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What if Dave Kingman had 500 HRs. HOFER?

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  • The reason Kingman's career did not extend beyond where it did was because he was below replacement level as a DH/poor fielding 1B during his last 2 seasons. It really has nothing to do with anything else.

    Kingman's OWP for his career is .543. A middle infielder can get to the HOF with a .543 OWP if he's a decent fielder, but a DH with a .543 OWP is a guy ready to be replaced. That's at .543, but Kingman's last 2 years were .457 and .340, respectively. And he posted these numbers DESPITE hitting 30 and 35 HRs. respectively. Those OWP figures are the OWP figures of light-hitting middle infielders with good gloves, or utility infielders with versatility. Put it this way: Bud Harrelson had a .420 OWP lifetime as a glove man at SS. Roger Metzger, a guy who was an All-Star SS in the 1970s, had a .333 lifetime OWP. Do you extend the careers of Harrelson and Metzger by slotting them at DH? Of course not, but slotting Kingman at DH wasn't far from that, based on OWP.

    People often make the remark about low BA sluggers "All he can do is hit home runs!" to justify shafting them for the HOF. In the cases of Darrell Evans, Graig Nettles, and Harmon Killebrew, this just isn't true; those guys had patience at the plate and real defensive value. But in Kingman's case, that statement PRECISELY describes his offensive value; the only thing Kingman did well in his last 2 seasons (and, for that matter, in his lesser seasons in mid-career) was hit home runs. He had enough power to get a little respect from pitchers, but he didn't walk much at all, and I don't think that was because Kingman was an impatient hacker; rather, I think that this was because Kingman's ability to put the bat on the ball for a hit was so limited that pitchers didn't have much fear in throwing him a strike.

    Did the A's base their decision to drop Kingman after 1986 based on OWP? Possibly; the A's were one of the first teams to consider sabermetrics in talent evaluation, and OWP was the stat du jour then, just as WAR is the stat du jour now. I say possibly, but, realistically, it's "probably not". However, the A's, if not making their decision based metrics, ACTED AS IF THEIR DECISION WAS BASED ON METRICS. Kingman's 1984 OWP was .609; a slightly below average offensive season for Jim Rice. That would get him one more shot today, but his .457 OWP today would reveal Kingman to be below replacement level, and that would have been that.

    I should also state that the comparisions of Kingman to Don Sutton are highly unfair. Sutton was a major league starter at age 21, and posted a quality season as a starter at age 41, going 324-256 lifetime without "hanging on". Sutton was 15-11 with a 3.74 ERA at age 41, the year he went over the 300 win mark; that's hardly "holding on" to "compile". Sutton "compiled" because he was good enough to do so. Kingman didn't because he wasn't.
    "I do not care if half the league strikes. Those who do it will encounter quick retribution. All will be suspended and I don't care if it wrecks the National League for five years. This is the United States of America and one citizen has as much right to play as another. The National League will go down the line with Robinson whatever the consequences. You will find if you go through with your intention that you have been guilty of complete madness."

    NL President Ford Frick, 1947

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    • Kong's last year he went .210/.255/.431 with 35 HR and 94 RBI. So Oakland decided they didn't want him around any more.

      His replacement as DH went .220/.297/.402 with 15 HR and 43 RBI. So the next year they tried another guy.

      That one went .220/.332/.326 with 7 HR and 34 RBI.

      Good decision making?

      Comment


      • Originally posted by westsidegrounds View Post
        Kong's last year he went .210/.255/.431 with 35 HR and 94 RBI. So Oakland decided they didn't want him around any more.

        His replacement as DH went .220/.297/.402 with 15 HR and 43 RBI. So the next year they tried another guy.

        That one went .220/.332/.326 with 7 HR and 34 RBI.

