The virtual 1955-62 Kansas City A’s (Part 4:  1961-62)

We’ve enacted our scenario for six seasons, and at the end of the sixth we were finally able to create significant daylight between our virtual Kaycee boys and the real ones. But even with that, we still haven’t achieved a .500 record, much less a contending team.

     Actual Athletics               Virtual Athletics

      W        L  Pos       Year       W       L  Pos
      63      91   6        1955      54     100   8
      52     102   8        1956      55      99   8
      59      94   7        1957      70      83   7
      73      81   7        1958      74      80   6
      66      88   7        1959      69      85   7
      58      96   8        1960      71      83   6

And this is it, our final two-season installment. If we’re going to do something dramatic, we’d better get cracking.

First thing this time, we’ll have to undergo the American League’s first-ever expansion draft.

1960 expansion draft: Actual selections from the Athletics we will make

Dec. 14, 1960: Infielder Bob Johnson selected by the Washington Senators in the 1960 expansion draft.

Dec. 14, 1960: Infielder Chet Boak selected by the Washington Senators in the 1960 expansion draft.

Dec. 14, 1960: Pitcher Bob Davis selected by the Washington Senators in the 1960 expansion draft.

Dec. 14, 1960: Infielder Ken Hamlin selected by the Washington Senators in the 1960 expansion draft.

We have all these guys, so we’ll allow them to be taken.

1960 expansion draft: Actual selections from the Athletics we will not make

Dec. 14, 1960: Catcher Pete Daley selected by the Washington Senators in the 1960 expansion draft .

Dec. 14, 1960: Pitcher Ned Garver selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the 1960 expansion draft.

Dec. 14, 1960: Catcher Dutch Dotterer selected by the Washington Senators in the 1960 expansion draft.

We don’t have any of these three. But we do have the following three guys.

1960 expansion draft: Selections from the Athletics we will invoke

Dec. 14, 1960: Catcher Earl Averill selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the 1960 expansion draft.

Dec. 14, 1960: Outfielder Bob Cerv selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the 1960 expansion draft.

Bird-Brained
A comparative study on an unwritten rule of baseball.

Dec. 14, 1960: Catcher Danny Kravitz selected by the Washington Senators in the 1960 expansion draft.

Averill was actually taken by the Angels from the White Sox, and Cerv by the Angels from the Yankees. So we’ll allow L.A. to take them from us instead.

Kravitz was actually traded by the Athletics for Dotterer in the autumn of 1960, then Dotterer was drafted by the Senators. So we’ll have the Senators draft Kravitz instead.

1960-61 offseason: Actual Athletics deals we will make

Jan. 31, 1961: Purchased catcher Joe Pignatano from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

An unexciting but serviceable backup, and given that we’ve lost both Averill and Kravitz, we need to re-stock behind the plate.

April, 1961: Traded infielder Tony Frulio to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder-third baseman Bobby Prescott.

Give newly-hired Athletics GM Frank Lane (whom we’ll be discussing later) credit for a sharp eye here. Prescott was 30 and had never played an inning in the major leagues. But that was because he’d been blocked by the glut of offensive talent in the Giants’ organization, as Prescott had hit consistently for average and power at the triple-A level.

The actual A’s would acquire Prescott and then fail to deploy him. We’ll give him a shot.

1960-61 offseason: Actual Athletics deals we will modify

The actual Athletics did this:

Jan. 24, 1961: Traded outfielders Russ Snyder and Whitey Herzog to the Baltimore Orioles for infielder Wayne Causey, pitcher Jim Archer, outfielder Al Pilarcik, catcher Clint Courtney, and first baseman Bob Boyd.

Lane’s logic in swinging this deal is clear: convert a duo of marketable assets into a quintet of assorted talents for a last-place team in need of help in many different places. That made plenty of theoretical sense, but in practice, such past-their-sell-by-date talents as Pilarcik, Courtney, and Boyd were of no practical use to the A’s.

And in any case, our A’s aren’t a last-place team. We don’t need to be doing this sort of thing.

Instead, we’ll do this:

Jan. 24, 1961: Traded outfielder Whitey Herzog to the Baltimore Orioles for infielder Wayne Causey and pitcher Jim Archer.

Boiling it down to an essence that makes sense for us. Herzog has developed into a really good role player, but we’ll happily exchange him for this young left-handed-batting middle infielder and this minor league veteran southpaw who seems more than ready for a big league chance.

The actual Athletics did this:

Jan. 25, 1961: Traded pitchers John Briggs and John Tsitouris to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Joe Nuxhall.

This was a splendid deal for the actual Athletics to make. We like Nuxhall (we value his walk-to-strikeout ratio far more than his ERA). But we don’t have Briggs, and even if we did we wouldn’t make this trade—simply because we don’t have a need for another left-hander on our staff.

