeff Parker of Royally Speaking: “You are bumming me out.” So, hey, how about some hope: I asked Greg Schaum of Royals Prospects what he thinks the chances are of someone currently in the Royals system breaking the record. Greg feels Mike Moustakas has the best shot: “Moose should have 3-4 peak years where he could break that record…But he still needs to prove he can handle big league pitching (especially breaking stuff). But he would be the guy with the best chance.” Moustakas’s final home run tally last year in the minors was…36.

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