An Alternate Approach to Expansion (Part 3)

May 22, 2019

Part III—The draftees of the two expansion clubs on October 10, 1963 "were" the players listed below:

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)

 

Steve Boros 3B

Ken Aspromonte 2B

Joe Gibbon P

Steve Blass P

Dick Kelley P

Jim Brewer P

Manny Mota OF

Julio Gotay SS

Joe Nuxhall P

Don Pavletich C-1B

Claude Raymond P

Mel Queen OF

Art Shamsky OF-IB

Dennis Ribant P

Jimmy Stewart SS

Chico Salmon OF

 

These aren’t bad players, but they’re not going to pull a last-place team into contention, which was the whole idea behind this extra draft. Some of them never developed into frontline MLB players at all, and only a few ever developed into minor stars. We need to get more radical in devising a fix to the problem of stocking expansion teams with other teams’ castoffs and marginal players, because this didn’t do it. Didn’t come close.

The problem here was the number of protected players—I had each established team protecting the top 15 players on its 40-man roster, just as the teams actually did, and even though I let the expansion clubs pick freely from what was left, it wasn’t enough. The problem, if we want the expansion teams to be competitive immediately, is that allowing the established teams to protect 15 players allows them to lock up all the stars and virtually all the potential star players. The way I did it above, the Mets came away with a starting team—Shamsky at 1B, Maxvill at 2B, Amaro at SS, Boros at 3B, Mota in LF, Phillips in CF, James in RF, Hundley at C—but all of them are players who would have (and did) bat mostly in the lower half of their eventual teams’ batting order, no table-setters, no middle-of-the-order guys. They have a semblance of a pitching staff, but it’s all back-of-the-rotation starters and one middle reliever. Houston is the same—a lot of guys who played regularly for a year or two, a few who could bat #1 or #2 in the order (Alou or Rojas), but no stars and no front-line starters.

How few players could the established teams protect if we really wanted to make the expansion teams competitive? I was thinking maybe 10 would do the trick, but when I did that with the World Champion Dodgers, and protected the 10 top players, players 11-15 really weren’t a huge improvement over the washouts and never-weres they lost: I figured players 11-15 were Jim Gilliam, Ken McMullen, Joe Moeller, Pete Richert and Johnny Werhas. Assume the Mets and Colts drafted the first four, the ones with MLB careers and that’s an improvement, but not a very big one.

I reproduced the chart above, but changed it to reflect what might happen if the Mets and Colts drafted the four best unprotected Dodgers if the Dodgers could protect only ten:

 

 

DODGERS 10 PROTECTED

DODGERS UNDRAFTED

Mets pick

Colts .45 Pick

1

Tommy Davis

 

 

 

2

Willie Davis

 

 

 

3

Don Drysdale

 

 

 

4

Ron Fairly

 

 

 

5

 

 

Jim Gilliam

 

6

Frank Howard   

 

 

 

7

Sandy Koufax

 

 

 

8

 

 

 

Ken McMullen

9

Bob Miller          

 

 

 

10

 

 

Joe Moeller (AA)

 

11

Ron Perranoski

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

Pete Richert

13

John Roseboro

 

 

 

14

 

 

 

 

15

Maury Wills

 

 

 

16

 

Johnny Werhas (AA)

 

 

 

 

An improvement, but no real stars. Let’s try the second-place Cardinals:

 

CARDS 10 PROTECTED

CARDS UNDRAFTED

Mets pick

Colts .45 Pick

1

 

 

 

George Altman

2

Ken Boyer

 

 

 

3

Ernie Broglio

 

 

 

4

Curt Flood

 

 

 

5

Bob Gibson

 

 

 

6

Dick Groat

 

 

 

7

 

 

Julian Javier

 

8

 

Johnny Lewis (AAA)

 

 

9

Tim McCarver

 

 

 

10

Ray Sadecki

 

 

 

11

Mike Shannon

 

 

 

12

Curt Simmons

 

 

 

13

 

 

Ron Taylor

 

14

 

 

 

Ray Washburn

15

Bill White

 

 

 

 

 

The Cards had more players they needed to protect—I count about a dozen top performers for them in 1963, of which they had to lose two frontline stars, their closer, Ron Taylor (on the grounds that relief pitchers can always be replaced) and their second baseman, Julian Javier (on the grounds that now they can move Maxvill into the second base position and not suffer too badly).

