Tagged: David Clyde

The Sunday Scuttlebutt: Goodbye and Farewell

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Baseball’s amateur draft, slated to begin a week from Tuesday, would carry
far more luster if Major League Baseball would change its antiquated rules
preventing teams from trading draft choices. All of the other sports allow
draft choices to be traded, except for baseball, which continues to operate
under the fear that agents like Scott Boras would demand trades for clients
drafted by undesirable teams. (What teams don’t seem willing to admit is that Boras already tries to redirect players by refusing to sign contracts
with their drafting teams, thus enabling those players to re-enter the draft
the following year.) By allowing teams to trade draft picks both during and
after the selection process, MLB would accomplish two objectives. First, the
occurrence of draft-day trades would jazz up the festivities on June 9,
bringing more publicity to an event that is currently only followed by draft
diehards. (Imagine the stir that would be caused if the Nationals traded their
No. 1 pick, essentially the rights to uberprospect right-hander Stephen Strasburg,
to a team like the Phillies for three or four prospects.) Second, with so many
contending teams reluctant to deal their near-ready major league prospects for
short-term fixes, they would instead be able to substitute draft choices in
dealing for veteran players who can provide immediate help in the pennant race.
We would therefore see far more trades between now and the July 31st
deadline, spicing up what has become a lackluster trading season in recent
years…

 

Even with a healthy Brett Myers, the Phillies needed to add
another starter to make a successful run at their second-straight National
League East title. With Myers likely out for the season because of looming
labrum surgery on his hip, the need has only intensified. Heck, the Phillies
may have to add two starters to a core of starters that features ace Cole
Hamels, Joe “Bulldog” Blanton, and the sphinx-like Jamie Moyer, who just won
his 250th game. That threesome simply is not good enough to win the
East, especially with the Mets looming…

 

The hype attached to this week’s recall of super prospect
Matt Wieters by the Orioles is like nothing I’ve seen since the Rangers brought
David Clyde to the major leagues immediately after he was drafted out of high
school in 1974. In a way, I feel bad for Wieters, who has been praised to the
point that we expect him to become Carlton Fisk, Joe Mauer, and Ted Simmons all
rolled into one. Wieters will probably develop into a very fine player, perhaps
a great one, but it is quickly becoming impossible to scale the Mt. Everest
of expectations that has been created by so many talent evaluators and
prospects gurus. Let the young man breathe a little bit…

 

Not long ago, David Dellucci was a productive platoon player
capable of hitting for power, drawing walks, and fielding any of the three
outfield positions. On Friday, the Indians designated Dellucci for assignment,
a prelude to what will probably be his unconditional release. Based upon the
laments of Indians fans who have watched him stagger through the last season
and a half, Dellucci’s career looks to be cooked. He can’t hit, run, or field
at a competent level anymore, not even well enough to play regularly for an
Indians team crying for help in the outfield corners…

 

You know the first-place Yankees are doing well when Mike
Lupica makes only two references to them in his Sunday “Shooting From The Lip”
series of one-liners. If the Yankees were still struggling, as they did for the
first month of the season, every other segment of Lupica’s “column” would
feature some kind of potshot against the organization. The pattern has become
oh-so predictable from the guy who has been paid to hate the Yankees for over
30 years…

 

In a season filled with injury, disappointment, and general
underperformance, the A’s have found a bright spot in the play of veteran
second baseman Adam Kennedy. Acquired from the Rays as a replacement for the
perennially injured Mark Ellis, Kennedy is hitting .400 with five stolen bases
since being anointed the interim pivotman for Oakland. The Rays must be kicking themselves
for dumping Kennedy in a cash deal, especially after they lost Akinori Iwamura
to injury for the balance of the season. Tampa’s
unsettled second base situation is one of just several problem areas, in
addition to the season-long slump of Pat Burrell and the injury- ravaged
bullpen, where journeyman sidewinder Randy Choate is now receiving chances to
close games…

 

 

***

 

These words will mark my final musings for MLBlogs. After an
eventful and fruitful four-year run as the author of this blog, I’ve decided to
pack up the laptop and move to another venue. I want to thank at least some of
the people who have helped me along the way, such as Mark Newman, who has
provided guidance and assistance since my first article appeared here in May of
2005. Jacob Wilson has also helped by providing technical assistance, a
necessity for someone who is as computer ignorant as me. Additionally, I must
mention the contributions of those who have posted comments, along with the
loyalty of the readers, a small but dedicated group who have motivated and
supported my efforts. I hope you have all enjoyed the writing here, a product
of hard work and an undying love for our great game.

 

I will continue to write for Alex Belth’s Bronx Banter, but
beginning this week, I will be writing a weekly article for The Hardball Times,
an outstanding web site featuring original in-depth comment. I will also be
contributing periodically to the site’s new blog, THT Live. So beginning this
Friday, you can find my writing at www.thehardballtimes.com.
I hope that at least some of our readers and posters will follow us over there
while continuing to support some of the good people here at MLB, like Bronx
Banter, Julia’s Rants, The Newberg Report, and Curt Smith’s Voices of the Game.

