Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Bill Robinson

As many of you may have realized by now, I am a chronic sufferer from Old Fogey Disease (OFD).  I am, in fact, one of the few people ever to have contracted this disease while still in childhood.

One of the symptoms of OFD is the irrepressible habit of talking about ballplayers who retired before much of your audience was born.  In this case, that ballplayer is Bill Robinson, once a major Yankees prospect, acquired from the Braves for Clete Boyer, along with one Chi-Chi Olivo, after the disastrous 1966 season.

Robinson was supposed to be yet another can't-miss prospect, a five-tool player people were comparing to Willie Mays or calling "the black Mickey Mantle"—none of which, I am sure, helped his career.  There should have been several warning signs about all the hoopla—for one thing, Robinson had rather toddled his way through five seasons in the Braves' farm system—but hell, players took longer to make the show in those days.

And sure enough, after a poor 1967 with the Yanks, in which he hit just .196, Robinson batted .240 in 107 games in 1968—which in that Year of the Pitcher was like hitting, say, .285 today.  He was just 25, and looked like the Yankees' centerfielder—or maybe right fielder, depending on where they put that Murcer kid—of the future.

Well, it didn't work out that way, as it so often doesn't.  Bill Robinson backslid to a miserable .171 in 1969, and after another mediocre year in the minors was peddled away to the White Sox for a thoroughly forgettable pitcher named Barry Moore, who never pitched again in the majors leagues

Bill Robinson was 27 by this time, and a lesser man might have hung it up.  Not Bill.

He got another shot with an awful Phillies team, and seemed to have a breakthrough year in 1973, when he hit 25 homers and 32 doubles.  But then there was more backsliding.  He got still another shot with the Pirates and finally, in 1976-77, he became at least something of the player so many people thought he could be all along, batting over .300 in both seasons, and hitting 26 homers and driving in 104 runs in 1977.

Robinson was 34 by then, and he was soon in decline for good, though he stuck around long enough to be a starter on the Bucs' 1979 championship team.  He hung on in the majors until he was 40, then became a hitting coach for years with the Mets during their short-lived dynasty, when many of their troubled young players remembered him as the one stabilizing influence they knew.

It was a good career, a valiant career, for a guy who had to face one of the worst things any man ever has to face:  the realization that he is not really as good as everyone says he is.

I bring all this up because of a stat I heard on the Yankees broadcast last night.  According to David Cone, the New York Yankees have had THE WORST production at first base from 2016 on, bar none.

That's right:  at a key offensive position, we are the very worst.  30 out of 30.

Now, so far at least, Greg Bird has not evinced one-thousandth of the grit and persistence that Bill Robinson demonstrated in his career.

But maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe Bird burns inside, and won't quit until his ankle is finally strong like ox, and he can catch up to fastballs.  Maybe, say in 2025, he will have a terrific major-league season.

Which will be way, way too late.

Even the Yankees of the bad old days were able to bring Bobby Murcer into the centerfield spot supposedly reserved for Bill Robinson by 1969, and by 1977, Bill's big year, they were swimming in outfielders:  Reggie, Mick the Quick, Piniella and White, Paul Blair, Jimmy Wynn, etc.

To say the least, they didn't miss him.

Right now, the Yanks have plenty of people who can play first base, and getting more won't be a problem.  I sincerely wish Greg Bird all the best, and I hope he turns his career around before any of that is necessary.

But we have already invested four years in waiting for this lifetime, .213 hitter—maybe the equivalent of hitting .135 back in the days of the high strike.

We don't have another nine years to give him.  I would say we don't have another two weeks.


Local Bargain Jerk said...

As many of you may have realized by now, I am a chronic sufferer from Old Fogey Disease (OFD). I am, in fact, one of the few people ever to have contracted this disease while still in childhood.

I also suffered Early-onset OFD. Back in the day, I used to refer to myself as a "young fogey". Unfortunately, that joke became inappropriate quite some time ago...

Anonymous said...

As soon as I saw the name the baseball card popped into my head. Thanks for giving me the context I did not have as a kid. All I knew was that his was a card I could use to play farsies or closest-to-the-wall with and it wouldn't matter.

