Monday, March 21, 2016

The Retirement of Adam LaRoche

Photo: from his Wikipedia page. Or, this is Adam LaRoche, running from his responsibilities.

--Read Justin Gorman's short article about Adam Laroche's sudden retirement here, at the Sons of Sam Horn page. I couldn't agree more. Brilliant move by Executive Vice President (and former GM) Ken Williams, if it was indeed planned. Had LaRoche stayed, the White Sox would've had to pay $13 million for the honor of having LaRoche ride the bench with his son beside him, and at most LaRoche would've come in as a defensive replacement in the later innings. The South Siders thought so much of LaRoche that they've given him five Spring Training at-bats. In 2009, the Red Sox traded two prospects for him, but had him for all of 6 games and 19 ABs, before they decided they'd rather have Casey Kotchman. And the Nationals were so pleased with his 26 homers and 92 RBIs last year that they bought out his option for $2 million. Williams said, "In what other business can you bring your son to work every single day?" and he's right. Now the Pale Hose have $13 million in their pockets, and two lockers for more deserving bodies.

--Yes, that's right. Two lockers. The son was there so often that he got his own locker. The kid must've been there longer than many minor leaguers, some prospects, and a few veterans.

--And I don't care what Chris Sale says. So Williams went back on his verbal agreement about the kid from last year. If LaRoche hadn't been paid $12 million just to barely hit above the Mendoza Line, maybe this wouldn't be an issue. (Though Williams never should've agreed to that to begin with.)

--Then again, he never should've signed LaRoche to begin with.

--My guess is that Gorman was right: Ken Williams wanted to get rid of this contract, and he knew the button to push. I say, good for him.

--This is all about one word: Entitlement.

--Now, because I can't say it any better than this, I offer you, off her social media, the sage wisdom of Bethany Randa, wife of former major league third baseman Joe Randa:

“I’ve gotten so many messages about what a wonderful thing it is that Adam retired for his son ... and yes, my boys spent time in the clubhouse when it was approved and appropriate and loved every minute of it!!! My concern is and ALWAYS has been that these kids already live a privileged life, where rules don’t always apply, where ridiculous money just pours in, where so many of the things we could afford were free, and where we were offered immediate seating at restaurants and other events ahead of hard working people who were there before us. My boys saw this. It sounds ridiculous to most people, but our job is to raise dependable hard working and respectful men. It’s hard enough in the world they see, but to teach your child that when your boss makes a decision you don’t agree with, you just 'retire'?? In the REAL world, that’s not an option.’’

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Wildfire Schulte, M101 Sporting News Supplement, March 2, 1911

Photo: Frank "Wildfire" Schulte, Sporting News Supplement, March 2, 1911. From my collection.

This is my other M101 Sporting News Supplement photo, bought for me by my better half for Christmas. You can read about the other one, Bob Harmon, by clicking here.

As I mentioned about the previous one, these very large photos are not considered cards, per se, as there were actual Sporting News cards published after these supplements proved popular with the public.  The photographers must've been amongst the best of their time, because these images are all classically striking.  I wish I could've gotten them all. Unfortunately, I've only got two, and this is the second one I got.

These supplements were just that: included in issues of The Sporting News between 1909 and 1911, which in itself looked more like a newspaper than a magazine, just like it does today.  They were often folded, which is not considered a detriment to their value, but they are extremely thin and therefore very fragile.  Since I had this one bought for me, I don't know how much it sold for (though I could find out easily on Ebay), but Wildfire Schulte was a heckuva player, and popular in his time. He is not a HOFer.

But he did have a Hall of Fame season in 1911. That year he won the MVP, then called the Chalmer's Award. They gave you a great car, since the award was named after the car company, but once you won the award, you couldn't win it, or even be nominated for it, again--a rule not changed until long after he retired. It was a fluke season for him. He led the league in homers (21), RBI (107), slugging % (.534), OPS+, and total bases (308). He scored 105 runs and batted .300. He walked more than he struck out, for a .384 on-base percentage, and he had 173 hits and a .918 OPS. He did all of this for a great Chicago Cubs team, which went to 4 World Series with him. He won two of them.

He was the first player ever to have more than 20 stolen bases, doubles, triples and home runs in the same season. Willie Mays did this next, in 1957.

He never had more than 68 RBIs in any other season; never more than 12 homers; never more than a .769 OPS and never more than a .418 slugging %. Those MVP numbers were also way above any season before 1911, too, though he did also lead the league in homers in 1910, with 10. His career slashline is .270 batting average; .332 on-base percentage and .395 slugging percentage. His offensive WAR was 5.5 in 1911 and 3.5 in 1910. It was never higher than 1.7 in any full season after 1911. (You can see all of his stats on his baseball-reference page. Just click.)

Schulte was a full-time player until 1915, but then spent the next three years with four teams. One wonders what happened to him. His 1911 season was one of the most out-of-context for a player's career, ever. JAWS puts him as the 101st best right fielder ever. He's compared favorably to Jimmy Piersall and Johnny Damon (who were much better fielders, and probably better hitters. Damon definitely was a better fielder and hitter), and Red Murray (a contemporary). In 1916 he and another player were traded for Otto Knabe and Art Wilson--which is not a compliment, as Knabe (another T206 guy, as is Wildfire) and Wilson were not good players. 

He played in the minors (which were not the same as they are today, but that's another blog; though you didn't have to be a worse player to play in the minors, or the PCL, or Canada, or the Independent League, or any of the many other types of leagues at the time, he was.) Overall, he peaked, then fell off the cliff.

I wondered why, so I did a little research. I didn't find much, but I did read that he got the Wildfire nickname when he saw a play by that name, and then named his racehorse the same. I also read that he married in 1911, and then fell off the precipice, but my better half says that had nothing to do with it.

From his Wikipedia page, I can show you that up close he looked like this: