An Alternate Approach to Expansion (Part 1)

May 19, 2019

The article about Jack Fisher and how he got from the Giants to the Mets via a "special draft" in late 1963 got me thinking about expansion drafts in general.

The way it’s been done is to have each established team protect a certain number of players on its 40-man roster, and then allow each expansion team to select from the list of unprotected players, about 25 of them. It then loses one or two, then they’re allowed to protect a few more players, and this process continues until the new teams’ rosters are fully stocked.

The 40-man roster, as I understand it, was designed to allow established teams to select players NOT on other teams’ 40-man rosters and claim them, paying a suitably exorbitant price for the privilege of claiming them, presumably to discourage claiming other teams’ players freely.  In other words, if one club misevaluates its own minor-leaguer, categorizes him as not one of the 40 men it wishes to protect, another club might put in a claim, with the price set at a point where teams don’t put in claims willy-nilly. Clubs tend to leave most of each other’s non 40-man rosters alone, because otherwise everyone would be poaching everyone else’s players fulltime and there would be no one to run baseball.  The 40-man roster and the rule 5 draft (http://m.mlb.com/glossary/transactions/40-man-roster) are a little more complicated than that, and have probably changed several times since 1963, but this is close enough for my purposes here.

Historically, the 1962 NL draft was a widely acknowledged disaster. Casey Stengel snapped off a sarcastic remark, to the effect of "Thank you, National League, for making such wonderful, talented players available to me," meaning they let him draft crappy players and crappier players, and charged him a fortune for each of them.

Just off the bat, I don’t really get the whole practice of charging prices for players. I mean, charge each expansion team a huge fee for joining the league, sure, but why go through the ritual of "And, oh, yeah, if you want any players, well, that’s gonna be extra"? Kinda silly, seems to me. Like an expansion team is going to go, "No, that’s ok, we don’t need any players, we’re going to field a team of walk-ins, our own children, high school kids, softball league stars, like that." It’s not as though the league would let them get away with that, anyway: the league is charging whatever it wants for its second- and third-line players, and the new teams gotta pay whatever they’re charged. So why not just have a flat fee separate from the draft process?

Anyway, the worst expansion was the 1962 NL draft—as a result of its awfulness, the Mets and the Astros hung around in the bottom of the NL standings pretty consistently for half a decade or more. It was so bad that even the other teams decided to hold a second expansion draft to help the Mets and Astros, voluntarily, after 1963, which is where Jack Fisher came in.

Why would they volunteer to give up a few extra players? It’s great to have doormats to beat the dust out of, but it’s also maybe contrary to a good business model to have non-competitive baseball games. You want to give fans a reason to attend, right?  If your opponents are around or a bit below .500, the fans will come out, but when your opponent hasn’t sniffed a victory in weeks, maybe your fans will think "I’ll wait to buy a ticket until a team with a few stars comes to town. Do I really want to see players I’ve never heard of get beat up 12-2?"

So imagine that in 1963 the NL had a serious change of heart, not just throwing the Mets and Colt .45s a bone in the form of Jack Fisher and Claude Raymond  but a genuine commitment to making a lot of good players available, the goal being to make the two expansion teams competitive immediately.

If each established club is hurt equally, then none of them is really being harmed. That was my chief objection to the Special Draft in 1963—all the clubs had to make players available to the draft, but only the Giants and the Braves (and the Dodgers, sorta)  ended up losing one MLB player apiece. The other clubs skated free. Didn’t seem equitable to me.  Still doesn’t.

Imagine some authority figure in the NL President’s office who gets it in his head, over the established clubs’ objection, that in the best interest of the league he is going to hold a complete second draft in October of 1963. This time, there’s going to be fewer players protected from the draft, and he persuades the teams that this would actually benefit them: it would reward those teams that scouted its own players efficiently, it would cut down on their payroll, and it would hurt all teams equally such that none of them would actually suffer harm. It would also be a way for teams to cut loose veterans whom they felt were being overpaid, or who weren’t getting along with teammates, or otherwise wanted to unload, without suffering blowback from fans. "Hey, we hadda let someone go! We didn’t want to, but we hadda!"

So I tried one of my main fantasies as a boy, just after the one about hiding in the girls’ locker room, about rearranging the NL rosters.

Some common sense rules: you’ve got to let the established teams hold onto their stars, and their potential stars. For simplicity’s sake, we’re drawing from the teams’ 40-man rosters (or what I’m supposing those 40-man rosters might have been), and we’re allowing each team to protect 15 players, which seems sufficient. Off half each established team’s roster, the Mets get one player, then the Colt 45s get two and then the Mets get one more. Off the other half, it’s Colts pick 1, Mets 2, Colts 1.

This system allows each of the eight established clubs to retain 36 players on its 40-man roster, while stocking the Mets and Colt .45s with 16 mostly second-line but still respectable MLB players each, plus whatever chazerai is on their rosters from the original rip-off expansion of 1961.

Other rules: I decided to forego retrospective super-vision. In other words, I didn’t allow myself to use the knowledge I have from knowing how these players’ careers would work themselves out. I used my best judgment of how the established clubs would rank their own players. Mostly I had the established clubs protecting, obviously, its stars and its younger players who had the potential to develop into stars, because that’s who they would have protected. They might occasionally be wrong about who was a star: sometimes a player in mid-career just loses his stardom, through injury, sudden decline, emergence of a star rookie at his position, whatever. If a club protected someone whom this fate befall, so be it. And I tried my best to guess players that clubs felt wasn’t a star yet but whom they needed to protect. Again, sometimes they’d be wrong about this, but it’s only natural that they protect their future stars before they would protect current players beginning their declines.

And a late note: I had assumed that the "rosters" section of the BBREF site was a listing of the 40-man roster, but it’s not. It’s just a listing of all the players on that team who played that year, so I had to make up my own 40-man rosters. Since this is a purely hypothetical exercise, it shouldn’t matter if I’m wrong about the identities of the players on the 40-man roster, but I tried to apply the same rules in filling them out. When I reached into the minor leagues, I tried to protect those players whom I believe the established teams would have protected at the time, not the players who actually ended up with big-league careers.

For example, on the Giants, just below, I left Gil Garrido, a decent 22-year-old AAA shortstop who eventually played parts of six seasons in the NL, off the 40-man roster, mainly because Tito Fuentes put up about the same stats as his DP partner at Tacoma but was only 20 years old, and I didn’t think the Giants would have put both minor leaguers on their 40-man roster.  

I did, however, include Arlo Engel. Who? you ask. I never heard of him, either, but in 1963 he was a 21-year old OFer for the AA El Paso Sun Kings who hit 41 HRs and drove in 126 runs. Yes, it was a hitters’ league, and no, the Giants or anybody probably didn’t account very much for the inflated offense of the Texas League in 1963. Arlo, whose LPs I listened to throughout the 1960s, was the Sunk Ings’ left-fielder. Jose Cardenal (36, 95, .312) played CF, and the RFer, whom I’m also putting on the 40-man roster, was future Giants catcher Dick Dietz (35, 101, .354).  That’s some outfield, ain’t it? I’m guessing Dietz played RF on account of general slowness, and also to use his future catcher’s arm.  Dietz was a brutal outfielder, in any case: below-.900 fielding percentage in 130 OF games (ouch!!), so they had to get him outta there, and fast. But they couldn’t because he was blocked by El Paso’s catcher, 21-year-old Randy Hundley (23, 81, .325).

My criteria for including minor leaguers in imagining a 40-man roster was the quality of their performance, the quantity of PAs or IP, their age (younger being better), and the level of league (AAA being far more impressive than AA).  I tried to be an honest broker here, selecting the players whom I felt the Giants would have placed on their 40-man roster. The players who DID play for the big-league club obviously were on the 40-man roster, and where I needed to flesh it out with future talent, I tried to base my calls on who seemed to have the most potential at the time.

The veterans on each established team, particularly the scrubeenies  who were in their mid-thirties and whose careers were puttering out, might seem at first blush to be not worth keeping on the 40-man roster, so you may well be asking: Why don’t the teams just cut these guys, so they can pack more younger players on their 40-man? Well, they didn’t want more young players on their 40-man rosters, that’s why. The aging veterans were there because teams need such veterans to fill in at positions at a professional level. The way the 40-man roster works is, if a player isn’t on it, then any other team can grab them up at a predictably exorbitant price, and these players would be useful cogs. The day before the expansion draft takes place, other teams will put a claim in on anyone useful who is not on the 40-man roster, and his original team will lose him for good. But if his team puts him on the 40-man roster, then he MIGHT be lost in the expansion draft, but probably not. Of the 25 men on the unprotected list, only 4 will be taken, and those 4 will probably be younger players. But if the team leaves those younger players off the 40-man roster altogether, then they could be claimed by other established teams, and probably will be.

You don’t just throw away a major-league player because there’s an off-chance that you’re going to lose him, either to another established team taking him off your 40-man roster, or to an expansion team that is only going to grab a total of four players of your 25 unprotected players. You’re going to put every major leaguer whose contract you own in perpetuity (this is the 1960s, remember) on your 40-man roster. The way this works is, you’re going to accept losing four decent, probably young players for the greater good of the league.

I think this is fair, if not always accurate, in that it makes some future stars undraftable by the Mets or Colts (the ones who are buried deep in the minor leagues, not doing well yet, etc.) BUT it also makes those who do find themselves on the 40-man eligible for drafting, and I like to think that the Mets and Colt .45s would have the good sense to avail themselves of the younger talent made available to them. The Colt .45s, I have little doubt, would go in the direction of youth, because that was their policy from the beginning, but the Mets, who in 1961 gave in to the lure of over-the-hill big-name players like Gil Hodges and Richie Ashburn, even though their tanks were on "EMPTY" at that point in their careers, would have wised up after two years of relying on veteran stars whose light had long faded.

This process is highly unreliable, I’m quite aware. I could run it a dozen times, including and excluding all sort of players from each team’s 40-man roster, separating the protected sheep from the unprotected goats differently, and guessing which unprotected players each expansion team would select differently, and the players drafted and undrafted would change every time. And if anyone other than I was doing the including, excluding, separating, and guessing, it would vary greatly too. This is far from science.

But I’m trying to find out about a process here, not to speculate on specific players and teams. The process is: What could happen if leagues had decided to stock expansion teams so that they would be more than marginally sustainable, better than .250 ballclubs, better than .350 ballclubs, better than .450 ballclubs. If that were their goal, I wonder, would an expansion draft like this be adequate for the task?

Know, too, that I understand quite well that this path still favors the established clubs who are, after all, able to retain their fifteen best players from the outset. That’s a big advantage for them.  This would be a smarter model for expansion—hurting all the established teams equally, while letting the newer clubs get off to faster starts, not winning necessarily but being in the pennant race past July and getting blown out of games far less often. Better baseball all around from earlier in the process.

So our first example, let’s see how the draft would have gone with the Giants (I should have run these teams in strict order of how they finished in 1963, I know, but I started with the third-place Giants because of the Jack Fisher draft, and starting with the Giants doesn’t really make any difference. All other teams are in order of their finish.)

 

GIANTS 15 PROTECTED

GIANTS 25 UNPROTECTED

Mets pick (#)

Colts .45 Pick (#)

1

Felipe Alou

Joey Amalfitano

 

 

2

Jesus Alou

 

 

Matty Alou (2)

3

Bob Bolin

Ed Bailey

 

 

4

Jose Cardenal

Bob Barton (AAA)

 

 

5

Orlando Cepeda

Ernie Bowman

 

 

6

Jim Davenport

Jim Coker

 

 

7

Tom Haller

Jim Constable

 

 

8

Jim Ray Hart

Dick Dietz (AA)

 

 

9

Frank Linzy

Jim Duffalo

 

 

10

Juan Marichal

Arlo Engel (AA)

 

 

11

Willie Mays

 

 

Jack Fisher (3)

12

Willie McCovey

Tito Fuentes (AA)

 

 

13

Jose Pagan

 

Bob Garibaldi (4)

 

14

Gaylord Perry

Ron Herbel

 

 

15

Cap Peterson

Chuck Hiller

 

 

16

 

Billy Hoeft

 

 

17

 

 

Randy Hundley (AA) (1)

 

18

 

Rick Joseph (AAA)

 

 

19

 

Billy O’Dell

 

 

20

 

Billy Pierce

 

 

21

 

John Pregenzer

 

 

22

 

Daniel Rivas (AAA)

 

 

23

 

Jack Sanford

 

 

24

 

Al Stanek                      

 

 

25

 

Jerry Thomas (AAA)

 

 

           

 

See what I did there? Maybe it strikes you as a little cute, which it is, but it’s also pIausible. I had the Mets take Double-A catcher Randy Hundley as their first pick from the Giants. Hundley’s son Todd, of course, would later star as the Mets’ pre-Piazza catcher, so that’s the cute part, plus the Mets had taken a catcher (a Giants’ catcher, in fact, Hobie Landrith) as the first pick in the 1961 draft, which gave rise to one of Casey Stengel’s cuter explanations for the pick: "Ya gotta have a catcher, otherwise you’ll have a lot of passed balls," or something to that effect.  The 1963 Giants had a ton of talented catching in their system: two big-league All-Stars on their MLB roster, Bailey and Haller, a guy at Tacoma, Bob Barton, who would make the majors soon and who had hit .302 in AAA ball that year, Hundley, who had had a terrific year in AA, a guy named Vic Roznovsky backing up Hundley in El Paso who would play a few years in the majors, Jimmie Coker, who would catch in the NL for bits of nine seasons, plus Dietz who had ripped AA pitching while ripping up the OF in El Paso. It stands to reason they would feel that these promising kids in their system could be exposed to the draft and they’d still be okay at catcher for the next few years.

I just happened to read in an old "Hey Bill" (I know, I know, they’re ALL old "Hey Bill"s at this point) a series of call-and-responses about Dietz’ defense, which Bill made a case for being what held him back from stardom. Defense at catcher, which seems to been as disastrous a position for him as the outfield was in his minor league years. The funny thing, Dietz’ career faded completely just as the DH became an option, which seems too bad for him—as talented a hitter as he was untalented a fielder, the Miniver Cheevy of his time.  (The "Hey Bill"s are from around Xmas of 2017, if you want to look. Miniver Cheevy is a character in a poem of that name by Edward Arlington Robinson, about a guy who felt that his problem was that he’d been born at the wrong time for his particular talents.)

My other cute/plausible move was to have the Mets drafting pitcher Bob Garibaldi with their fourth pick—cute, because the Mets had tried desperately to sign Garibaldi as an amateur player the year before. From Garibaldi’s wiki entry: "Casey Stengel of the New York Mets tried to convince Garibaldi to sign with them (he even left a game early to travel to Stockton, California, to try to persuade Garibaldi), Garibaldi chose not to sign with the Mets." This is during the baseball season, mind you, a 72-year-old manager leaving his team to sweet-talk some kid pitcher—don’t see that every day.  So this way, Casey ends up getting Garibaldi after all.

The Colt .45s’ picks are also both cute and plausible: I have them picking future batting champ Matty Alou, whom the Giants, I’m imagining, left unprotected because Matty hadn’t really done that much through 1963, and had shown inconsistency with the bat while playing the one position, CF, they really didn’t much help at. Besides, how many Alous did one club need? At the time, Felipe had shown that he could play, and the word on Jesus (who would eventually play for Houston) was that he was potentially the best of the Alou boys. So I have Houston opting for Mateo as their first pick, breaking up the matched set, and just for irony’s sake, I have them drafting Jack Fisher as their next pick.