So how about if we do this:

Jan. 25, 1961: Traded pitcher John Tsitouris to the Cincinnati Reds for catcher Frank House.

Having lost Kravitz in the expansion draft, we could use a left-handed batting catcher. House doesn’t exactly excite us, inasmuch as we tossed him aside a year ago, but he is, after all, a left-handed batting catcher. We’re confident the Reds would accept this offer, given that they would surrender House for a cash consideration the following month.

The actual Athletics did this:

March 30, 1961: Traded pitcher Howie Reed and cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Ed Rakow.

Rakow was a reasonably promising young pitcher. But he wasn’t all that much more promising than Reed. And with the pitching depth we’ve begun to accumulate, we don’t really need either of them.

So instead of that, we’ll do this:

March 30, 1961: Traded first baseman Kent Hadley and pitcher Howie Reed to the New York Yankees for first baseman-outfielder Marv Throneberry.

The power-hitting Hadley hasn’t developed as we’d hoped he might. Nor has the power-hitting Throneberry for the Yankees, but he had a better year in 1960 than Hadley. So we’ll swap these two now, instead of a year earlier as they actually were as part of the Roger Maris deal, and we’ll toss in Reed to make it easier for the Yankees to say “yes.”

1960-61 offseason: Athletics deals we will invoke

Nov. 28, 1960: Traded catcher Harry Chiti and cash to the Chicago White Sox for catcher Dick Brown.

The White Sox actually sold Brown to the Braves on this date. We’ll beat that straight-cash offer by including Chiti.

Both Chiti and Brown had good power. Chiti had been up and down with the bat, while Brown, a couple of years younger, had struggled to hit for average at the big league level. Brown was much better-regarded defensively.

1960-61 offseason: Actual Athletics deals we will not make

Oct. 15, 1960: Traded catcher Danny Kravitz to the Cincinnati Reds for catcher Dutch Dotterer.

We don’t see the point in this one.

Nov. 28, 1960: Drafted pitcher Ed Keegan from the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1960 Rule 5 draft.

Nov. 28, 1960: Drafted pitcher Bill Kunkel from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1960 Rule 5 draft.

We’re well past the point of having room on our staff for castoffs such as these.

Dec. 29, 1960: Traded pitcher Marty Kutyna and cash to the Washington Senators for catcher Haywood Sullivan.

We no longer have Kutyna, and anyway we have no interest in Sullivan.

1961 season: Athletics deals we will invoke

April 13, 1961: Traded outfielder Leo Posada and cash to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League for outfielder Leon Wagner.

Actually on this day, the Maple Leafs traded Wagner to the Angels for outfielder Lou Johnson. We’ll top that offer by including cash alongside Posada (Jorge’s uncle, by the way), who was a year younger than Johnson, and while without as much speed or defensive ability, was a more powerful hitter.

But Wagner was just a terrific young hitter, who’d utterly dismantled the minor leagues at every level. He hadn’t been able to stick in the majors because of his poor fielding. We’re willing to accept that and give Daddy Wags the opportunity to show what he might do with the bat in a full big league season.

June 26, 1961: Traded first baseman R.C. Stevens and cash to the Detroit Tigers for outfielder George Thomas.

The Tigers actually sold Thomas to the Angels on this date. We’ll beat that by tossing in Stevens, who’d done all right for us in 1960 but isn’t hitting so far in ’61.

Thomas was a toolsy rookie, but the Tigers just didn’t see any room for him in their star-studded outfield. We can slide Bobby Prescott from the outfield to first base to replace Stevens, and give Thomas an opportunity as a platoon outfielder.

July 21, 1961: Traded pitcher Ken Johnson to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Orlando Peña and cash.

Actually on this date it was the Toronto Maple Leafs making this trade with the Reds. We like Johnson, but he isn’t pitching well in 1961, and Peña’s walk-to-strikeout ratio is quite attractive.

1961 season: Actual Athletics deals we will not make

April 12, 1961: Traded infielder-outfielder Dick Williams and pitcher Dick Hall to the Baltimore Orioles for pitcher Jerry Walker and outfielder Chuck Essegian.

I’m not sure I’d have made this deal if I were the A’s, though it did get them younger on both halves of the exchange. But the actual Athletics were in rebuilding mode following a last-place season. We aren’t, so we’ll stick with the more experienced, better-established players.

May 3, 1961: Sold outfielder Chuck Essegian to the Cleveland Indians.

The frenetic pace of Kansas City transactions going on under Lane was his signature, for sure, and selling Essegian just three weeks after trading for him was a perfect example. But in any case, since we didn’t acquire Essegian, we can’t sell him.

May 8, 1961: Sold pitcher Ken Johnson to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League.

It’s too soon to be giving up on Johnson in this way. And since we don’t do this, we’re able to make the Johnson-for-Peña deal later in the year.

