All “Mickey” Team

One of my favorite things to do is compile All-Time Teams, as you can probably tell from the site. As Baseball fans in the internet age, we have access to all sorts of data, which allows us to come up with compilation teams based on Organization, League, Era, State, Country, College, High School, etc. To continue with that, I will be periodically coming out with All-Name Teams.

Back in December, my wife gave birth to twins, one boy and one girl. We named our son “Mickey” after Mickey Mantle, my father’s boyhood hero. So naturally, I’ll start off with the All-Mickey Team.

Before searching, I knew of a number of “Mickeys” throughout Baseball history. But I wasn’t sure if there would be enough to assemble an entire roster. Sure enough, there have been 40 since 1871, and 26 with significant big league time.

Catchers (first and middle names)
Mickey Cochrane (Gordon Stanley)
Mickey Tettleton (Mickey Lee)
Mickey Owen (Arnold Malcolm)

Cochrane was named “Mickey” from the derogatory Irish term “Mick”, even though he was of Scottish descent. Interestingly, both Tettleton and Owen’s name were inspired by Cochrane. Tettleton was named after fellow Oklahoman Mickey Mantle, who was named after Cochrane. Mickey Owen was nicknamed “Mickey” when he first reached the Majors because he reminded his teammates of Cochrane.

First Base
Mickey Vernon (James Barton)
Mickey Rocco (Michael Dominick)

First Base is a strength for this team because of Vernon, especially since guys like Mantle and Tettleton also spent time at the position. Vernon gets all the playing time here since Rocco was essentially a WWII replacement player.

Second Base
Mickey Morandini (Michael Robert)
Mickey Witek (Nicholas Joseph)

Not a strength here. I would platoon the two with Morandini facing Righties and Witek vs Lefties. Witek would also be used as a utility infielder since he spent some time at 3B and SS.

Third Base
Mickey Klutts (Gene Ellis)

Easily the weakest position on the team. Klutts was never a full time player, amassing just an 85 OPS+ in 579 career PA’s. Outfielder Mickey Hatcher spent 125 career games at 3B, so he could see some time there. It looks like I’ll have to teach my son to play the “hot corner”, although that would contradict my plan on having him throw with his left hand.

Mickey Doolan (Michael Joseph)
Mickey Haslin (Michael Joseph)

Interestingly, both players have the same given first and middle names. Doolan had a weak bat, but was fantastic with the glove. Defensive Regression Analysis (DRA) has him leading the league in 4 separate seasons. Haslin would join Mickey Witek as more of a utility infielder. Outfielder Mickey Stanley could also spell Doolan, as he was the starting SS in the World Series for the 1968 Tigers.

Mickey Mantle (Mickey Charles)
Mickey Rivers (John Milton)
Mickey Stanley (Mitchell Jack)
Mickey Hatcher (Michael Vaughn)
Mickey Brantley (Michael Charles)

The Outfield is full of Center Fiedlers, which would allow them to cover a lot of ground. I would keep Mantle in Center and put Rivers in Left and Stanley in Right (purely due to arm strength).

The Lineup
1. Mickey Rivers (L / LF)
2. Mickey Cochrane (L / C)
3. Mickey Mantle (B / CF)
4. Mickey Vernon (L / 1B)
5. Mickey Tettleton (B / DH)
6. Mickey Stanley (R / RF)
7. Mickey Morandini (L / 2B)
8. Mickey Klutts (R / 3B)
9. Mickey Doolan (R / SS)

Mickey Welch (Michael Francis)
Mickey Lolich (Michael Stephen)
Mickey McDermott (Maurice Joseph)
Mickey Haefner (Milton Arnold)
Mickey Harris (Maurice Charles)

The rotation is full of southpaws, except for “Smiling Mickey” Welch, who would be the ace of the staff. Lolich is a formidable “number 2” and the only other pitcher with more than 100 career victories. McDermott, Haefner, and Harris were all roughly league average pitchers, making a decent 3 through 5.

Mickey Scott (Ralph Robert)
Mickey Hughes (Michael J.)
Mickey Callaway (Michael Christopher)
Mickey Mahler (Michael James)
Mickey Storey (Mickey Charles)
Mickey Weston (Michael Lee)

The Bullpen is weak, so they’d have to hope their starters go as deep as possible. Storey, with the same given name as Mantle, is the lone active player on the team. Last year, he took this line drive off his head. He is currently in the Blue Jays organization.

Picking Cochrane as the manager would be an easy decision. In fact, Vernon is the only other manager in history with the name.

Overall, this is a pretty good team. Especially since it was essentially derived from a nickname, having only three players with actual given names of “Mickey”. Mantle, Cochrane, and Welch are the lone Hall of Famers.

Soon, I’ll be releasing more All-Name Teams as well as some other name-themed teams.

Piazza catches Chavez stealing

The Mike Piazza book, Long Shot, was released recently. He, along with the help of Lonnie Wheeler, goes through his childhood and career in Baseball while tackling all the issues (bacne, steroids, sexual orientation, etc). Really, he was trying to validate his Hall of Fame credentials and explain his side of all the issues.

But this isn’t a book review. There have been plenty written, and probably much better than I could do. I wanted to bring up one small, mostly forgettable incident during his season with the Padres. In August of 2006, the Padres visited Shea in his first trip back to New York. This is an excerpt from that chapter….