Before we move on, I want to ask: did I just have the Colt .45s draft a future batting champion off the Giants’ roster? Maybe, maybe not. Who knows what would have happened if Matty hadn’t gotten traded instead to the Pirates, where Harry Walker would teach him everything he knew about place-hitting and turn M. Alou’s career around? For one thing, I’m not sure I buy that story—Harry Walker was a big self-promoter (and his mouth was a big motor) and Mateo was the one with the bat in his hands, so let’s not be too quick to apportion credit here. On the other hand, if Matty had stuck around for a few years on the Astros (né Colt .45s—you’ve got no idea how irritating it is to have to type that period in here time and again), he would have hooked up with Harry as his manager anyway. Would it have been too late to teach him how to hit? Would he have improved his BA without Harry? Tune in for the next episode of "Who The Hell Knows?"

Now let’s look at the 1963 LA Dodgers’ roster and repeat the process. (This time, it’s the Colts .45’s turn to draft first and fourth.) Like the Giants, the Dodgers also used 35 players in 1963, leaving five spots to add from their minor league system.  Unlike the Giants’ 35, however, the Dodgers traded three men on the club roster (as listed in BBREF) during the season, indicated in pale blue below, so their 40-man roster requires that eight men from the minors be added to that list. In alphabetical order:

 

 

DODGERS 15 PROTECTED

DODGERS 25 UNPROTECTED

Mets pick (#)

Colts .45 Pick (#)

1

Tommy Davis

Jim Barbieri (AAA)

 

 

2

Willie Davis

Dick Berardino (AAA)

 

 

3

Don Drysdale

Marv Breeding

 

 

4

Ron Fairly

Mike Brumley (AA)

 

 

5

Jim Gilliam

Dick Calmus

 

 

6

Frank Howard   

Doug Camilli

 

 

7

Sandy Koufax

 

Al Ferrara (2)

 

8

Ken McMullen

Bobby Cox  (AAA)

 

 

9

Bob Miller          

Roy Gleason      

 

 

10

Joe Moeller (AA)

Derrell Griffith

 

 

11

Ron Perranoski

 

Bill Haas AAA (3)

 

12

Pete Richert

Norman Koch (AAA)

 

 

13

John Roseboro

Wally Moon

 

 

14

Johnny Werhas (AA)

 

 

Dick Nen (1)

15

Maury Wills

Nate Oliver        

 

 

16

 

Phil Ortega         

 

 

17

 

Wes Parker (AA)

 

 

18

 

 

 

Howie Reed AAA (4)

19

 

Ed Roebuck

 

 

20

 

Ken Rowe           

 

 

21

 

Dick Scott

 

 

22

 

Larry Sherry

 

 

23

 

Bill Skowron

 

 

24

 

Daryl Spencer   

 

 

25

 

Dick Tracewski

 

 

26

 

Lee Walls

 

 

27

 

Nick Willhite

 

 

28

 

Don Zimmer

 

 

 

 

So the Colt .45s’ #1 pick is the guy who hit a heroic HR against the Cardinal in the 1963 pennant race that was just concluded: Dick Nen showed he could hit major league pitching, and he had a big year at the age of 23 in Spokane AAA: 9, 84, .288, good defense at 1B, and he took a lot of walks. A future star, for sure.

Of course, Nen is no future star. This entire round is a big bust, bigger than Mamie Van Doren or Jayne Mansfield (who are, at this point in time, two of Hollywood’s most prominent attractions, or four, if you want to get technical about it). All four (stop that, now) of the players plucked from the Dodgers’ roster will fall short of developing into major league stars, or even major league players in one case. That case is Bill Haas, whom I included on the 40-man roster because he had had some BIG seasons in the minor leagues before the age of 21. In the "comments" section of the Jack Fisher article, it was revealed to me  that Haas had, in real life, been drafted by the Mets in the special draft of 1963 along with Fisher, and I remembered thinking "At last! We’ve gotten a real star!" Alas, we had not.  Like Arlo Engel of the Tacoma Giants, Haas could whack the hell out of the ball in high school, in A ball, in AA ball—but when he faced AAA pitching, it whacked the hell out of him. No way of knowing, no reason to blame the Mets for drafting him, IRL or here in my imagination, but as Bill once memorably said, his parachute just didn’t open.

Before they "drafted" Haas, not that the order matters here, I had the Mets draft one Al Ferrara, who had an even better year than Dick Nen at Spokane in 1963: 19, 89, .321, with half of Nen’s strikeouts.  Not only was Ferrara a certain star, but he was also a home-grown boy, a high school star from Brooklyn. His high school, in fact, was the alma mater of Sandy Koufax, and Bob Aspromonte, and Ken Aspromonte, and Fred Wilpon, for that matter, not that the Wilpons owned the Mets yet. (Sandy Koufax owned the Mets in 1962 and 1963.)  Also in future years John Franco, and, oh, yes, me.

Irresistible as it would have been for the Mets to refrain from drafting Al Ferrara, he would never blossom into a major league star, and neither would Howie Reed for the Colt .45s.  At the age of 26, Reed led the Spokane Indians that year in innings pitched (229), wins (19), winning percentage (.731), ERA (2.75) and jockstraps used (23). His middle name was "Dean" and his nickname was "Diz," and he did something big in MLB, just like Nen--he had a big moment that I can’t recall offhand, but it was only one moment. (Anyone remember what it was? His wiki entry doesn’t say but I don’t think I’m imagining this.) In ten very partial seasons with the Dodgers, A’s, Angels, Astros, and Expos, Reed went 26-29. I have the Colt .45s drafting him after his big AAA year, but like the three others, his career came to naught.