June 1, 1961: Traded outfielder Bill Tuttle and a player to be named later to the Minnesota Twins for infielder Reno Bertoia, pitcher Paul Giel, and a player to be named later. (On June 10, 1961, the Athletics returned Giel to the Twins, and the Twins sent cash to the Athletics, completing the deal.)

We don’t have Tuttle, so we can’t do this.

June 8, 1961: Traded first baseman-outfielder Marv Throneberry to the Baltimore Orioles for outfielder Gene Stephens.

“Marvelous Marv” isn’t doing great for us, but he’s holding down the role of left-handed platoon first baseman, far more useful to us than the light-hitting utility outfielder Stephens.

June 10, 1961: Sold first baseman Bob Boyd to the Milwaukee Braves.

We don’t have him.

June 10, 1961: Traded pitchers Ray Herbert and Don Larsen, third baseman Andy Carey, and outfielder Al Pilarcik to the Chicago White Sox for pitchers Bob Shaw and Gerry Staley and outfielders Wes Covington and Stan Johnson.

The only one of these guys we have is Herbert. And though he isn’t doing that well in 1961, after his outstanding 1960 performance we aren’t ready to give up on him.

June 10, 1961: Signed outfielder Jim Rivera as a free agent.

We don’t have room for this veteran.

June 14, 1961: Traded pitcher Bud Daley to the New York Yankees for pitcher Art Ditmar and third baseman-outfielder Deron Johnson.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad trade for the A’s. Though the 28-year-old Daley had been a 16-game winner in both ’59 and ’60, he wasn’t performing all that well in ’61. And the 32-year-old Ditmar, though he was struggling as well in ’61, had been a good pitcher for several years, and Johnson, though a raw 22-year-old rookie, was an impressive prospect who would later emerge as a star.

But that doesn’t present the deal within its context. That context was, of course, the fact that the Athletics had regularly been sending the Yankees pretty much whatever the Yankees wanted in trade since 1955. And new Athletics owner Charlie Finley had vowed upon purchasing the franchise following the 1960 season (from the estate of Arnold Johnson, who’d died earlier in the year) to knock that stuff off.

And like no one but Finley could, he dramatized his vow by buying an old bus, painting “Shuttle Bus to Yankee Stadium” on it, and invited the Kansas City media to watch Finley–oh, yes—burn the bus.

But the other thing Finley had done upon purchasing the franchise was hire Lane as his General Manager. “Trader” Lane, that is, who never saw a trade he wouldn’t make. And when Lane pulled off this particular deal, the Kansas City media howled that they’d been lied to, that here we are again sending our best pitcher away on the familiar shuttle to New York, in exchange for a yet another fading veteran and yet another unproven kid.

Quite obviously, Lane had made the trade without consulting with his boss Finley, and the new owner and his GM were suddenly at odds. Within a couple of months Lane would be fired (to which Lane responded with a breach-of-contract lawsuit), and Finley would never again allow a GM to operate independently (and eventually Finley would give up on the pretense of employing a GM at all, and act as his own).

Our situation isn’t that context. Nonetheless we won’t make this trade, because (a) we already have Ditmar, and (b) we aren’t a rebuilding team looking to trade established talent for a prospect.

July 2, 1961: Traded outfielder Wes Covington to the Philadelphia Phillies for outfielder Bobby Del Greco.

We don’t have Covington, and we already have Del Greco.

July 21, 1961: Purchased pitcher Mickey McDermott from the St. Louis Cardinals.

Uh, no, thanks.

Aug. 2, 1961: Traded infielder Reno Bertoia and pitcher Gerry Staley to the Detroit Tigers for pitcher Bill Fischer and third baseman-catcher Ozzie Virgil.

We didn’t acquire Bertoia and Staley earlier in the year.

1961 season results

The impact of the expansion draft has required us to do a fair bit of roster shuffling.

Among the key new arrivals is a blazing fast rookie shorstop named Dick Howser. Though he was 25, Howser had spent just three years in the minors, never rising as high as triple-A. He’d been error-prone in the field, but presented simply off-the-charts on-base ability. He’ll win our starting shortstop job out of spring training, sliding Clete Boyer over to compete with Williams for third base.