        Good decision making?
        They also had two very exciting power hitters coming up from the minors in 1987: Mark McGwire and Rob Nelson. Nelson was actually the Opening Day 1Bman for the A's that year, after hitting .276/.349/.461 with 20 HR, 108 RBI and 26 2B as a 22 year old in AAA Tacoma (PCL). McGwire was already a big name in their system, and came up for a cup of coffee at the end of the 1986 season, after hitting a combined (between AA and AAA) .312/.415/.554 with 23 HR, 112 RBI, and 36 2B also as a 22 year old. That looks a heck of a lot more promising than an old vet slugging 30 HRs and barely hitting over the Mendoza Line. Not to mention the terrible clubhouse atmosphere Tony LaRussa found in Oakland after arriving there mid-season or so (shortly after being canned in Chicago). LaRussa said the 1986 team was very talented, but had some serious clubhouse and attitude issues. They gave up too easily, and spent more time blaming shortcomings on teammates, management and the front office then on correcting their issues. Kingman was a part of the problem, not the solution in Oakland moving forward. Why not be done with him?

        That first DH you mentioned, and I know you know his name, was Reggie Jackson. He came back to finish off his career with a final season in Oakland. LaRussa and McGwire both acknowledged how important Reggie's presence was in helping to mentor the young slugger as he went off and broke the rookie HR record that year. Sure, his numbers weren't great, but Reggie belonged on that team, and more of a positive influence, than Dave Kingman would have.

        In 1988, after Reggie Jackson retired, they got big man DH Don Baylor. Baylor had a very fine 1986 with Boston as they won the AL pennant, then followed that up with a decent 1987. That '87 season ended with Baylor and the Twins winning the World Series. Having that great veteran presence on the young and talented A's team was what LaRussa wanted to help get his boys to the next level, a level they just missed out on in 1987. Tony said that Don Baylor was also very good for the younger guys in the clubhouse, taking on the media to shield the younger sluggers and players on the A's so they wouldn't get run over at times by the pressure from the outside. Baylor was like their bouncer, he stood up front to take the hit for the team. They also got Dave Parker, another good veteran bat who played 30+ games in LF and also teamed up with Baylor as a lefty-righty platoon at DH. Parker played 60 or so of his 101 games that year at DH. Sure, he didn't hit much better than Baylor in the DH role, but the two of them together were much better for the team overall than a Dave Kingman.

        Baylor retired after 1988, when the A's lost the World Series. LaRussa's boys had gone from last in the AL West when he got there in 1986 to second that year. Then in 1987 they finished a disappointing 3rd in the West, at 81-81. I am sure many here remember the great team that took the West and the AL Pennant the next 3 years, including the 1989 World Series sweep. Parker, as the team's DH that championship year, improved his batting line at age 38 to a .264/.308/.432 with 22 HR and 97 RBI batting in the 4 hole between Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.

        I think the A's were making good decisions as they went from a turbulent, chaotic situation in 1986 to World Champs in 1989, AL champs 1988-1990, and another AL West flag in 1992. Dave Kingman would not have been part of that turn around had he lingered on. He probably would have lost his job in '87 anyway, and his roster spot if he gave LaRussa any guff about it.
        "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean

        Comment


        • Originally posted by Herr28 View Post
          They also had two very exciting power hitters coming up from the minors in 1987: Mark McGwire and Rob Nelson. Nelson was actually the Opening Day 1Bman for the A's that year, after hitting .276/.349/.461 with 20 HR, 108 RBI and 26 2B as a 22 year old in AAA Tacoma (PCL). McGwire was already a big name in their system, and came up for a cup of coffee at the end of the 1986 season, after hitting a combined (between AA and AAA) .312/.415/.554 with 23 HR, 112 RBI, and 36 2B also as a 22 year old. That looks a heck of a lot more promising than an old vet slugging 30 HRs and barely hitting over the Mendoza Line. Not to mention the terrible clubhouse atmosphere Tony LaRussa found in Oakland after arriving there mid-season or so (shortly after being canned in Chicago). LaRussa said the 1986 team was very talented, but had some serious clubhouse and attitude issues. They gave up too easily, and spent more time blaming shortcomings on teammates, management and the front office then on correcting their issues. Kingman was a part of the problem, not the solution in Oakland moving forward. Why not be done with him?
          Yes, but neither of those guys replaced Kingman. They played 1B, not DH. So they don't really account for the decision to dump Kong and replace him with guys who were really on their last legs.

