Lindy McDaniel Deserves Lots More Recognition

ALSO: LOOKING AHEAD, THE BALTIMORE ORIOLES ARE GETTING BETTER

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Pregame Pepper

Did you know ...

Ed Olwine and Juan Alvarez both pitched 80 times in the major leagues without winning a game and then retired into oblivion (until now, of course) . . .

Whitey Ford pitched 283 innings in 1960 without allowing a stolen base . . .

Nolan Ryan threw more wild pitches (277) and allowed more walks (2795) than anyone else . . .

Rickey Henderson, enshrined in Cooperstown 10 years after Ryan, was caught stealing a record 335 times.

Leading Off

Lindy McDaniel Pioneered Excellence in Relief Pitching

By Dan Schlossberg

Monday’s news that Lindy McDaniel passed was a reminder how far relief pitchers have come.

In 1960, McDaniel led the National League with 27 saves and a .750 winning percentage while working 65 times – all but two of them in relief – for the St. Louis Cardinals.

He was not only picked for both NL All-Star squads that year but finished third in the voting for the Cy Young Award and fifth in the balloting for National League MVP.

McDaniel, who averaged 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings, also kept the ball in the park, allowing 0.6 home runs per game.

His performance was so good that Chicago Tribune baseball writer Jerome Holtzman recommended to J.G. Taylor Spink, publisher of The Sporting News, that the weekly tabloid recognize relievers with a new stat called “saves.” Spink, a notorious tightwad, gave Holtzman a couple of hundred as a bonus and launched an annual Fireman of the Year award – given to the pitcher in each league with the most wins plus saves.

When the save finally became an official stat in 1969, it was the biggest scoring change since the RBI was added to the box score in 1920.

A pioneer in pitching out of the bullpen, McDaniel specialized in multi-inning stints. Even at age 37, while pitching for the Yankees, he worked 160 1/3 innings in 47 games, all but three out of the pen. Relievers weren’t considered for Cy Young votes then, let alone for Cooperstown, but McDaniel deserves credit – and even enshrinement – for his pioneering efforts.

His 987 appearances trailed only Hoyt Wilhelm’s 1,070, though 15 other pitchers also reached the 1,000-game plateau.

In one 1973 game, McDaniel worked 13 innings in relief, giving up one run and winning, 2-1, after entering in the first. Five years earlier, he retired 32 men in a row – thanks in part to seven perfect innings against Detroit. The lanky righthander helped himself with his fielding, pitching in a record 225 consecutive games in the National League without committing an error. He could hit too: McDaniel hit the last home run by a Yankees pitcher prior to the DH era when he connected on Sept. 28, 1972.

McDaniel, who happened to come along at a time when relievers labored in relative obscurity, recorded 141 wins, 174 saves, and a 3.45 earned run average over 21 seasons, divided among

five different clubs. Never paid more than $60,000 in a season, he earned an estimated $264,000 – less than half of today’s minimum single-season salary – over his entire career.

Yet McDaniel never felt cheated. He was universally regarded as the most honorable and most religious man in the game.

An Oklahoma kid who got a $50,000 bonus from the Cardinals in 1955, he created and ran a monthly publication called Pitching for the Master over his last 12 years as an active pitcher. McDaniel, whose younger brother Von also played in the majors, became a preacher for a small congregation near Dallas after retirement.

By then, he and Ed Lucas, a blind sportswriter from Northern New Jersey, were fast friends.

Lucas, now 81, was a student at the Institute for the Blind in the Bronx when he contacted Cardinals shortstop Alvin Dark to ask if he would speak to the Diamond Dusters, a baseball fan club he formed at the school.

Dark told Lucas he had a dental appointment but suggested the enterprising student invite Wally Moon instead. The determined youngster dialed the team’s hotel in New York and asked for Moon but instead got McDaniel, his roommate. Lucas explained his quest, McDaniel accepted, and they became such good friends that the pitcher came to the Lucas home in Jersey City.

I can confirm McDaniel’s reputation for being both personable and reliable; he was one of six players I invited to participate on one of my early baseball theme cruises. Though overshadowed by several bigger names, including Hall of Famers, in my group of celebrities, McDaniel was a perfect gentleman throughout.

With character a key consideration in selection of Baseball Hall of Fame members, the various veterans committees could do worse than bring up the name of Lindy McDaniel.

Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Dennis Eckersley, Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith, and Mariano Rivera will be waiting for him when he arrives.

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is Weekend Editor of HERE’S THE PITCH, national baseball writer for forbes.com, and author of 38 baseball books. His e.mail is ballauthor@gmail.com.

Cleaning Up

Baltimore’s Kids Could Help Club Leave Cellar Soon

By Richard McCullough

In a 25-35 season where more than half the teams made the playoffs, the Baltimore Orioles still could not make the jump. They only finished one game ahead of the woeful Red Sox. However, that is what was expected of the mid-rebuild Orioles.

In fact, Baltimore raised some eyebrows by competing for a playoff spot late into the short season. The team actually showed signs of getting ready to turn the corner in its rebuild.

GM Mike Elias has mentioned that he was happy with the progress the Orioles made this year, and rightfully so. Several of the Orioles’ younger players are starting to show that they are capable of being cornerstones of the Orioles’ future competitive team.

We will start with the least surprising player of the Orioles’ 2020 season. Renato Nunez has spent 2019 showing that he could be a legitimate MLB power bat. And 2020 just furthered his case. Nunez hit 12 home runs in 195 at-bats while maintaining a .256 batting average. These fall closely in line to the 26-year-old’s 2019 numbers, providing some hope he can continue that type of production. He also showed that he is a defensively-capable first baseman.

While Trey Mancini will be returning in 2021 and may take some innings away from Nunez at first, Mancini is versatile enough to also play the outfield while Nunez can play a passable third base. The only hole in Nunez’s game is his strikeout rate. His 32.8 percent K rate was a tick worse than what he put up in 2019, but his power could make it worth having him in the lineup.

Anthony Santander, another 26-year-old, played well in 2020, finally showing why Baltimore took him in the 2016 Rule 5 draft. He slugged 11 home runs in just 153 at-bats in an injury-shortened season, backing that up with a .261 average. As with Nunez, those numbers were similar if not better than his 2019 output. Unlike Nunez, Santander handled major league pitching a little better, striking out half as often at a rate of only 16 percent. His defensive numbers were also solid in the outfield, indicating that he is ready to turn the corner after trying to prove himself as the cornerstone of the Orioles’ rebuild.

Ryan Mountcastle and Cedric Mullins are not as far along in the process as Nunez and Santander, but both showed that they could also be part of the future Baltimore Orioles. Mountcastle did not play at all at his natural position of shortstop in 2020 but the Orioles want him to get used to the majors a little at a time.

He hit .333 with five home runs over just 126 at-bats. Meanwhile, Mullins finally started figuring out major-league pitching, contributing a .271 average with three home runs and seven stolen bases over 140 at-bats. Both have shown promise in the minors and Mullins had a solid run in 2018 before falling off later in the season. Both should get every chance to make the opening day roster for the Orioles in 2021, and could have bright futures as organizational building blocks.

Now onto the starting pitching staff. To say Baltimore started the season with a weak pitching staff would be an understatement. But it found that John Means’ 2019 success was not just an apparition.

Means had a short season due to having to quarantine after bereavement leave and fought two stints on the Injured List. However, even with those interruptions, he still put together a solid season. While his 4.53 ERA didn’t show it, he allowed only a .220 BAA on his way to a 0.98 WHIP while getting almost a strikeout per inning pitched. If Means can have a healthy 2021 season, he could establish himself as a de facto ace, or a solid No. 2 in the pitching rotation.

And that brings us to Keegan Akin. Oh how I hate looking at Akin’s final numbers! His 4.56 ERA and 1.44 WHIP are not indicative of his 2020 season in Baltimore. To be fair, this was his first taste of the majors and 25.2 innings is not a large sample size. But he did strike out 35 hitters in that 25.2 innings. There were times he looked dominant on the mound, and other times he looked like a 25-year-old getting his first taste of the majors. He has a solid minor-league resume, and showed solid strikeout numbers through his minor-league career.

Now, with his first taste of the majors behind him, he should have the inside track to a rotation spot for 2021. Akin should have a bright future as a piece of Baltimore’s rotation.

While Baltimore may not have impressed in the standings, there is plenty to be excited about for Orioles’ fans. Another group of minor-leaguers is ready to take the next step and get its first taste of the Majors.

Players such as outfielder DJ Stewart, who had a rough 2020 in the majors, and Yusniel Diaz, who has yet to make the majors, should be showing what they can do soon. Pitchers Alex Wells, Zac Lowther and Michael Baumann should be ready to showcase their talents at the major-league level as well.

Temper your expectations for 2021, Orioles’ fans, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. With the talent in the minor-league system, Baltimore is finally rounding the corner in its long-time rebuild.

Richard McCullough may be reached at RichardM1026@gmail.com.

Timeless Trivia

Jim Bunning was the first pitcher since Cy Young to reach 1,000 strikeouts in both leagues . . .

Though drafted by Seattle in the expansion draft, Lou Piniella was wearing a Kansas City Royals jersey when voted American League Rookie of the Year in 1969. The Pilots had swapped him to their fellow expansion entry . . .

The Los Angeles Angels finished second, 10 games over .500, in their second season of existence.

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Know Your Editors

HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [bchrom831@gmail.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [nymfan97@gmail.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [ballauthor@gmail.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.

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