 

So it is time to bid goodbye and farewell, but hopefully
only until the next adventure begins in a new location. See you at The Hardball
Times.

 

Sincerely,

 

Bruce Markusen

“Cooperstown Confidential”

Cooperstown,
NY

 

 

Card Corner: David Clyde

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In 1973, just one year before this card appeared, the Texas
Rangers initiated the destruction of a young pitcher’s career in an effort to
revive a languishing franchise. Team owner Bob Short devised an ill-conceived
plan to rush phenom left-hander David Clyde from high school ball to the major
leagues as a drawing card for the struggling Rangers franchise. Clyde’s debut
season did much to help attendance at Arlington Stadium, but at considerable
damage to Clyde’s career, which seemed so
promising after throwing nine no-hitters in his senior season of high school.

 

At onetime a household name, Clyde
has become a forgotten man in baseball annals. Here’s what happened. Drafted
first in the country out of Texas’ Westchester High School
in the spring of 1973, Clyde received a bonus
of $125,000 and donned a Rangers’ major league uniform only a few days later.
The immediate call-up to Texas was the
brainchild of owner Bob Short, which conflicted directly against the advice of
manager Whitey Herzog, who believed Clyde
needed considerable schooling in the minor leagues. 

 

Equipped with both Short’s blessings and a mechanically
sound delivery that some scouts compared to that of Sandy Koufax, Clyde made
his highly publicized major league debut against the Minnesota Twins on June
27, 1973. (Only 20 days earlier, Clyde had
made his final appearance as a high school pitcher.) That night’s game at
Arlington Stadium became such a focal point of local attention that the first
pitch was delayed by 15 minutes, allowing more fans to free themselves from the
massive logjam of traffic outside the stadium. Perhaps rattled by the late
start and frazzled by his own nervousness, the 18-year-old Clyde walked the
first two batters he faced–infielder Jerry Terrell and Hall of Famer Rod Carew–before
settling down to strike out the side. Clyde went on to pitch a respectable five
innings, walking a total of seven Twins, but struck out eight batters while
allowing two earned runs and only one hit. Unfortunately, Clyde
struggled to match his celebrated debut performance over the balance of the
season, posting an ERA of 5.03 and winning only four of 12 decisions with the
lowly Rangers in 1973. His pitching only worsened in 1974, leading him down a
slippery slope to baseball obscurity.

 

Clyde’s problems only
worsened when Whitey Herzog was fired and replaced by Billy Martin. Ever fiery
and judgmental, Martin didn’t like the left-hander, in part because he didn’t
like pitchers and didn’t like rookies, two mortal sins committed by Clyde. Martin also didn’t appreciate the fact that Clyde lost nine straight decisions after starting the
1974 season at 3-and-0. At one point, Martin didn’t pitch Clyde
for 31 consecutive days.

 

The late Art Fowler, a crony of Martin at virtually every
one of his managerial stops, became Clyde’s second pitching coach in Texas. Several years
ago, Fowler appeared on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” program to discuss Clyde’s saga. Fowler supported Martin’s general
evaluation of Clyde, claiming that the
youngster was vastly overrated, unable to throw his fastball much harder than
in the mid-eighties. Fowler also trashed the quality of Clyde’s
competition in high school, half-kiddingly suggesting that the left-hander had
piled up an impressive set of statistics pitching against “girls.” Fowler’s
recollections of Clyde, however, differ significantly from those of Tom Grieve,
who was Clyde’s Texas
teammate from 1973-75. According to Grieve, Fowler raved about Clyde’s talents at the time, saying that he had the
potential to be a 25-game winner once he harnessed his control. Many of Clyde’s Ranger teammates also raved about both his
fastball and curve, rating them both as well above major league average.

 

So who to believe, Fowler or Grieve? For what it’s worth,
Fowler drew criticism throughout his career for his work as a pitching coach,
reinforcing a belief that he held onto jobs in Minnesota,
Detroit, Texas,
New York, and Oakland only because of his friendship with
Martin. Given Fowler’s track record as a Martin crony, it’s not surprising that
he would come to Martin’s defense when passing a judgment on Clyde’s
ability. It was that very allegiance to Martin that shed a light of suspicion
on Fowler’s motives. Fowler himself claimed that he didn’t think much of Clyde in large part because Martin didn’t think much of him. And that’s not a very critical way
of thinking, especially when it was your job to instruct pitchers and find ways
to make them better.

 

By the way, here’s what Fowler had to say about Clyde after one of his starts in 1974. “When his fastball
is moving like it was tonight,” Fowler told Randy Galloway of The Sporting News, “and with the
velocity he had tonight, he didn’t need [his] curveball.” That doesn’t sound
like the description of a pitcher lacking a good major league fastball.