  Pos   Player         Age    G  AB   R    H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
   1B   M. Throneberry* 27  116 322  36   79  10   1  16  52  43  70 .245 .333 .432 .765  102
   2B   J. Lumpe*       28  148 569  88  167  29   9   3  50  48  39 .293 .346 .392 .738   96
   SS   D. Howser       25  158 611 115  171  29   6   3  46  92  38 .280 .373 .362 .734   97
 3B-SS  C. Boyer        24  133 403  40   92  14   3  11  44  49  68 .228 .310 .360 .670   78
   RF   R. Maris*       26  161 575 114  163  19   4  59 132 107  69 .283 .398 .638 1.036 171
   CF   B. Del Greco    28  125 351  44   84  19   1   7  34  44  47 .239 .324 .359 .683   82
   LF   L. Wagner*      27  120 408  61  111  17   3  22  68  45  61 .272 .344 .490 .834  120
   C    D. Brown        26  125 403  37  105  15   2  19  51  26  73 .261 .301 .449 .751   97

 3B-LF  D. Williams     32   93 248  23   54  12   1   7  20  16  31 .218 .257 .359 .616   62
 1B-LF  B. Prescott     30   92 230  25   56   8   1  11  38  32  59 .243 .336 .430 .766  103
   OF   R. Snyder*      27  102 234  31   70  10   4   1  20  15  25 .299 .332 .389 .721   92
   IF   W. Causey*      24   78 156  19   42   7   1   3  20  18  15 .269 .333 .385 .718   91
   OF   G. Thomas       23   63 141  17   38   6   1   5  26  10  35 .270 .316 .433 .749   97
   C    J. Pignatano    31   61 122  16   29   5   2   2  11  17  22 .238 .329 .361 .689   84
   1B   R. Stevens      26   33  86   5   13   2   0   1   5   9  21 .151 .232 .209 .441   19
   C    F. House*       31   49  80   6   18   3   1   1   8   7   6 .225 .281 .325 .606   61

        Others                   63   6   14   2   1   0   4   3   8 .222 .254 .286 .539   44

        Pitchers                453  28   62   8   0   4  28  18 124 .136 .159 .182 .341   -9

        Total                  5455 711 1368 215  41 175 657 599 811 .251 .322 .402 .723   92

        * Bats left

        Pitcher        Age    G  GS  CG    W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
        R. Herbert      31   34  32   5   12  12   0 221 242 126 112   26   66   82 4.56   91
        J. Archer*      29   39  27   9   11  13   2 205 204  99  73   11   60  110 3.20  130
        B. Daley*       28   39  27   9   12  18   0 193 212 117  98   26   73  119 4.57   91
        R. Terry        25   31  27   9   14   7   0 188 166  82  73   21   42   86 3.49  119
        D. Hall         30   29  13   4    7   5   3 122 104  51  45   11   30   94 3.32  126
        A. Ditmar       32   26  16   1    2   9   0 108 122  73  67   18   35   41 5.58   75
        K. Johnson      28   25  11   1    4   9   0  92 102  62  55    8   43   54 5.38   78

        B. Tiefenauer   31   59   1   0    6   4   5 104 109  40  38    8   24   64 3.29  127
        B. Henry*       33   47   0   0    1   2  11  53  50  18  13    8   17   47 2.21  189
        H. Aguirre*     30   45   3   0    3   5   3  66  54  25  23    6   42   35 3.14  133
        D. Wickersham   25   17   0   0    2   0   1  21  25  12  12    0    5   10 5.14   81
        G. Brunet*      26    7   2   0    0   1   0  15  23   9   8    2   10    7 4.80   87

        Others                    3   0    1   1   1  27  29  16  14    3   14   17 4.67   89

        Total                   162  38   75  86 26 1415 1442 730 631 148  461  766 4.01  104

        * Throws left

Our big story in 1960 had been the breakout performance of Maris. And in 1961 he’s our even bigger big story, exploding for an amazing 59 home runs, falling just shy of tying the major league record, and riveting nationwide attention.

Several other things go well too. Howser performs splendidly. Low-cost pickups Wagner in left field and Brown at catcher take full advantage of the opportunities we provide, as does the left-handed pitcher Archer.

With all these positives, it might seem we’re ready to step forward, and reach or exceed .500 at last. But it just doesn’t happen. Enough hitters disappoint that despite Maris’s heroics, on balance our offense is only marginally better than last year’s, essentially league-average. And enough pitchers scuffle that our staff, though still better than league-average, isn’t as good as last year’s. We wind up at 75-86, good enough only for seventh (now in the 10-team league), and representing no progress over 1960.

To be sure, we’re enormously better than the cellar-dwelling actual A’s. That’s fine. But we’ve been stuck on a plateau of mediocrity for several years now. We have just one final chance to reach competitiveness before our experiment times out.

1961-62 offseason: Actual Athletics deals we will make

Nov. 27, 1961: Drafted pitcher Dan Osinski from the Chicago White Sox in the 1961 minor league draft.

A decent-looking longtime minor leaguer, and the minor league draft rules don’t require us to devote a major league roster spot.

Dec. 15, 1961: Traded catcher Joe Pignatano to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Jose Tartabull.

Pignatano is an adequate backup catcher, but Tartabull is an exceptionally speedy prospect. The actual A’s had room for Tartabull to compete for a regular job in their outfield. We won’t, but we’ll be happy to have him in triple-A just in case.

