Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Davey Johnson, 1968 Topps #273

Yesterday I spoke of fluke home run seasons in the context of Jose Bautista's 50-homer outburst in 2010. Well, good ol' Joe Posnanski compiled a list of the 32 Flukiest Home Run Seasons, and the man above (Davey Johnson, not God) took home the prize as #1. That's not too surprising; Davey averaged nine home runs per year as an Oriole, peaked at 18 in 1971, and then hit 43 in 1973 in his first season with Atlanta. I'd say that some of his newfound (and fleeting) power was due to hitting in a lineup with Hank Aaron and Darrell Evans (who also topped 40 HR each that year), but most of the time he batted behind them, and you would think that Frank Robinson and Boog Powell would have rubbed off on him previously if power could be transferred by osmosis. The hitter-friendly "Launching Pad" of Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium is the most frequent explanation given for his surge, but even if you take out his 26 HR at home, he still hit 17 on the road. Sometimes a fluke is just a fluke.

That brings me to #2 on JoePoz's list, Brady Anderson. I was a witness to his wild 50-homer barrage in 1996, the year that the O's broke the major league record for home runs in a season with 257 total and had seven different players swat 20. (Eddie Murray added 10 after arriving from Cleveland in July; if Jeffrey Hammonds had eked out one more lousy homer, the Birds would've had a whole lineup in double digits!) It was great fun watching a player from my favorite team chase Roger Maris' record, which Brady did for the first few months: 11 HR at the end of April, 20 at the end of May, 30 at the All-Star Break. On a team with sluggers like Rafael Palmeiro, Chris Hoiles, and Bobby Bonilla, it seemed strange that Brady (with a previous career high of 21 in 1992) was the one reaching the seats most often, especially from the leadoff spot. But at 14 years old, I certainly wasn't asking questions, and neither were most fans and media members. It's only through the lens of the so-called "steroid era" and its aftermath that people have thrown around Brady's name in a snide, presumptuous manner.

There are several logical fallacies at work when someone accuses Brady Anderson of steroid abuse, and he's mentioned some of them himself. He was always a gym rat, as opposed to one of those guys who suddenly added several pounds of muscle during one off-season (see Barry Bonds or Ivan Rodriguez). Throughout the past five years of testimonies, leaked documents, and investigations, hundreds of major leaguers have been implicated in PED abuse, and not once has Brady been fingered. So if he was juicing, any witnesses and/or suppliers must have been a tight-lipped bunch. Finally, his home run totals in the "steroid era" go like this, starting from 1993 and going through his last full season (2001): 13, 12, 16, 50, 18, 18, 24, 19, 8. What gives? Did he only take steroids in 1996, hit 50 homers, get picked for the All-Star team and Home Run Derby, go to the playoffs for the first time, and then decide, "nope, this success and attention just isn't for me"? Or did the stuff just not work as well in every other year?

Sometimes a fluke is just a fluke.


Bo said...

The logical fallacies are actually not fallacies at all. Over a hundred players are in those sealed documents that Sosa and Ortiz were leaked from - no reason to think Anderson wasn't on that list. And he might have stopped taking the steroids because of an adverse reaction to them - after all they're not illegal for no reason, there are bad side effects.

Actually I'm with you though, I doubt he took steroids any more than Bob Cerv did in 1958. It's more likely that he was getting a lot of fastballs in front of that dangerous lineup, and it took the league a while to realize not to do that. The league had adjusted by 1997 and Anderson couldn't adjust back.

By the way that's a great facial expression on Johnson's card!

Kevin said...

Bo - You make your case well...are you a lawyer? ;)

Davey always had great faces on his cards. His 1969 Topps might be the best.