          Comment


          • Originally posted by westsidegrounds View Post
            Yes, but neither of those guys replaced Kingman. They played 1B, not DH. So they don't really account for the decision to dump Kong and replace him with guys who were really on their last legs.
            They had Reggie Jackson coming back. They had 2 power hitting first basemen, only one can play 1B in a game. You don't think the A's management realized they had enough talent to replace Dave Kingman at DH with 2 young power hitters and an aging veteran? Really? Their OF was stocked with Canseco in LF, Dwayne Murphy in CF, and Mike Davis in RF. Reggie wasn't going to be knocking any of them out of the OF, so clearly he was going to DH and take on a mentoring role for the young power hitters, 1986 Rookie of the Year Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Rob Nelson. Nelson or McGwire would also be able to DH (if they both worked out, which they clearly didn't, Nelson getting the first shot at 1B and failing) with the other playing the field.

            Where is Dave Kingman going to fit in here? Maybe if one of the above (Kingman, McGwire, Nelson or Reggie Jackson - HA!) could play 2B, they would have been fine with keeping the useless slugger around, attitude and all. Nope, the A's had improved the roster from what they had in 1986, and though it didn't come together in 1987 it sure did from 1988-1990. And there wasn't any place for an aging DH like Kingman on those teams either.
            "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean

            Comment


            • Well, Oakland didn't give Nelson much of a shot, did they? Only 10 PA (although his .222 BA there was his MLB career high). So he really wasn't a factor.

              But the point is, Oakland didn't use any of those guys they had waiting around to replace Kingman. Instead, they went & hired two guys from outside their organization to replace Kingman. Have to assume they did that because they didn't think any of the guys they had was a viable replacement for Kingman. And neither of the guys they went out and got did the job. As a simple matter of fact, they failed to perform adequately as replacements for Kingman. Which might well lead people to question the wisdom of dumping Kingman in the first place.
              Last edited by westsidegrounds; 12-19-2013, 11:05 AM.

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              • If Kingman hit 500 HR he'd be in the HoF.
                "No matter how great you were once upon a time — the years go by, and men forget,” - W. A. Phelon in Baseball Magazine in 1915. “Ross Barnes, forty years ago, was as great as Cobb or Wagner ever dared to be. Had scores been kept then as now, he would have seemed incomparably marvelous.”

                Comment


                • Originally posted by westsidegrounds View Post
                  Well, Oakland didn't give Nelson much of a shot, did they? Only 10 PA (although his .222 BA there was his MLB career high). So he really wasn't a factor.

                  But the point is, Oakland didn't use any of those guys they had waiting around to replace Kingman. Instead, they went & hired two guys from outside their organization to replace Kingman. Have to assume they did that because they didn't think any of the guys they had was a viable replacement for Kingman. And neither of the guys they went out and got did the job. As a simple matter of fact, they failed to perform adequately as replacements for Kingman. Which might well lead people to question the wisdom of dumping Kingman in the first place.
                  Nelson didn't get much of a shot because the bigger of the two young 1B stars went on a tear, and Nelson (I read years ago) couldn't handle left-handed pitching, as a lefty hitting 1Bman he wasn't going to platoon from that side of the plate vs right-handed pitching with Reggie Jackson there as the DH. I don't see how the possibility of two young power hitters that would have to take over 1B and DH, along with bringing back Reggie Jackson, isn't a good reason to dump a guy that was fading away as a productive hitter and not very productive as far as clubhouse atmosphere goes. That was a huge issue that LaRussa and his staff wanted to clean up from the 1986 team. Oh yeah, they also had Dusty Baker in 1986, so are you suggesting keeping him to replace Kingman at DH? Baker was 37 in '86, got into 83 games and hit .240/.314/.322 with 4 HR and an OPS+ of 80, slightly lower than Dave Kingman's OPS+ of 90, and they were both the same age (37). Who were they supposed to keep around that they already had to replace Kingman at DH from '86 to '87? I don't see anyone on that roster to do it.