 

Let’s try the Giants protecting only 10:

 

 

GIANTS 10 PROTECTED

GIANTS  UNDRAFTED

Mets pick

Colts .45 Pick

1

Felipe Alou

 

 

 

2

Jesus Alou

 

 

 

3

Bob Bolin

 

 

 

4

 

 

Jose Cardenal

 

5

Orlando Cepeda

 

 

 

6

 

 

 

Jim Davenport

7

Tom Haller

 

 

 

8

Jim Ray Hart

 

 

 

9

 

 

 

Frank Linzy

10

Juan Marichal

 

 

 

11

Willie Mays

 

 

 

12

Willie McCovey

 

 

 

13

 

 

Jose Pagan

 

14

Gaylord Perry

 

 

 

15

 

Cap Peterson

 

 

           

 

The Giants, in October of 1963, have only six stars who absolutely must be protected: Mays, Marichal, F. Alou, McCovey, Cepeda, and Haller. They have five others who have shown a lot of potential—J. Alou, Bolin, Hart, Perry, and Cardenal.  Bolin may be on the "absolutely protect" list by now, probably is: in his first three MLB seasons, he’s gone 19-11, mostly in relief (18 saves) with 256 K in 277 IP. The other four have mostly shown their great potential in the minor leagues so far, but they’re all very young. I’m going to have them protect Gaylord Perry, although he hasn’t done anything in the major leagues to speak of, and here maybe I’m being a little conservative, based on his later HoF career. But he had been really good in AAA the past three seasons (27-17) and he’s only 24. If we project him onto the unprotected list, this is a chance for an expansion team to pick up a genuine star player (albeit a little ways down the line) but I honestly think the Giants would have protected Perry in such a draft at this point in time.

They would have risked Cardenal, who’d had a spectacular minor league year at San Jose (see comment in part 1) but they were set in CF for the future.  The Giants were always pretty free with their talented young outfielders, and they’re hanging onto three Alous plus Mays and their 1B-dilemma of dueling HoFers, one of whom they have to play in the outfield, so Cardenal and Cap Peterson are going to be at risk.

The Phillies 15-man roster breaks down like this in my estimation:

 

PHILS 10 PROTECTED

PHILS UNDRAFTED

Mets pick

Colts .45 Pick

1

Dick Allen

 

 

 

2

Jack Baldschun

 

 

 

3

               

 

 

Dennis Bennett

4

Johnny Callison

 

 

 

5

 

 

Wes Covington

 

6

Ray Culp

 

 

 

7

Clay Dalrymple

 

 

 

8

Don Demeter   

 

 

 

9

 

Ryne Duren

 

 

10

Tony Gonzalez

 

 

 

11

Art Mahaffey

 

 

 

12

 

 

Costen Shockley AAA

 

13

Chris Short

 

 

 

14

Tony Taylor

 

 

 

15

 

 

 

Bobby Wine

 

Again, I’m making the conservative call here on Allen, based partly on my knowledge of his pending super-stardom but also partly on my awareness of the spectacular season he just had at AAA. But it isn’t a hard call between protecting him and protecting Costen Shockley, based on their AAA seasons at Arkansas—Allen is just that much more valuable. Duren is a good pitcher, but I have them protecting their ace reliever, Baldschun, and Duren’s 34 years old, so now he’s gone, and now I have the Phillies willing to lose Wine because Amaro’s not that much worse, and maybe as valuable, at SS. Bennett can go unprotected—I have them protecting three starting pitchers as it is, and Covington is the oldest of their outfielders.

So far, the difference between protecting 15 players and protecting 10 is a slight upgrade in the quality of the players drafted, and a sharp decrease in players who wash out completely. Our only washouts so far are Shockley and Bennett, though Altman doesn’t really have that much left at this point either.

Pushing on into the second division:

 

REDS 10 PROTECTED

REDS UNDRAFTED

Mets pick

Colts .45 Pick

1

 

 

Leo Cardenas

 

2

Gordy Coleman

 

 

 

3

Johnny Edwards

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

Sammy Ellis (AAA)

5

Tommy Harper

 

 

 

6

Joey Jay

 

 

 

7

 

 

 

Deron Johnson (AAA)

8

Jim Maloney

 

 

 

9

 

Billy McCool (AAA)

 

 

10

Jim O'Toole

 

 

 

11

 

 

Tony Perez (AAA)

 

12

Vada Pinson

 

 

 

13

Frank Robinson

 

 

 

14

Pete Rose

 

 

 

15

John Tsitouris

 

 

 

 

Ok, here the expansion teams strike gold: both the Mets and Colt .45s get two guys apiece who will make future All-Star teams or, in Deron Johnson’s case, lead a league in RBI.  The big Kahuna is the Big Dog, Tony Perez, but all four are really good players. If you’re wondering who this John Tsitouris is that the Reds foolishly choose to protect, he’s a 27-year-old starting pitcher who just finished his only MLB season as a winning pitcher—for the rest of his career, he will go 16-25, but the Reds have no way of knowing that at this point in time. They would do better to protect Johnson and let Coleman go, and protect Cardenas over O’Toole and Ellis over Jay, but in the fall of 1963 this is how I think it would have shaken out.  Basically, I think this is where the expansion teams succeed: when an established team protects Cardenas and exposes Perez, the expansion team is smart enough or lucky enough to pick Perez.

Here's the Braves’ 10:

 

 

BRAVES 10 PROTECTED

BRAVES 15 UNPROTECTED

Mets pick

Colts .45 Pick

1

Hank Aaron

 

 

 

2

 

Frank Bolling

 

 

3

Rico Carty

 

 

 

4

Tony Cloninger

 

 

 

5

 

 

Bob Hendley

 

6

 

 

 

Mack Jones

7

 

 

Lou Klimchock

 

8

Denny Lemaster

 

 

 

9

Eddie Mathews

 

 

 

10

Lee Maye

 

 

 

11

Denis Menke

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

Gene Oliver

13

Bob Shaw

 

 

 

14

Warren Spahn

 

 

 

15

Joe Torre

 

 

 

 

Again, it’s a little surprising in retrospect how few players are really worth protecting. We know now, for example, that Spahn, a 23-game winner in 1963, is effectively done, and other Braves’ stars, seemingly in mid-career or even earlier, are never going to get untracked: Lee Maye, Bob Hendley, Mack Jones, Gene Oliver are good ballplayers but they’re never going to step up their games much from where they are, while Lou Klimchock is never going to develop into Frank Bolling, and Frank Bolling’s career is very near its end. Aaron, Carty, Cloninger, Lemaster, Menke, and Torre still have significant portions of their careers to come, and Mathews and Shaw each have a few more years left in the tank, making a total of eight players really worth protecting here.

The Cubs have a little less worth protecting:

 

CUBS 10 PROTECTED

CUBS 15 UNDRAFTED

Mets pick

Colts .45 Pick

1

Ernie Banks

 

 

 

2

 

 

Dick Bertell

 

3

Lou Brock

 

 

 

4

               

Bob Buhl

 

 

5

               

 

Billy Cowan

 

6

Dick Ellsworth

 

 

 

7

Glen Hobbie

 

 

 

8

Ken Hubbs

 

 

 

9

Larry Jackson    

 

 

 

10

 

 

 

Cal Koonce

11

 

 

 

Nelson Mathews

12

Lindy McDaniel

 

 

 

13

Andre Rodgers

 

 

 

14

Ron Santo

 

 

 

15

Billy Williams

 

 

 

 

Hubbs, of course, has only months left to live, and Hobbie and Rodgers are effectively at the ends of their careers, but no one knows that, and the Cubs would certainly protect all three. Banks, Brock, Ellsworth, Jackson, McDaniel, Santo and Williams have productive years ahead of them, but the five they’d be exposing here have careers ahead ranging from futility to mediocrity. No star power here.