As to being the worst at 1B that's a direct result of "Waiting for Mr. Goodbird" (TM)

Here are your free agent 1B courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors

First Basemen and their ages

Matt Adams (30)
Lucas Duda (32)
Marwin Gonzalez (30)
Joe Mauer (36)
Logan Morrison (31) — $8MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout
Brandon Moss (35) — $10MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout
Steve Pearce (36)
Hanley Ramirez (35) — $22MM vesting option
Mark Reynolds (35)
Justin Smoak (32) — $6MM club option with a $250K buyout
Danny Valencia (34)

Meh. Maybe Justin Smoak for 3 but I don't see the Jays failing to pick up the option.

So trades or positional change.

Stanton comes to mind. Big. Not overly mobile. Or is that unfair?
I don't think AnDUjar is big enough for the position. plus it wastes his arm. Unless we get Manny M. but even then I put him in Left and call it a day.

I think you once said Harper at first.

Does anybody know of a really good AAA 1B who is blocked?

Anyway, thanks for the good read.

Doug K.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Thanks, Doug K! And as previously mentioned, yeah, I agree that El Matador would be better off in left, with that arm.

Thing is, anybody not named Ron Blomberg can play first base. Stanton is an excellent idea. We should also hold truly open auditions next spring, and try McBroom or Scotland's favorite, Mike Ford, if they look good. Plus I would give Judge a looksee there, and Sanchez, the Cincinnati Kid, could play it on days off from catching.

Absolutely no need to stick with Slo-Pitch.

Rufus T. Firefly said...

I don't have OFD as much as CRS - can't remember shit.

It sometimes becomes CCRS for a while - chronic can't remember shit.

I don't remember Bill Robinson on the Yankees, but I do remember him on the Pirates.

When Machado is signed to the ten year $400MM contract, I believe they will move AnDUjar to first (rather than move him to outfield and Stanton to first).

A naive question regarding moving a player to first: What about the fact that a lot of the guy's mentioned to move there have histories of groin injuries? You would think that stretching to grab a throw would exacerbate that. (Or would it encourage actually doing the stretching pre-game that they are supposed to do?)

Anonymous said...

RE Bloomberg: I once saw him drop the throw on a triple play. I believe I was in the Stadium but... memory. To this day I've never seen one live.

As far as the anybody part. There is nothing that replaces a real first baseman.

Sure, pretty much any BB player can do the catching part as long as it's thrown reasonably well. But that's my main point. a lot of throws are less than optimal.

Real 1st basemen save runs, wear and tear on pitchers arms as crap throws become outs, make more tag plays then anyone else on the field (because of pick off throws) and are basically 3rd baseman when a lefty is up. It's a skill position.

Plus you have to talk to other teams 1B coach, the ump, the guys who reach the bag... that's a lot to do.

There's just no comparison between a Walker or a Sanchez (who "can" play it) and... well, I won't even name some of the guys we've had the pleasure of watching over the years because we all know who they were.

Disclaimer. I played 1B. So I can be touchy about it. :)

Doug K.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Rufus, I also suffer from CRS! Hence my idea for "Senior Jeopardy." It will be an hour-long show, played by couples, who get five minutes to work out every answer between them. The real attraction will be listening in on their conversations.

Doug K., you're right of course. There is a real skill to playing first, when it is done by the likes of Mattingly or Keith Hernandez, or by Tino or Tex.

But I don't believe anyone could play it worse than Bird did on that first play last night. I don't remember even seeing Blomberg drop a ball that easy.

Incidentally, this SI piece seems to put the play you saw in 1973. According to other things online—a godsend for the likes of us CRS sufferers—Gene Michael caught a line drive, and stepped on second or third, then threw over.

It's funny, when I saw Blomberg in Fenway back in 1971, he really looked pretty good in right field. Some guys just need to run, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for finding the game and circumstance. Good article as well.

When used for good, the internet can be quite a thing.

and the drop by Bird... Horrible on every level.

Doug K.

Unsustainable BABIP said...

Well this is timely.

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...

Tonite's lineup: Bird in, Voit in the void. Miggy @ DH, the great Walker at 3B.