                  You are right, they did go and hire a couple old veterans outside the organization to DH: Reggie Jackson (41) in 1987 and Don Baylor (39) and Dave Parker (37) in 1988. Do you really think Dave Kingman would have been more productive when he reached 38 in 1987 than Reggie was that year? If so, then why didn't anyone else pick him up? I know there was the horribly criminal issue with the free agent collusion, but really, if someone was salivating over a .210/.255/.431 hitter with 35 HR I think he would have found a home. If they wanted all the strikeouts (126 K in '86 to 118 H), outs (450 outs in '86 with 7 SF and 16 GIDP and those 126 K included), low OBP (.255!!!) and BA (.210 in the über stat!), and age issues along with his attitude problems. Apparently no other team wanted those problems or huge downside that came with Kingman's power, to give him a shot in 1987. It clearly wasn't just the A's. They improved their team without his issues, and there isn't anything wrong with that.
                  "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean

                  Comment


                  • Yes, based on his 1986 year I do believe that Kingman might very well have done better than the other two in 1987 and 1988.

                    I do actually think there may have been some sort of informal blacklist.

                    Now if you'll excuse me, I guess I'll haveta go change my license plate to "#1 KONG FAN"

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by westsidegrounds View Post
                      Yes, based on his 1986 year I do believe that Kingman might very well have done better than the other two in 1987 and 1988.

                      I do actually think there may have been some sort of informal blacklist.

                      Now if you'll excuse me, I guess I'll haveta go change my license plate to "#1 KONG FAN"
                      That is awesome! As a kid, I was frustrated that the A's didn't give Dave Kingman a shot in 1987. I mean, damn, King Kong crushing HRs with that funnyball they had that year?! That would have been a sight for sure! I wondered why both of my favorite swing and miss sluggers were gone from the HR festivities in 1987, both Kingman and Stormin' Gorman Thomas missed out on the fun. Too bad, too. I would have loved to see those two guys knock out 35-45 in 1987, despite some sub-.200 batting averages! Gorman Thomas finished 1986 with a .187/.316/.371 line in 101 G with 16 HR and an 86 OPS+ - not too far off from Kingman's 90!
                      "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean

                      Comment


                      • Sorry, forgot to say I also wondered about an unofficial blacklist in regards to Kingman and his possibly reaching 500 dingers. He had what, 442 I think, and 100 in the previous 3 years while playing his home games in the Oakland Coliseum as well. I don't know though, I never heard or read anything specific, just that a lot of guys had a hard time signing free agent contracts during those years due to the collusion issue. Bob Horner, a much younger slugger and a guy who hit 4 in one game in 1986, had to go to Japan because he couldn't get a contract for 1987. Crazy. Horner is another guy that may have feasted on that funnyball.

                        Jose Canseco, in keeping with the 1986 and 1987 A's, said that he believed that teams blacklisted him and colluded to make sure he couldn't play another year or two to get 500 HR. What did he end up with, 460-something I think? Maybe, maybe not.
                        "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean

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                        • Sometimes teams just don't want to deal with the drama/perceived headache. See Barry Bonds. A fading superstar isn't going to help a bad team draw more fans, and a good team might not want a cancer for a guy who may stop producing at any time.
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                          • Originally posted by Toledo Inquisition View Post
                            Sometimes teams just don't want to deal with the drama/perceived headache. See Barry Bonds. A fading superstar isn't going to help a bad team draw more fans, and a good team might not want a cancer for a guy who may stop producing at any time.
                            I also thought about that later in life when I learned more about the type of person Dave Kingman was. In fact, in Tony LaRussa's 2011 book, One Last Strike, when he talks about that 1986 Oakland A's team, he mentions Kingman first in a list of the veterans that he said were a mix of "quality veterans and talented enigmas," even after a quarter century, he thought to list Kingman first. Maybe there is nothing to that, but I found it interesting when I saw it. He clearly wasn't thrilled with the team he was hired to manage when he first got there, but he got them to turn it around in the second half and move from last in the AL West when he arrived to third in that division in 1986. Matter of fact, just because I like the speech he gave when he got there, why don't I just post his thoughts from that book here (pages 183-185):

                            The Oakland club I inherited was a lot like the one I'd encounter in St. Louis ten years later. The players had grown accustomed to doing things their way. Maybe it was a function of the times. The players and their union were gaining more and more control and earning more and more money. Both in '86 and '96, the "I'm in this for me" vibe was present. I'd taken an honest bull-by-the-horns approach in '86, but I didn't think that would work with the Cardinals. Dave McKay, who has been with me since '86 as a coach, asked me to resurrect what he called "the Gutless Speech."

                            The '86 A's had a core of quality veterans and talented enigmas - Dave Kingman, Carney Lansford, Dusty Baker, Jose Canseco (who was named Rookie of the Year), and Joaquin Andujar. When I took over the A's in 1986 a few weeks after I had been fired in Chicago, I'd had the advantage of playing against them in the division. They developed bad habits of making a lot of of mental mistakes, getting really discouraged, and establishing some cliques. When things were going wrong, misery loved company, and guys would get together and just complain about it all. Basically, their minds were just blown.

                            The effort level was down, and that was the piece I singled out in my first meeting with them: we were going to play hard. When a guy doesn't play hard, it's the manager who justifiably gets held responsible. "He can't even manage effort." Then the next level is that if the guys are playing hard but they aren't playing worth a crap, throwing to the wrong base and all that, people say, "He can't teach them to play the game right."

                            I'd joined the A's midseason. I needed to do something to get their attention focused on priority one - how are we going to fix what's wrong? So I told them, "I've been in this division. I know how talented you guys are. I also know how messed up you guys are. I've played against you guys, and it's not even close to being competitive, the effort level. But I guarantee you in the clubhouse there's a lot of effort. Talking crap. Blaming other people. Blaming the front office. Blaming the manager. This stuff's going to stop. Whatever problems there are, you're going to give the manager or the coach a chance to fix the problem. If we don't know it exists, how can we fix it? I guarantee you there isn't anything, from what I've seen here, that can't be fixed, but you've got to speak up about it to us, okay?"

                            I stared out at the room and caught my breath. No one said a thing. I continued by taking a page from Dick Williams circa 1971. At his first meeting as manager of the A's after coming over from Boston, he had challenged us to quit relying on Mr. Finley, the team owner, and instead look to him and the coaches to solve all problems. Then he'd dropped the bomb. He'd told us that he was going to provide Mr. Finley's phone numbers in our lockers. We could call him all day today if we wanted to. But after that if we used that number without giving him and the coaches the chance to fix the problem first, he'd have our asses.

                            I wasn't about to start handing out the owner's number, but I knew we needed to make sure the phone lines to my office were open.

                            "Let me just tell you something else. I don't really know you guys well enough yet. I don't really know if anybody's going to come up and tell me anything. So listen to this. If there's somebody in here that's a professional major league player that's got any kind of integrity, any kind of balls, and you know there's a problem and you don't give me or the coaches the chance to fix it, you're a no-good gutless mother - - -. Furthermore, I know you've got these little cliques here. So if your little team of guys knows that you're pissing and moaning and you're continuing to complain and you don't come tell me, then all your little cliquey boyfriends are no-good gutless mothers too. Now, is there anybody that's got the balls to tell me right now that they disagree with what I'm saying about a guy who wouldn't give me or a coach a chance to fix a problem?"

                            In some form or another, just about every year since then, when things aren't quite going right, Dave McKay would ask me to dust off that speech. I've only ended up using it maybe two or three times since '86 as a last resort. Once they got over the shock of the language in the speech, I hope they understood this was a way to hold the guys accountable for what was taking place between the lines and outside them. Despite sometimes having to do a bit of acting to deliver it, I also fully believed what I said to be true. In Oakland, the speech worked immediately - we went from last to third that season. The culture began to change, and we had a great run of success after that, from '88 to '92.
                            "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean

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                            • The A's didn't want headaches & drama so they hired Reggie Jackson?

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                              • Originally posted by westsidegrounds View Post
                                The A's didn't want headaches & drama so they hired Reggie Jackson?
                                He was pretty tame at 41, and he was a great mentor for Mark McGwire that year. I remember seeing an interview with the two of them, possibly around the All Star break that year. Reggie was laughing and having a good time in his final season, and he said that he thought Mark had the potential to hit more HRs than he did and/or to go into the Hall of Fame. I am a little fuzzy on which one he said and which one the interviewer mentioned during the chat. What can I say, it was a long time ago and at 11 years old, I didn't know who that rookie was that was being interviewed with the great Reggie Jackson!

                                Apparently, LaRussa like Jackson in 1987, because he mentioned his positive influence on the younger hitters on the team in his last book. Sounds like the straw wasn't doing as much stirring in '87 perhaps?
                                "It ain't braggin' if you can do it." Dizzy Dean

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