Bringing up the rear, the last-place Pirates have six players with substantial careers ahead of them (Bailey, Clemente, Clendenon, Mazeroski, Stargell, Veale), and a few regulars (Pagliaroni, Alley, Schofield, Virdon)  and back-of-the-rotation starters (Cardwell, Friend). At this juncture, 25-year-old Al McBean looks like a keeper: in 1962 and 1963 he won 28 games and lost only 13, but he will go only 36-35 in the rest of his major league career. The Pirates must protect him from the draft right now, however, as they must expose veteran reliever Roy Face, coming off a losing season at the age of 35. He and McBean will actually pitch for about the same number of years (McBean until 1970, Face until 1969) but there’s no way to anticipate that in 1963. Based on what the Pirates would know in October of 1963, McBean is a no-questions-asked keeper.

 

 

PIRATES 10 PROTECTED

PIRATES 15 UNDRAFTED

Mets pick

Colts .45 Pick

1

 

 

Gene Alley

 

2

Bob Bailey

 

 

 

3

Don Cardwell

 

 

 

4

Roberto Clemente

 

 

 

5

Donn Clendenon

 

 

 

6

 

Roy Face

 

 

7

Bob Friend

 

 

 

8

Bill Mazeroski

 

 

 

9

Al McBean

 

 

 

10

Jim Pagliaroni

 

 

 

11

 

 

 

Dick Schofield

12

               

 

 

Don Schwall

13

Willie Stargell

 

 

 

14

Bob Veale

 

 

 

15

 

 

Bill Virdon

 

 

Let’s eyeball the quality of the players chosen in this more expansive version of this imaginary expansion draft:

METS

COLT .45s

Gene Alley SS

George Altman LF

Dick Bertell C

Dennis Bennett P

Jose Cardenal CF

Jim Davenport  INF

Leo Cardenas SS

Sammy Ellis P

Billy Cowan OF

Deron Johnson 1B

Wes Covington LF

Mack Jones OF

Jim Gilliam 3B

Cal Koonce P

Bob Hendley P

Frank Linzy P

Julian Javier 2B

Nelson Matthews OF

Lou Klimchock 2B

Ken McMullen 3B

Joe Moeller  P

Gene Oliver C

Jose Pagan INF

Pete Richert P

Tony Perez 1B

Dick Schofield SS

Costen Shockley 1B

Don Schwall P

Ron Taylor P

Ray Washburn P

Bill Virdon OF

Bobby Wine SS

 

The Mets have picked up that rarity, Tony Perez, a genuine star the Reds failed to protect, and a few other players who will make an All-Star team or two: Julian Javier, Leo Cardenas and maybe someone else I’m overlooking here, plus some other players who, though falling short of stardom, will have effective careers: Alley, Taylor, maybe you’d consider Pagan to be an effective regular from this point forward. And they have guys whose careers as regulars are over pretty soon: Bertell, Gilliam, Covington, Hendley, and a few whose careers never really get started: Shockley, Klimchock, Moeller, Cowan.  Obviously they’ve done better this time around than they did picking from a 15-man protected roster, but I must ask how this lineup would have fared in the 1960s NL:

Gilliam 3B

Cardenas SS

Perez 1B

Covington LF

Cardenal CF

Javier 2B

Bertell C

Virdon RF

Aside from the fact that half these guys are well into their 30s and are good for only another season or two, it’s not an imposing lineup, aside from Perez (whose career won’t really get started until 1967, when Virdon, Bertell, Gilliam and Covington will have retired) , and not that much better than the one they drew from the protected 15-man roster.

 

Maybe the Colts did better? They too lucked out in pulling a solid hitting first baseman off the Reds’ roster, so let’s put Deron Johnson in the cleanup spot and see if we can assemble a decent lineup around him:

 

Schofield SS

Davenport  2b

Altman LF

Johnson 1B

McMullen 3B

Oliver C

Jones RF

Matthews CF

 

That looks like a lineup strictly from tenth-place, frankly. I wasn’t thinking of putting together a lineup when I picked the players, which is a better strategy than drafting for your immediate needs, but this looks like I just wasn’t thinking at all. This is horrible, probably worse than the Astros’ actual lineup in the mid-1960s, which featured Rusty Staub, Joe Morgan, Jimmy Wynn, and some other decent ballplayers.

Of course, in my imaginary world, I’d have these players added to, not replacing, the Mets’ and Colt 45s’ existing roster, so maybe it would work out okay, but I’m finding profound fault with the selection process itself. There just isn’t the level of help available, even if we’re picking from a roster that allows teams to protect only its 10 best players.