Rufus T. Firefly said...

I stepped away for a second. Did Bird actually get a hit? Is is average above .200?

JM said...

Bird isn't washed up. He never got far enough for that to happen.

Mustang said...

Hence my idea for "Senior Jeopardy." It will be an hour-long show, played by couples, who get five minutes to work out every answer between them. The real attraction will be listening in on their conversations.

I love this idea, Hoss. I have one, too: A cooking show where meals are prepared together by couples going through bitter divorces.

Duque: two shows for The AHOY Channel!

HoraceClarke66 said...

LOVE it, Mustang! Though you would probably have to reserve a hospital burn unit for the night of taping.

HoraceClarke66 said...

So...yet another series lost to a subpar team. It was one thing to drop the opener to a genuinely hot young pitcher, but here is yet another display of futility against a starter with a 4.50 ERA.

That is a frightening piece, Unsustainable: Bird the worst regular in the majors for August!!

And also frightening was Marcus Thames spouting this team's pathetic, shopworn hitting philosophy: Bird is not "barreling up" on the ball consistently enough.

But this is exactly what's wrong with his game, for anyone—apparently not Marcus—who cares to watch a few at-bats.

You have a batter who may or may not be still hampered by injury, but who for whatever reason absolutely cannot catch up to a major-league fastball.

So...your advice to him is, "KEEP PULLING!" Keep trying to barrel up and drive that ball to right.

Where you don't have enough power to knock it out.

Where most of the other team has assembled.

Keep trying to turn on pitches on the outside corner that you can't really catch up to, and hit them into a flock of fielders more dense than pigeons on a day-old pizza crust.

DON'T ever take the sinkers and off-speed stuff you CAN catch up with, and dump single after double after double into the opposite field. Nope, don't do that.

No matter how many times you show that you absolutely CAN'T physically do something, KEEP trying to do it.

Don't ever, ever, ever let gritty, seedy reality interfere with perfect theory.

Oy. Cashmere would've made a great communist.

Mustang said...

We are the worst 35-games-over.500 team in history. I hate us.

Anonymous said...









HoraceClarke66 said...

What, ALL-CAPS, you don't like watching Gardner give us his maitre d' swing with the bases loaded?

I call it the maitre d' swing because it reminds me of a head waiter cleaning a table cloth of crumbs. Just a straight, level sweep across the table top with one of those little metal instruments they have.

The crumbs are usually there. The baseball? Not so much.

Joe of AZ said...

The yanks are bad for my health I can't take this anymore.i Was doing well on my diet lost twenty lbs
... After these pineapples, back to the binge...just when u gain hope of a "run", Gardy shits at the party, Bird flies into a 1 for 100 slump, the wheels come off in the 6th inning of a Tanaka shutout or Greene gives up another demoralizing bomb and than it all comes crashing down.

Septic -_-

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...

I hate to agree with Joe F (esp. b/c folks think we are the same guy, which we ain't) -- but I had an extreme bout of depression hit when Gardy looked like a swinging door - and come nowhere near the ball -- with bases loaded.

I have always rooted for the guy. But he's now hitting BELOW .200 in August (OBP for the month = .277).

His 2nd-half swoons suck, and seem to be worsening. At this point, I wonder how they can reorganize things to leave him OFF the post-season roster.

Then again: Were he in RF instead of Stanton, doncha think he would have caught that "double" in the 2nd inning?

TheWinWarblist said...

I have so much invective. But need sleep.

ranger_lp said...

How is Bird preparing in the on-deck circle? Is he using a weighted bat? Doughnut? Lead cold water pipe? When I was young, I remember some power hitter swinging nine bats at one time in the on-deck circle before his at bat (Frank Howard, Boog Powell, Harmon Killerbrew?). You saw that as a pitcher and that would scare the bejesus out of you. They never show the on-deck hitter preparing on the broadcast any longer. You want to increase bat speed? Swing something heavier before hand. Where's our batting coach? Drowning in the Thames.

the only living boy in Wishaw said...

Im fed up saying it but why not give Mike Ford a try out or McBroom I Fail to see how they could be any worse the bar is set so low.