OK. that happens sometimes—you get four at-bats and you whiff all four times. Let’s move on to the St. Louis Cardinals.

 

 

CARDS 15 PROTECTED

CARDS 25 UNPROTECTED

Mets pick (#)

Colts .45 Pick (#)

1

George Altman

Ed Bauta

 

 

2

Ken Boyer

 

 

Jim Beauchamp (2)

3

Ernie Broglio

Bud Bloomfield

 

 

4

Curt Flood

Jerry Buchek

 

 

5

Bob Gibson

Lew Burdette

 

 

6

Dick Groat

Leo Burke

 

 

7

Julian Javier

Duke Carmel

 

 

8

Johnny Lewis (AAA)

Doug Clemens

 

 

9

Tim McCarver

Jack Damaska

 

 

10

Ray Sadecki

Jacke Davis

 

 

11

Mike Shannon

Harry Fanok

 

 

12

Curt Simmons

Phil Gagliano

 

 

13

Ron Taylor

Bob Humphreys

 

 

14

Ray Washburn

 

Charlie James (1)

 

15

Bill White

Gary Kolb

 

 

16

 

Sam Jones

 

 

17

 

Jeoff Long

 

 

18

 

Ken MacKenzie

 

 

19

 

 

Dal Maxvill  (4)

 

20

 

Stan Musial

 

 

21

 

Gene Oliver

 

 

22

 

Diomedes Olivo

 

 

23

 

Dave Ricketts

 

 

24

 

Carl Sawatski

 

 

25

 

Red Schoendienst

 

 

26

 

Barney Schultz

 

 

27

 

Bobby Shantz

 

 

28

 

 

 

Bill Wakefield (AAA) (3)

29

 

Moe Thacker

 

 

30

 

Corky Withrow

 

 

 

 

The Cards in October of 1963 actually had more than 40 guys on their roster. (And just to make this point crystal clear, I know that the "rosters" just represent all the men who played for a club in a given season, and not their actual 40-man roster—some of the players might have been sold or traded or released before October. But all 40 of them played for the club during the 1963 season, and all of these protected MLB players would be considered for protection against a draft. The other names, and the names of minor leaguers filling out the 40-man roster, are the types of players who would be on the 40-man roster. This is an experiment in finding out what this more expansive expansion would look like, not an experiment in precise accuracy.) That said, I attempted with the Cardinals’ roster to weed out players who’d been traded during the season, and added some of their top minor leaguers to replace them on the 40-man roster.

Of the 42 men who played for the Cardinals in 1963, one name is easy to cut —Stan Musial’s. The Man retired at the end of the season—it was in all the papers, he had a big "Farewell, Stan, We Love You Tour" and there no way he was going to play for the Mets or the Colt .45s in 1964. He’d sooner drink a schooner of bleach mixed with Colt .45 Malt Liquor than play for either team after a lifetime as a Cardinal icon.

There’s actually some real-world precedent for lopping Musial off the list, as close as you could get, in time and in comp: When the AL expanded after the 1960 season, it coincided with Ted Williams’ retirement—the Sox did not make Williams available for the draft, though technically, if all the papers hadn’t been signed and notarized and framed yet, they could have.

I’m also going to arbitrarily lop Red Schoendienst of the list since, like Musial, he also had debuted in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fourth administration in the 1940s—or was it the William Henry Harrison administration of the 1840s?—and he wasn’t going to some expansion team either. He’d played his final MLB game in July of 1963, and may have officially retired by October. I listed Stan and Red in green above, and the in-season trades in blue. So that deals us 40 Cards to play with.

A very good team, the 1963 Cardinals would go on to win three out of the next five NL pennants, so I’m assuming they would want to hang on to some of their aging vets who were still playing well: Dick Groat, Curt Simmons, and the like, in their mid-30s and nearing the end of the line (end of the line, end of the line….) but they were also integral to the Cards’ success in 1963, so there’s no question but that they would be protected at this stage—a year or two and certainly three years later, not so much, but they were still star players in October of 1963, and would in fact contribute heavily to the championship team of 1964.

In selecting minor leaguers and fringe players to protect, I had a few tough calls: I had to figure which good-hitting young corner outfielder the Cards would choose to protect: Charlie James, who played ok for them in MLB at age 25 in 1963, or Jim Beauchamp , who at 23 had an OPS at AA of over 1.000, or Johnny Lewis, who had a similar year (.817 OPS at AAA) at the same age as Beauchamp. Having lost Musial to retirement and having not yet acquired Lou Brock, they’d need someone ready to move into LF for them. I think they’d go with protect one of the younger guys.  The question is: which one would they have picked?

Beauchamp and Lewis were born 11 days apart, which makes Lewis’s performance in AAA a little more impressive than Beauchamp’s in AA. The lesson I learned (don’t know if the Cardinals had) from Bill Haas and Arlo Engel is that AAA pitching can weed out hitters very effectively, so I went with protecting Lewis and exposing Beauchamp and James to the draft. Beauchamp and Lewis both eventually became Mets, as did much of the Cardinals roster here, driving in 90 runs (Beauchamp) and 74 runs (Lewis). Unfortunately, those are not their career peaks, they’re their career totals. Both were washouts, though Lewis was the Mets’ best offensive player in 1965, which says more about the Mets than it does about Lewis.