Before the first game, the scoreboard guys played another video of me, to the tune of the Beatles song “In My Life,” which was nice but a little schmaltzy, and the fans did a singsongy “Mike Pee-OTS-a” cheer when I got to the on-deck circle for the first time, which was also nice and not too schmaltzy. Then the Mets swiped four bases on me and beat us, 3–2. The next night, I threw out Endy Chavez trying to steal second in the second inning and he immediately jumped all over the umpire, as though there was no conceivable way the call could be right. His body language said, “What the hell? Are you kidding me?” I’m thinking, come on, I can’t throw anybody out? Get the fuck off the field.

Nothing too important. He’s just defending his throwing arm, which was pretty bad in his final year behind the plate. But since the internet is a wonderful thing, and has released a bunch of old clips, I decided to see if I could find the video. Sure enough, had the exact play…..

The first thing I notice, and you probably do as well, is that Chavez shows very little emotion after being thrown out. Granted, the video cuts away from Endy and there are a few seconds that we don’t see. But there is no way that he can “jump all over the umpire” in that time. He even slaps at his helmet, looking more disappointed in himself than the call.

Like I mentioned earlier, this play (and his account of the play), are of little importance. My problem is that this type of thing happens a lot in these types of autobiographies. For some reason, I continue to be surprised whenever I spot them. In an era of retrosheet, baseball-reference, and the abundance of available data, how could the author/editor/fact checker not spot these before publication? I suppose it’s because a lot of these don’t cause much uproar, even when they are spotted. No one is going to care that Piazza either misremembered or used a little artistic license, except for maybe Endy Chavez himself.

Rob Neyer goes through a number of these stories in his book “Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Legends”. It opened my eyes to how often stories can be embellished and the ease that they can be verified.

As for Piazza, it’s not surprising, since he seemed to paint a lot of people as an enemy in order to make himself the protagonist. I just think it was unnecessary, because we all know how good he was. If I had a vote, I would have put him in the Hall, and I imagine he’ll get in at some point in the next few years.

Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie Robinson and the 1946 Pennant

I’m currently in the middle of reading a handful of Jackie Robinson/Branch Rickey/Brooklyn Dodger themed books. The reason being is that I am pumped to see the movie “42” next month. After watching this trailer, how could you not get excited?

Recently, one of the books went through Robinson’s 1946 season with the Montreal Royals and how he absolutely dominated the International League where he had a .349/.468/.462 slash line. On top of that, he stole 40 bases, and led the league in runs with 113. But what is most impressive was his 92/27 BB/K ratio. This was all accomplished in just his second year of Professional Baseball (played for KC Monarchs in ’45).

But it was Montreal’s parent club that got me thinking. After 154 games, the ’46 Dodgers finished in a tie with the Cardinals, which led to the first tiebreaker in Modern Baseball. At the time, the National League rules stated that a best of 3 game series would decide the Pennant. But as you can see from the graph, Brooklyn lost in 2 games and would never have more than a 54% chance of winning the series.

1946 NL Tiebreaker

My initial thought was “Could the Dodgers have won Pennant, had they brought up Robinson in 1946”? I decided to dig a little deeper.

The first question is, what position would Jackie play in Brooklyn? In college and in the Negro Leagues, he served mostly as a Shortstop. In Montreal, he was the Royals primary Second Basemen. But Pee Wee Reese and Eddie Stanky had those positions locked down for the Dodgers (both were 5+ win players in ’46).

Third Base was a possibility, where the veteran Cookie Lavagetto was getting most of the playing time down the stretch. “Cookie” had a fine first half slash line of .287/.405/.396 and the Flatbush faithful would have been in an uproar to see him relegated to the bench.

That leaves First Base as the only real possibility, where Jackie would go on to play in 151 games the following season. Down the stretch, Manager Leo Durocher was platooning Howie Schultz (vsL) and Big Ed Stevens (vsR). Neither were established stars, nor did they have a ton of potential be stars.

The problem was that by 1946, Robinson had never played the position. In fact, he didn’t even own a First Basemen’s glove until the following spring. But suppose Branch Rickey had Robinson play the position in Montreal to prepare him for a late-season call-up. Could Jackie have been the difference between the Pennant and a second place finish?

Brooklyn was in first place for the majority of the season, but they were overtaken by St. Louis in August. By September, they were 2.5 games back. With the Cardinals surging, the Dodgers would have very little room for error. In fact, they didn’t error much by going 21-8 in the final month.

In September, Schultz and Stevens combined for a .250/.313/.379 slash line. This is nothing spectacular, especially at First Base. For Robinson in AAA, he would record a .323 Batting Average in September for Montreal in 102 at bats, with just 1 extra base hit. Also, Robinson’s first month in the big leagues the following season would produce a .225/.354/.325 line. September ’46 and April ’47 are different environments for sure, but it shows how he struggled in his first taste of the big leagues.

What I have failed to mention to this point is the biggest factor of all, which is the impact of breaking the color barrier during a pennant race instead of on Opening Day. It would have helped that the Dodgers played 22 of their final 29 games in Brooklyn, where Robinson received less abuse than on the road. But how would his teammates have reacted to his call-up mid-season? For the same players who signed petition refusing to play, would they have done so in a pennant race? We’ll never know for sure, but let’s “assume” he would encounter the same environment that he actually did in the following season.

So could Robinson have made a difference in the 1946 National League Pennant Race? My guess is probably not. There are too many assumptions and unknown variables to ever know for sure. But the 1946 Dodgers were already playing very well down the stretch, and an improvement on a .724 September winning percentage would have required a big difference.

For further reading on Jackie’s 1946 season with the Montreal Royals, has a game log with day-by-day accounts.

Split stats were obtained from Baseball-Reference and Retrosheet