 

While Clyde struggled with
his pitching coach and manager, along with the on-the-field demands of pitching
against big league hitters, he also gave in to the temptations of a fast-lane
lifestyle practiced by several of the Rangers’ veteran players. The hard-living
group, which included catcher Rich Billings, infielder Jim Fregosi, and pitcher
Clyde “Skeeter” Wright (the father of former Indian and Brave Jaret Wright),
laid out the welcome mat for Clyde, including him in their post-game visits to
local establishments. Clyde began drinking
heavily, a vice that became obvious when he showed up late for a team flight
while wearing the same clothes he had used the previous day. Unfortunately,
none of the veteran Rangers stepped up to help the teenaged Clyde, whose drinking
habits only exacerbated his problems on the mound.

 

And that only expedited the crashing of the career of a
young pitcher who might have been. 

Art Fowler, Drinking Buddy

Art Fowler was not a household name. He was a vagabond relief pitcher and a journeyman pitching coach, and none of his accomplishments in either category will ever be associated with Cooperstown.

Yet, Fowler was a Hall of Fame character. Fowler, who died on Monday at the age of 84, lived a life of legend and controversy. Here are just a few items that made Art Fowler one of a kind:

*Fowler and his brother, Jesse, both pitched in the major leagues, but not at the same time–not by a longshot. Jesse debuted in the majors in 1924, while Art did not make his first appearance until he was age 31 in 1954. That was a separation of nearly 30 years, by far a record for two brothers in the major leagues. Even though he was already in his thirties, Fowler stuck around long enough to earn a World Championship ring with the 1959 Dodgers before pitching for the expansion Los Angeles Angels in 1961.

*To the surprise of no one who knew him well, Fowler hated physical conditioning, particularly running. “If running is so important, Jesse Owens would be a twenty-game winner,” Fowler told a reporter in 1957. “And the only reason I don’t like to run is that it makes me tired.”

*Fowler is best remembered for filling a memorable role as Billy Martin’s designated pitching coach/drinking buddy. (My father used to refer to Fowler as “drinking buddy” so often that I thought it should have been his actual title.) Their relationship began in 1969 for the Denver Bears of the American Association. Martin decided to make use of the 45-year-old Fowler, who was still an active pitcher on the staff, as his pitching coach. The relationship soon turned into a friendship. Fowler worked for Martin during almost every one of his managerial stops in Minnesota, Detroit, Texas, New York, and Oakland. Critics of Fowler called him nothing more than Martin’s crony, while supporters pointed out that Fowler generally developed good relationships with his pitchers. For what it’s worth, Fowler was the Yankees’ pitching coach for both of their World Championship teams in 1977 and ’78.

* According to many of his former pitchers, a typical Fowler visit to the mound would involve the following words of wisdom. “I don’t know what you’re doing wrong, but whatever it is, it’s sure [ticking] Billy off!”

*Known for his off-the-field visits to bars, Fowler developed a well-deserved reputation for enjoying cocktails of various sorts. During his years as the Tigers’ pitching coach, Fowler became good friends with first baseman Norm Cash. Sharing a similar sense of humor, the pitching coach and first baseman spent hours together away from the ballpark, especially at local taverns. They were sometimes joined by Martin, who was no stranger to the drinking scene himself.

*Because of his relationship with Martin, Fowler became a controversial figure. This is perhaps best illustrated by a 2003 feature that ESPN produced on former rookie sensation David Clyde, who had made his debut for the Rangers 30 years earlier under the watchful eye of both Martin and Fowler. Martin didn’t like the left-hander, in part because he didn’t like pitchers and didn’t like rookies, two mortal sins committed by Clyde. Martin also didn’t appreciate the fact that Clyde lost nine straight decisions after starting the 1974 season at 3-and-0. At one point, Martin didn’t pitch Clyde for 31 consecutive days. During one interview segment on ESPN, Fowler supported Martin’s general evaluation of Clyde, claiming that the youngster was vastly overrated, unable to throw his fastball much harder than in the mid-eighties. Fowler also trashed the quality of Clyde’s competition in high school, kiddingly suggesting that the left-hander had piled up an impressive set of statistics pitching against “girls.” Fowler’s recollections of Clyde, however, differ significantly from those of Tom Grieve, a former Rangers’ outfielder who was Clyde’s Texas teammate from 1973 to 1975. According to Grieve, Fowler raved about Clyde’s talents at the time, saying that he had the potential to be a 25-game winner once he harnessed his control. Grieve’s sentiments were echoed by Fowler’s public comments about Clyde in 1974. “When his fastball is moving like it was tonight,” Fowler told Randy Galloway of The Sporting News after a game in 1974, “and with the velocity he had tonight, he didn’t need [his] curveball.” That doesn’t sound like the description of a pitcher lacking a good major league fastball.

Perhaps Art changed his mind after 30 years. Or maybe Art just liked to exaggerate. It was just another quirk of an uncommon baseball man named Art Fowler.