So Beauchamp is exposed, and since Houston soon acquired him in real life, I’m going to assume they approved of his potential. I’ll have them picking Beauchamp #2 in this draft, and just for fun, I’m going to have them picking one of the Cardinals’ best young pitchers, Bill Wakefield, #3, who had a good year at Tulsa and Atlanta, at age 22.

In the Mets’ turn, picking first and fourth, I’m going to go with safer picks, Charlie James and Dal Maxvill, giving them young players immediately capable of occupying one outfield and one infield spot. The Mets don’t yet have Bud Harrelson (he’s still "Derrel" in their ‘future stars’ part of the yearbook), who would display almost identical skills to Maxvill’s no-hit, good-field set of skills. You can never have too many slick-fielding shortstops, anyway.

Or can you? I just wrote in another context about the 1964 Phillies, who did seem to suffer from an overload of great fielding, lousy hitting shortstops—in this 1963 iteration, which is next on our list because the Phillies finished fourth in 1963, they had the same two light-hitting shortstops, Bobby Wine and Ruben Amaro. While trying to gauge what the 1963 Phillies might have thought of either of them , whether they were worth protecting, whether either one had ever given signs of hitting at an adequate big league level up to that point, I reflected on something that came up recently in regard to Hal Lanier, which also makes me think of Bud Harrelson and other such inept batsmen who eked out long careers with their slick glovework: Ruben Amaro had a lifetime .234 big league batting average, obviously not even close to adequate, considering that he lacked both power and OBP.  Considered retrospectively from our perspective, he should never have been given over 2400 plate appearances in 11 seasons, except for one thing: in 1961, Amaro at the age of 25 batted .257 in 381 at-bats.  This is not the sort of batting average that will get Amaro into Cooperstown, or indeed into most teams’ batting orders, but the key statistic I just gave you wasn’t so much ".257" but rather "25." He had hit a marginally acceptable BA at an age that suggested that maybe he hadn’t yet peaked. That was key. His fielding was more than adequate (he would win the Gold Glove at shortstop in 1964) but that .257 BA would be adequate if it were a floor, not the ceiling that it was.

Oddly, I remember that precise figure, .257, cropping up in Rey Ordonez’s early career, and I remember thinking "OK, if he can hit .257 again and field like he does, we’re set at shortstop for a decade or more." But he didn’t and we weren’t. Same thing, now that I think back, with Bud Harrelson—the man couldn’t hit the ocean if you spotted him the beach but one early season he hit something like .257 and won himself the shortstop job for years to come. Hal Lanier, someone suggested, did even better—Lanier hit .274 as a rookie, never hit close to that again but never lost his job as a regular middle infielder. Lanier, Harrelson, Ordonez, Bobby Wine, Amaro, Mark Belanger—all they had to do was hit anywhere close to adequate, no power, no walks, no nothing, just an illusory, flukey league-average BA one season, and they were set for life.

Is there any real difference between good-fielding shortstops such as these and a dozen other guys we’ve long forgotten because these other guys didn’t have that one flukey season early on where, despite their lack of batting skill, luck in its many forms obtained a so-so batting average for them. By "luck" I mean BABIP, a lot of seeing-eye hits, a small sample size of at-bats, or just the luck having a peak season early on instead of having it in Year Eight of their careers, which rarely comes for glovemen who fail to hit in seasons 1-7. Just a thought.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the 1963 Phillies were alternating Amaro and Wine at shortstop but it seems silly for them to have protected both players from being drafted. So I’m going to posit that they would have protected Wine, who won his Gold Glove as their primary shortstop that year, and exposed Amaro.

They had several positions that were in transition, the most famous being third base, where they had a very young (21) Richie Allen playing a few games in 1963. Actually, Allen mostly played LF, but from game one in 1964, he was their regular 3B man, replacing Don Hoak who was 35 years old in 1963 and fading fast. It’s not a hard call to speculate that they would have exposed Hoak to a draft after the 1963 season and protected Allen, who had simply hit the living crap out of the ball at every level he had played for the Phillies organization, putting up a .900 OPS (or very close) at Elmira in 1960, Magic Valley in 1961, Williamsport in 1962 and Arkansas in in 1963.

First base was a slightly tougher choice: their aging veteran, Roy Sievers, put up some decent power numbers in 1963—19 HRs and 82 RBI in 450 at bats—but Sievers was 36 and aging every day. (Don’t you just love that expression, "aging every day," as if some of us manage to age only every other day, while others get younger every day?) They also had some hot-shot young 1bmen in the wings, no Richie Allens but pretty good young players they would have protected before they protected Sievers: Danny Cater and Costen Shockley. Now you might suspect me, as I suspect myself, of placing Allen on the "protected" list of 15 Phillies while putting Hoak, Sievers, Cater and Shockley on the "Oh, go ahead, take one or two of them" list—you may well think that I’m using my hindsight, of knowing that Allen will very soon become a star.