1961-62 offseason: Actual Athletics deals we will modify

The actual Athletics did this:

Oct. 11, 1961: Traded outfielder-first baseman Bobby Prescott, outfielder Stan Johnson, and infielder Jay Ward to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Gordie Windhorn and outfielder-first baseman Bill Lajoie.

We won’t make this deal at this point. But by the end of spring training, Prescott will have failed to earn a roster spot, so we’ll do this instead:

April, 1962: Traded outfielder-first baseman Bobby Prescott to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Gordie Windhorn.

We’ll convert Prescott into the good-fielding minor league journeyman Windhorn.

The actual Athletics did this:

Dec. 15, 1961: Traded pitcher Bob Shaw and infielder Lou Klimchock to the Milwaukee Braves for third baseman Ed Charles, outfielder Manny Jimenez, and catcher Joe Azcue.

This was an excellent trade for the A’s, as they surrendered one solid asset and one prospect who’d never blossom in exchange for three minor leaguers ready to produce. To the extent that it was Finley himself involved in crafting the deal (though Pat Friday, a longtime Finley associate from his insurance business, was at least nominally the GM by this point), it revealed Finley’s extraordinary eye for young talent.

But we don’t have Shaw, they key to the deal from the Braves’ perspective, and much as we like Charles and Jimenez, we don’t have room for them.

So we’ll do this:

Dec. 15, 1961: Traded infielder Lou Klimchock to the Milwaukee Braves for catcher Joe Azcue.

One prospect for another, and Azcue can replace Pignatano as a reserve catcher.

1961-62 offseason: Athletics deals we will invoke

Dec., 1961: Sold pitcher Art Ditmar to the New York Mets.

The veteran had done quite poorly over the balance of 1961, and Ditmar was exactly the sort whom George Weiss was perversely collecting for his inaugural edition of the Mets.

Dec., 1961: Traded pitcher Bobby Tiefenauer to the Philadelphia Phillies for first baseman Pancho Herrera.

The knuckleballer Tiefenauer has had a real nice run for us. But we’ve got a couple of younger right-handers ready to move into our bullpen, and Herrera’s a fellow who intrigues us.

He’s a big (6-3, 220), powerful hitter, yet with enough agility to have played 17 major league games at second base, but his proclivity for the strikeout has caused the Phillies to sour on him. In November they’d traded for the veteran Roy Sievers to take over as their new first baseman, and they would send Herrera to the minors for 1962. We’re confident they’d accept Tiefenauer for Herrera instead, and we’ll give this 28-year-old Cuban a shot at our first base job. (And he’s the guy who’ll beat out Bobby Prescott.)

Jan., 1962: Traded third baseman-outfielder Dick Williams to the Baltimore Orioles for catcher Charlie Lau and pitcher Jim Lehew.

Another guy who’s had a nice long run for us, but Williams encountered an off-year in 1961, and we have younger options on hand. We know the Orioles like Williams (having actually deployed him in a utility role in both 1961 and ’62), and it’s plausible they’d have surrendered this package to acquire him. Lau was a soon-to-be 29-year-old lefty-hitting catcher who’d knocked around three organizations, never hitting a lick in the majors despite impressive minor league stats, and Lehew was a second-tier prospect.

Jan., 1962: Traded pitcher George Brunet to the Detroit Tigers for infielder Reno Bertoia.

We like the young lefty Brunet, but his development took a u-turn in 1961, and we’ve got plenty of southpaw depth. Bertoia provides a useful backup middle infield glove.

1961-62 offseason: Actual Athletics deals we will not make

Oct. 11, 1961: Sold pitcher Johnny Kucks to the Baltimore Orioles.

Oct. 11. 1961: Sold third baseman-catcher Ozzie Virgil to the St. Louis Cardinals.

We don’t have either of these guys.

Oct. 12, 1961: Released outfielder Jim Rivera.

Never signed him in the first place.

Nov., 1961: Purchased pitcher Gordon Jones from the Baltimore Orioles.

Jones is a decent enough guy to compete for a back-end-of-the-bullpen slot, but we just don’t need him.

Nov. 27, 1961: Drafted outfielder Gino Cimoli from the Milwaukee Braves in the 1961 Rule 5 draft.

Nor do we have room for this veteran defensive standout.

Dec. 4, 1961: Released pitcher Joe Nuxhall.

We didn’t acquire him.

1962 season: Actual Athletics deals we will make

May 7, 1962: Purchased outfielder George Alusik from the Detroit Tigers.

A very good minor league hitter, but the Tigers didn’t have room for him at cut-down time.* We’ll make use of him in a utility role at least until George Thomas returns from National Guard duty.

June 26, 1962: Selected infielder Billy Consolo off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels.

Necessary because of a broken hand suffered by Howser.

July 21, 1962: Traded pitcher Dan Osinski to the Los Angeles Angels for $35,000 cash and a player to be named later. (On Nov. 26, 1962, the Angels sent pitcher Ted Bowsfield to the Athletics, completing the deal.)