I could run a further experiment with only 5 protected players, and (eventually) we’d get around to selecting expansion teams that can play with (not "beat consistently" mind you, just "play with" equally) the big boys, but there appear to be multiple barriers here: the advantage that virtually any number of protected superstars will give to established teams, the increased ease of selecting those superstars to protect, and the diminished role of luck in picking off a star player. For example, if the Giants were restricted to protecting only five players, they’d have to be very unlucky to have Mays’, Marichal’s, McCovey’s, Cepeda’s or Haller’s career blow up on them . Virtually every team would be able to identify easily its five sure-shot stars or potential stars—the Cubs might lose a Ken Hubbs, the Phillies might not protect Allen (though even with only five protected players, they still might have).  But we’re still dealing with the essential difficulty of forming an expansion team from the league’s castoffs, however high we set the bar on enumerating castoffs:  the principle here being "However high you pile up the junk, it’s still junk."

As an experiment, take a look at the current 40-man roster of the team you know the best. Draw up a list of the 15 players you’d protect from an expansion draft, right now, and then make another list of the 10 players you’d protect. There’s a good chance that you have high expectations for players 11-15, reasonable but high expectations that will not be fulfilled for whatever reason, lack of forward progress, injury, a surprisingly poor Minors-to-Majors projection, whatever. It’s very difficult to build a contender out of such players, and such players are a cut above the players 16-20 that my "Mets" and "Colt .45s" were trying to form a contender out of, much less the more restricted players the actual Mets and Colt 45s and other 1960s expansion teams had to work with. Like Casey said, they were doomed to the cellar to begin with.

No one really expected these teams to field competitive players, but I’d like to suggest that the model used for expanding MLB was faulty. There’s really no solid basis, other than short-sightedness and selfishness, for introducing teams to get clobbered for years. Expansion took place on the model that it did, creating sub-.400 teams in their first years, simply because MLB didn’t accept that it would be to everyone’s advantage to create super-.400 or even super-.450 clubs right out of the box, and I think this model of protecting only ten players on the 40-man roster would have accomplished that limited goal.

Comparing the two drafts of 16 players per team, the model with 15 protected players and the model with 10, two things are clear:

1) the draft of players off the ten-protected-players roster is superior to the fifteen-protected-players roster, BUT

2) it’s not that much better.

The 10-player draft might be a little better than I’m showing, since the expansion teams might opt to take younger players from deeper in the minor-league systems rather than taking older players from the former 15-man roster—the fledgling Mets might well prefer to take the untested 21-year-old Adolfo Phillips from the Phillies’ 40-man roster rather than the well-tested 31-year-old Wes Covington, or the Colt .45s might prefer to take a Steve Blass rather than a fading Don Schwall from the Pirates. But that’s also a riskier philosophy, gambling on minor-league stars in AA or below to develop into major-league stars. It has a high upside, a complete star career under your control, but it’s far from a sure thing. Mre often than not, when you’re picking promising players in the minor leagues, you end up with a Howie Reed rather than a Steve Blass (and of course even Steve Blass’s successful career is the archetype for "suddenly lost everything in mid-career.")

My conclusion, based on these models, is that MLB’s established teams could risk a lot more in exposing more of their players to an expansion draft with very little downside, so long as each team suffers equally, and would gain a great deal in terms of stocking the expansion clubs with quality players. Any future expansion clubs would be well advised to hire the best scouts it can—the only way to game a drafting system is to pounce on any established club exposing a good young player. If your 11th-20th-best players are made available, there will probably be a Steve Blass, maybe a Tony Perez, in there for the taking, and it’s up to the established clubs to protect their future talent wisely.

This might be more of a practical issue than a purely theoretical one. Bill asked a few weeks ago about people’s preferred cities if MLB expands to 32 teams, and if they do something like that again, I’d certainly encourage them to stock the new teams so they’ll be (nearly) competitive immediately. Not only does that seem more fair, it’s also more exciting to be able to follow a new team without dreading the outcome of the first few years (or more) of their existence. From this exercise, I don’t see how you’d get a real contending team immediately, but by making better players available in the draft, I think you’d create teams that are more competitive than the Mets and Astros (and Expos and Padres and Brewers etc.) were the first time around.

 

 
 

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