But Allen WAS such a star in AAA that I’m okay making that presumption about the Phillies’ smarts.  Obviously, the fading stars Hoak and Sievers were simply too old to be worth protecting, but even Shockley and Cater had played in the same cities as Allen but with less talent for pounding the ball and at older ages (Cater was two years older than Allen, Shockley only a month). I hope I’m not applying my knowledge of how things worked out in their major league careers, but I think I’m just attributing some good sense to the Phillies in placing Allen on the protected 15-man roster. Hmmmm, I seem to have miscounted-- the fifteenth slot is open, so I’m going to place Shockley on it: he had a good year on the Arkansas Fellow Travelers, not Richie Allen-good but still impressive, so he makes the cut.

BTW, is it okay that I refer to Allen as "Richie" Allen? Normally, I’d be all for calling a man what he chooses to be called, but what about the period before he changes his name? You can’t really speak about Muhammad Ali’s amateur boxing career, can you, if he was known as "Cassius Clay" until well into his pro career? Or can you? Mike/ Giancarlo Stanton, Albert/Joey Belle—I don’t know which standard to apply when discussing exclusively their pre-name-change careers.  And didn’t Jose Uribe change his last name to something else? I remember jokes about him being "the player to be named later," but his bbref page doesn’t mention another name for him.

 

 

 

PHILS 15 PROTECTED

PHILS 25 UNPROTECTED

Mets pick (#)

Colts .45 Pick (#)

1

Dick Allen

 

Ruben Amaro (3)

 

2

Jack Baldschun

Earl Averill

 

 

3

Dennis Bennett

John Boozer

 

 

4

Johnny Callison

Paul Brown

 

 

5

Wes Covington

Danny Cater (AAA)

 

 

6

Ray Culp

Lee Elia

 

 

7

Clay Dalrymple

Cal Emery

 

 

8

Don Demeter   

Dallas Green

 

 

9

Ryne Duren

Norm Gigon (AAA)

 

 

10

Tony Gonzalez

Jack Hamilton

 

 

11

Art Mahaffey

Mickey Harrington

 

 

12

Costen Shockley AAA

John Herrnstein

 

 

13

Chris Short

Don Hoak

 

 

14

Tony Taylor

Billy Klaus

 

 

15

Bobby Wine

Johnny Klippstein

 

 

16

 

 

 

Gary Kroll (AAA) 4

17

 

Jim Lemon

 

 

18

 

Bobby Locke

 

 

19

 

Marcelino Lopez

 

 

20

 

Cal McLish

 

 

21

 

Al Neiger

 

 

22

 

Bob Oldis

 

 

23

 

 

Adolfo Phillips (AA) (2)

 

24

 

 

 

Cookie Rojas (1)

25

 

Roy Sievers

 

 

26

 

Billy Sorrell (AAA)

 

 

27

 

Frank Torre        

 

 

 

The Colt .45s pick first and fourth this time around—their first pick is Cookie Rojas, which makes sense, both from the Phillies perspective and from Houston’s. Philly just has too many middle infielders to be able to protect more than two (even protecting Wine, with his lifetime .215 batting average, seems a little loopy) and the unproven Rojas is too talented and too young (24) to pass up on. Knowing what we know now, we’d all protect Rojas and expose Wine, but back then Wine had shown a little more at the MLB level. Their fourth pick is a pitcher—I was torn between having them choose Kroll and choosing Paul Brown, who was a hell of a football coach. No, seriously, Paul Brown was probably their best minor league pitcher—he had a slightly better year in 1963 at AAA than Kroll had (14-11, 3.37, 147 K in 179 IP compared to Kroll’s 11-7, 3.04, 139 K in 151 IP) but Kroll was one year younger than Brown and six inches taller. (Kroll also pitched for the Mets briefly, but there’s only so much I can do about these not-very-ironic ironic choices—there are only so many young players in the NL to go around, and the Mets acquired almost every one of them sooner or later, usually after they had proven to their original teams that they weren’t very good.)

For the Mets‘ part, I have them taking Adolfo Phillips second and Ruben Amaro third. Why, you may ask, is Phillips even on the 40–man roster (that I am, again, reconstructing by logic and guesswork here rather than by historical fact, which I can’t locate and can only approximate about 95% of)? Phillips played AA ball in 1963, and led the Chattanooga Lookouts in OPS (.897), stolen bases (15), BB (60) and doubles (28), while playing a CF that Leo Durocher later compared to Willie Mays’ centerfielding.  He was also the youngest regular on the Lookouts, so I think the Phillies organization would have felt the need to protect him (by putting on the 40-man roster where established clubs couldn’t claim him) but not quite willing to protect him by placing him (yet) on their 15-man protected squad. They were filthy in good outfielders at this point in their history. (They would deal one of them, Don Demeter, in a month to acquire Jim Bunning, but they still had Tony Gonzalez, Johnny Callison and Wes Covington, all playing well in 1963.)