At the age of 28, the minor league draft pickup Osinski suddenly blossomed with a terrific year in triple-A. The actual Athletics probably shouldn’t have accepted this offer, and given Osinski a chance on their big league staff, but ours doesn’t have room for him, so, as they did, we’ll take the 35 G’s and the promise of a replacement.

1962 season: Actual Athletics deals we will modify

The actual Athletics did this:

May 12, 1962: Traded outfielder Gordie Windhorn to the Los Angeles Angels for infielder Marlan Coughtry.

Coughtry was an interesting guy, a left-handed-batting third baseman-second baseman who’d put up Eddie Yost-like walk totals in the minors. It would be fun to see what he might do in the majors. Alas, we just don’t have any room for him.

So we’ll just do this:

May 7, 1962: Sold outfielder Gordie Windhorn to the Los Angeles Angels.

Replacing him with Alusik.

1962 season: Athletics deals we will invoke

July 29, 1962: Sold outfielder George Alusik to the Los Angeles Angels.

Alusik has done well for us in his limited time, but Thomas is back as so we’ll let the Angels grab this guy off waivers.

1962 season: Actual Athletics deals we will not make

April 9, 1962: Signed pitcher Bob Grim as a free agent.

April 10, 1962: Purchased pitcher Danny McDevitt from the Minnesota Twins.

May 31, 1962: Released pitcher Bob Grim.

July 2, 1962: Sold infielder Marlan Coughtry to the Cleveland Indians.

Don’t need ‘em and never had ‘em.

July 23, 1962: Purchased outfielder Gordie Windhorn from the Los Angeles Angels.

Don’t need ‘im back.

Aug. 3, 1962: Traded pitcher Bill Kunkel and outfielder Leo Posada to the Milwaukee Braves for pitcher Orlando Peña.

Already have Peña.

Aug. 13, 1962: Purchased pitcher Moe Drabowsky from the Cincinnati Reds.

The 27-year-old Drabowsky was a former-phenom “project” at this point, but a shrewd pickup by the A’s. Our staff just doesn’t have room for him.

1962 season results

We don’t have significant changes heading into 1962. Herrera replaces Prescott as the right-handed-batting first baseman. Bertoia replaces Williams in a utility role. Lau and Azcue replace Pignatano and House as the backup catchers, and right-handed pitchers Peña and John Wyatt are promoted from the minors to replace right-handers Ditmar and Tiefenauer.

We think these tinkerings will help. But largely, we’re hoping for improved performance from the team’s central core to move us up to the next level.

  Pos   Player         Age    G  AB   R    H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
   1B   P. Herrera      28  125 382  50   96  14   0  18  56  40 106 .251 .323 .429 .753   98
   2B   J. Lumpe*       29  156 641 103  193  34  10  10  63  44  38 .301 .339 .432 .771  103
   SS   D. Howser       26   83 286  53   68   8   3   6  29  38   8 .238 .318 .350 .667   77
   3B   C. Boyer        25  158 566  60  155  24   1  23  78  49 106 .274 .328 .442 .770  102
   RF   R. Maris*       27  157 580 102  157  33   1  32  90  94  77 .271 .376 .497 .872  129
   CF   R. Snyder*      28  139 416  68  134  19   4  10  44  16  47 .322 .344 .459 .803  111
   LF   L. Wagner*      28  152 551  86  151  19   5  36  97  45  78 .274 .328 .523 .851  121
   C    D. Brown        27  117 323  27   79   9   0   9  30  15  50 .245 .278 .356 .634   67

   IF   W. Causey*      25  105 274  36   69  13   1   4  29  37  27 .252 .340 .350 .690   84
   1B   M. Throneberry* 28  101 277  30   66   9   2  12  39  31  65 .238 .311 .415 .726   91
   CF   B. Del Greco    29  110 225  36   57  14   1   6  25  33  41 .253 .368 .404 .772  105
   C    C. Lau*         29   81 197  24   60  11   2   7  37   7  11 .305 .327 .487 .814  113
   SS   B. Consolo      27   54 116   8   28   3   2   0   9  17  25 .241 .326 .302 .628   68
   OF   G. Thomas       24   37  91   7   22   5   1   2   7  10  19 .242 .324 .385 .708   87
   C    J. Azcue        22   36  74   6   15   3   0   1   6   5  10 .203 .259 .284 .543   44
   OF   G. Alusik       27   30  70  10   19   3   0   4  12   5  10 .271 .316 .486 .802  109
   IF   R. Bertoia      27   33  64   8   14   1   1   1   6   7  14 .219 .288 .313 .600   59
   OF   G. Windhorn     28   14  19   1    3   1   0   0   1   0   3 .158 .143 .211 .353   -8

        Others                   26   4    6   0   0   0   3   3   6 .231 .310 .231 .541   46

        Pitchers                433  22   63   7   0   3  26  19 166 .145 .176 .182 .358   -5

        Total                  5611 741 1455 230  34 184 687 515 907 .259 .319 .411 .730   92

        * Bats left

        Pitcher        Age    G  GS  CG    W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
        R. Terry        26   37  36  12   18  11   0 249 220 112  97   35   48  150 3.51  120
        R. Herbert      32   35  35  12   20   8   0 237 228  97  92   17   76  111 3.49  121
        H. Aguirre*     31   42  22  11   16   9   4 216 166  68  55   14   68  158 2.29  184
        O. Pena         28   30  27   9   10  10   0 192 168  78  74   21   56  125 3.47  122
        D. Segui        24   17   9   1    4   4   1  58  47  28  26    9   21   34 4.03  105

        D. Hall         31   43   6   1    6   4  11 118 107  36  34   10   19   73 2.59  163
        B. Henry*       34   40   0   0    3   3  11  37  39  21  19    5   21   33 4.62   91
        B. Daley*       29   37   9   0    5   6   2 105 110  52  47   12   21   54 4.03  105
        J. Wyatt        27   31   7   0    5   4   7  75  70  37  36    7   48   64 4.32   98
        D. Wickersham   26   27   8   2    9   3   1  88  84  42  41   10   34   49 4.19  101
        J. Archer*      30   18   1   0    0   2   0  28  40  30  29    8   10   12 9.32   45

        Others                    2   0    0   2   0  32  33  16  13    2   14   13 3.66  115

        Total                   162  48   96  66 37 1435 1312 617 563 150  436  876 3.53  120
        * Throws left

A couple of problems emerge. Howser struggles to hit in his sophomore year, and then misses virtually all of the second half with a broken hand. And southpaw Jim Archer, such a pleasant surprise as a 29-year-old rookie in 1961, implodes in ’62.

But we have the depth to compensate. Wayne Causey steps forward as an adequate substitute for Howser, and rookie Diego Segui is called up to replace Archer, and he does fine.

Maris, though still outstanding, comes back to earth following his tremendous 1960-61 performance. But Wagner and Boyer step forward as full-time power producers. Brown slumps, but Lau blossoms as a hot-hitting pinch hitter and platoon catcher. Platoon center fielders Snyder and Del Greco are spendidly productive. Lumpe delivers a career year.

But it’s on the mound that things go particularly well. Daley falters as a starter, but veteran left-hander Hank Aguirre busts out with a spectacular year, supplanting Daley in the rotation. Ralph Terry and Ray Herbert are both at their best. Peña proves to be everything we’d hoped. Dick Hall emerges as a standout reliever.

Overall our pitching staff is not only the best it’s yet been, it’s the best in the league, by a wide margin.

We aren’t just far better than the actual 1962 Athletics. This combination of a competent offense and a terrific pitching staff is enough to propel us not just to the next level, but far above it. We aren’t just a winning team. We aren’t just a pennant-contending team. We’re a pennant-winning team, eclipsing even the dynastic Yankees. We long-lowly Kansas City A’s are one of the biggest stories in baseball in 1962.

So there it is

Our 1962 championship might properly be seen as a bit of an everything-happening-right-at-once fluke. It’s a genuinely good team, but this roster doesn’t project as one likely to deliver follow-up pennants.

But the fundamental lesson of our counterfactual scenario is clear. Three of the key stars of these fancifully pennant-winning ’62 Kansas City A’s—Maris, Boyer, and Terry—were actually key stars of the actual pennant-winning ’62 New York Yankees, as all had been traded by the Athletics to New York in deals of highly questionable soundness. Erase those regrettable moves as well as a few others, and add in a sharp pickup here and some good fortune there, and the course of history might be dramatically altered.

     Actual Athletics               Virtual Athletics

      W        L  Pos       Year       W       L  Pos
      63      91   6        1955      54     100   8
      52     102   8        1956      55      99   8
      59      94   7        1957      70      83   7
      73      81   7        1958      74      80   6
      66      88   7        1959      69      85   7
      58      96   8        1960      71      83   6
      61     100   9T       1961      75      86   7
      72      90   9        1962      96      66   1

References & Resources
* Unlike current-day rules, which require each team to cut down to a 25-man active major league roster as of Opening Day, in this period the rules allowed teams to carry up to 28 players for the first 31 days following their first game. Thus the final “cut-down day” took place in mid-May, and is the explanation for countless releases, waiver claims, and other transactions that occurred in the early weeks of May in the 1940s/50s/60s.

Note that between the second and third installments of this series, we switched methodologies on determining the final won-lost record. For the 1955 through 1958 seasons, we simply used our virtual team’s Pythagorean record. But from 1959 through 1962, we incorporated the deviation from Pythag presented by each season’s actual Athletics. For the explanation of the change in methodology, please see the Comments section of Part 2.

A marvelous account of the perplexing relationship between Arnold Johnson, the Kansas City Athletics, and the New York Yankees—which all started with the circumstance that Johnson was, essentially, the Yankees’ landlord, but it was vastly more convoluted and intertwined than that term implies—is found in The Diamond in the Bronx: Yankee Stadium and the Politics of New York, by Neil J. Sullivan, New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 83-90.


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Jim G.
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Jim G.
Nice job Steve. I enjoy these series. Learned a lot about the KC A’s. I was hoping, though, you’d extend it a few years. I’m wondering, if the team had improved so much, what are the chances of them regressing for the 1964 and ‘65 seasons. I wonder because their placement would have affected their picks in the newly created amateur draft. If they don’t pick #1 in ‘65, then they don’t get Rick Monday, who was then parlayed into Ken Holtzman, a vital part of the rotation through the glory years in Oakland. And more importantly, if they finish… Read more »
Steve Treder
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Steve Treder

“No short porch in Yankee Stadium for 1/2 the games, more likely to be pitched around with Kansas City, and he’s facing the Yankee pitching staff for 18 games, not the 1961 A’s staff.”

All already factored in to the estimate.  Factored in as well is the fact that KC Municipal was a dramatically better hitting environment than Yankee Stadium.  No doubt you’re aware that Maris hit 31 of his 61 HRs on the road in 1961 (after hitting 26 of his 39 on the road in 1960).

Steve Treder
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Steve Treder
“I’m wondering, if the team had improved so much, what are the chances of them regressing for the 1964 and ‘65 seasons.” Even with problems in sustaining their 1962 success—Terry and Herbert would both regress over the next few years, Aguirre would never have another year anything like 1962, and of course Maris would start getting hurt—these A’s would still retain great advantages over the actual A’s.  My quick guess is that these A’s wouldn’t be anything close to as bad as the actual 1964-65 A’s; these guys would probably be middle-of-the-pack, winning 80-85 games a year.  In other words,… Read more »
John C
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John C

Several years ago, I read a book on the ‘61 Yankees that was authored by Ralph Houk and a ghostwriter. In the book, Houk (who had almost accepted the A’s managerial job from Finley before Stengel was let go in New York) claimed that Finley actually called him, offering to trade Bud Daley to the Yankees and asking for Ditmar in return. Houk said he was agreeable to this, so Finley contacted Yankee GM Roy Hamey and made the trade himself, without consulting Lane.

Peter
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Peter

Great series—looking forward to more!

M
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M

I would not expect Roger Maris to hit 59 homers in Kansas City.  No short porch in Yankee Stadium for 1/2 the games, more likely to be pitched around with Kansas City, and he’s facing the Yankee pitching staff for 18 games, not the 1961 A’s staff.

ksw
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ksw

and the a’s don’t move to oakland,winning, drawing, making money.

John C
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John C
No need for them to. For one thing, they drew very well in K.C. even though they were a terrible team. That’s why the city was able to get the expansion Royals not too long after the A’s left town. The real reason they left K.C. is simply because the city and its citizens were fed up with Finley, and he knew it. When he arrived in Oakland, the A’s started winning, and Finley could be tolerated when he won. If the A’s had won a pennant in ‘62 and been a good team afterwards, then Oakland probably would have… Read more »
zubin
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zubin

Great series Steve!  All of these were great.  To me, more than anything, this just shows that any ‘bad clubs’ if competently managed for the long term can produce a winner from time-to-time.

Philip
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Philip
Nicely done! While I was certain the Athletics would be improved by keeping all those Yankees, the pennant in ‘62 came as a surprise. A few things of note. I agree with Steve’s answer to ‘M’ re: Maris and would add a few educated guesses: whatever pitching around opponents would be doing with Maris will be partly balanced out by Roger getting a few more B9 at bats than he did with the actual ‘61 Yankees and also that he’ll likely face more RHPs starting against him in home games with KC than he actually faced at home with the… Read more »
Matthew Namee
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Matthew Namee

Great work, Steve! Your point about the A’s not getting high draft picks in ‘65 and ‘66 (and thus not getting Monday or Jackson) makes me wonder if an improved early ‘60s A’s team might paradoxically mean no championship early ‘70s A’s.

Philip
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Philip
Matthew brings up a good point. Without Monday and Jackson, there isn’t just a change to the Red Sox good fortunes, but the A’s will almost assuredly be a weaker team in the 1970s. Even with a 62 flag, it’s not unreasonable to assume Charlie O still moves the club to Oakland, as attendance spirals downward in mid-60s. But if they stay in KC, they’d still be in the AL West and perhaps the Royals expansion slot goes to Oakland. If so the division makeups are the same. Let’s assume the A’s move to Oakland or if they stay in… Read more »
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