Doing this exercise, it is funny how I have to make choices based on various clubs’ thinking at this exact moment in baseball history, the week immediately following the 1963 World Series. (I picked that week because I want the 40-man rosters to be settled in place, no winter deals made yet, but before the actual October 10, 1963 date of the Special Draft that got Jack Fisher and Claude Raymond –and Bill Haas, sorta—added to the Mets’ and Colt .45s’ rosters.) It’s funny because I realized how much teams’ thinking must change from week to week or month to month during the off-season, and almost from day to day during the season: which prospect is their #1, which players are more valuable than other players,  who has the biggest unrealized potential long-term, who they should put on the 40-man roster, who they should expose to other teams’ claims, etc. I imagine every big-league front office has ongoing, constant arguments about these things, which are not merely abstract arguments about individual players’ levels of talent but very practical arguments about which players to promote right now to the big leagues, which players to give up up on, which ones to deal off before the other clubs catch on that you’ve given up on them, which starting player in AA should be a bench player at AAA, and vice-versa. It’s an argument where the data is ever-changing, and I suppose that minds are often changing too.

When I decide that Gary Kroll, for example, would have been well thought of in October 1963, I’m well aware that he wouldn’t have been nearly as well thought of by the Phillies in the spring or even summer of that year, and also that a year or two later they’d be glad to deal him off because he was unable to sustain his  impressive 1963 numbers. But for the brief period I’m examining closely here, he was a very hot stock.

That’s a useful metaphor: think of minor-leaguers as penny stocks. There’s very little hard data to go on, and it changes constantly, but you can’t ignore the fact that one or two of them is going to appreciate wildly in value in the near future—the question is which one or two?

Anyway, we’re halfway through the established teams’ roster in the early fall of 1963—four down, four to go—so let’s tote up what each expansion team would have gained at this point:

 

Mets

Colt .45s

Ruben Amaro (ss)

Matty Alou (cf)

Al Ferrara (of)

Jim Beauchamp (of)

Bob Garibaldi (P)

Jack Fisher (p)

Bill Haas (1B)

Gary Kroll (P)

Randy Hundley (c)

Dick Nen (1B)

Charlie James (lf)

Howie Reed (P)

Dal Maxvill _(ss)

Cookie Rojas (2b)

Adolfo Phillips  (cf)

Bill Wakefield (p)

 

 

So far, both expansion clubs have done fairly well: each has picked up a few potential stars in the next decade (Hundley for the Mets, Alou and Rojas for the Colts) plus a few other useful players (Amaro, Maxvill,  Phillips for the Mets, and  Fisher and Wakefield for the Colts), while each club is also blowing half their picks. And so far, no established team seems crippled by its losses, at least none are much worse off than any of their competitors, so it doesn’t seem as if this draft would have changed history very profoundly. The Cubs are probably hurt the most, losing two of their future regulars, Phillips and Hundley, whom they haven’t acquired yet. Presumably they’d make other deals to get a CFer and a C. They’ll suffer losses, of course, when the second-division’s turn comes but I don’t think the Cubs will get hurt nearly as badly as they did here.

It doesn’t concern me in the least btw that the Mets have acquired two shortstops, nor should it have concerned them either: Maxvill played a lot of second base in his MLB career and he played it well. Like I said, never a problem to have too many good-fielding middle infielders. Of which, I realize that the Mets spent their first five years, the pre-Agee years, glomming onto anyone who could play a decent middle outfield: they signed up Jim Hickman from the Cardinals, Billy Cowan from the Cubs, Don Bosch from the Pirates, Ron Swoboda from their own system, all of whom were utter failures in CF. If they ever got a shot at signing Adolpho Fillips, they would have jumped for joy at it.

This is enough to give you a practical idea of how I think a real "Special Draft" could have gone, would have gone, and should have gone. Tomorrow, I’ll run through the second division’s offerings and look at how this more extensive draft could have affected the parity in NL through the mid-1960s. The next day, I’ll offer an even more radical conclusion on the philosophy of expansion drafts.

 
 

COMMENTS (3 Comments, most recent shown first)

Steven Goldleaf
Let’s take your logic to the extreme, jwilt: why should the league give the expansion teams any players at all? If these upstarts want to play, make them earn their victories by playing the free agents, the kids they can sign up between forming the club and playing their first game, the walk-ins, players they can buy off waivers, etc. against the established clubs until they can deserve to win. Maybe it’s a decade or two decades before they win 10% of their games, but what the hey? Let ‘em suffer for a while, while the established clubs get easy double-digit-margin victories that they’ve earned by being in the league before these newbies get there. Is n;t it sufficient that we’ve given them a franchise? Why should we have to give them any of our players into the bargain?

Pretty stupid, right? No one wants to watch non-competitive baseball, but show me where the system you’re discussing isn’t the same thing, based on the same moralistic reasoning you’re using (and MLB has used) to create doormats for the league. The way I see it, making the new teams more nearly competitive immediately helps the entire league. If you don’t want the newbies to play, the way I view it, then don’t create them, but if you want to make new teams, then give them a fighting chance to play head-to-head with the older clubs.

4:21 AM Jun 5th
 
jwilt
I think teams should earn their successes. I don't like the idea of an expansion team appearing out of thin air and immediately being in contention.

If you want stronger expansion teams award the franchise, and don't have them start for six years. In year one they get a rookie level minor league affiliate. In year two a low A. In year three a high A. In year four a AA. And in year five a AAA. If they've done a good job they'll have a reasonably good team by the time the MLB team starts playing.
6:42 AM May 26th
 
gendlerj
I find this really interesting, as the 50's and 60's are my favorite time in baseball, not surprising given my age. It is a shame that MLB has seldom, if ever, been more forward looking when expanding. Vegas in the NHL shows that a more equitable plan can be created.
2:15 PM May 20th
 
 
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