Sunday, November 27, 2016

TOT: Braves Trade Underappreciated Joe Adcock

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November 27, 1962 - The Milwaukee Braves traded Joe Adcock and Jack Curtis to the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later, Don Dillard and Frank Funk. The Cleveland Indians sent Ty Cline (March 18, 1963) to the Milwaukee Braves to complete the trade.

It is criminal how little love Joe Adcock receives from the Braves franchise. It's also understandable because he played with Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron, but it doesn't make it any less criminal. Only five other first basemen hit more homeruns during the 50's than Adcock, who smacked 181 - including 151 during his seven-year run to finish the decade with the Milwaukee Braves. Adcock was in the lineup during the Braves' first game after moving from Boston and played in nine World Series games for the team during the '57-'58 years.

Adcock was renowned for his power and delivered some of the most awe-inspiring moonshots of the 50's. He was the first batter to hit a homer onto the left-center field upper-deck roof of Ebbets Field. It was Adcock's arrival that gave the team a right-handed hitter to park behind Mathews' left-hand bat. His power numbers with the Braves is even more impressive because he received 500 plate appearances just once over the final half of the decade as he was platooned by the Braves. While it's questionable just how accurate splits data are for that time in baseball history, it's worth mentioning that Adcock carried a career OPS that was 25 points higher against righties than against lefties.

By 1962, though,  the Braves were rebuilding and the 35 year-old Adcock just didn't fit into the picture anymore. He still hammered 29 homeruns in 1962 with a .839 OPS, but had trouble running and was prone to breaking down. The Braves sought to get younger and a few weeks after the team was sold to the LaSalle Corporation, Adcock was traded to the Cleveland Indians.

He was one of five-players in the deal. Going to Cleveland with him southpaw 25 year-old Jack Curtis. A part of the rebuild himself, the Braves had acquired Curtis for Bob Buhl the previous April. Buhl, like Adcock, had been an integral member of the 1956-57 Milwaukee teams that had gone to the World Series, but the 33 year-old no longer was a fit for Braves. Curtis had logged 75.2 innings - mostly in relief - before the Braves included him in the Adcock trade. He would pitch just four more times in the majors - all with the Indians in 1963 - before heading back to the minors. After toiling there for a few more years, his career in affiliated baseball was over by 1968.

The Braves sought to get younger and did so in this deal. They received two players immediately and by April, received a third as the player to be named later. All three were between 25 and 28. Unfortunately, none of them would blossom as a Brave.

Don Dillard was a left-hand hitting outfielder who had struggled to find playing time for the Indians after posting impressive stats in the minors. For two years, Dillard had received around 170 plate appearances as a fourth outfielder for Cleveland, but couldn't break through even after the Indians moved Tito Francona to first and traded Jim Piersall. Dillard would again serve as a fourth outfielder for Milwaukee in 1963 and hit just .235 over 127 PA. After a year spent with Toronto, who the Braves operated as a minor league franchise with the Washington Senators, Dillard played just 20 games with the Braves in 1965 while spending much of the season with the Atlanta Crackers and Syracuse Chiefs (Triple A clubs for the Braves and Tigers respectably). His major league career was over.

Right-hander Frank Funk had spent over six years in the minors for the Giants franchise after signing as a 18-year old kid back in 1954, but was never able to make it to the majors. Finally, at the tail end of the 1960, the Indians purchased him and he made it into nine games out of the pen to finish off the year. He was a regular fixture of the Indians in 1961 and picked up 11 saves for Cleveland. The following year, he struggled and received a few less opportunities as the team could not count on him as much. That led him to be included in this trade. While an often-used pitcher out of the Braves bullpen through the season's first four months, he would make it into just five games after July 26. On the year, Funk had a 2.68 ERA, but his ratios were trending in the wrong way. He never pitched in the majors again, though he continued to pitch in the minors throughout the 60's.

And then, there was Ty Cline. Whereas Dillard and Funk had some expectations, Cline was supposed to be a star. He was a much hyped prospect from the moment the Indians signed All-American out of Clemson in 1960. He even finished that season with the Indians and would play a dozen more games with them the following season. The Indians were so convinced Cline was ready to be their everyday center fielder that they sent Jimmy Piersall to the Senators after the 1961 season. Cline had amazing speed and was a defensive whiz. If he could only hit, he would be an All-Star.

But he just couldn't do that. While gifted with speed, he wasn't gifted with the ability to utilize it as a weapon. Nor was he gifted with the ability to hit all that much. He had a .308 OBP as a rookie and a .331 slugging percentage. After arriving late to camp in 1963 due to a military commitment, Cline was beat out for his job and sent to the Braves as the player to be named later. The Braves could have used a center fielder. Lee Maye had on-based .294 the previous year himself and was tabbed to receive most of the time in center during 1963.

However, Cline never challenged him for playing time and Maye was actually pretty good in 1963 (.756 OPS). Cline hit just .236 over 190 PA with no homers. He would spend two more years as a fourth outfielder and occasional first baseman for the Braves before being sent to the minors after the 1965 season. The Cubs drafted him in the Rule 5, but the Braves would bring him back at the deadline in '66 for added depth. They sent him packing the following year and he would play for the Giants and Expos before landing a supporting role with the Big Red Machine in 1970 and 1971. Over his 12 years in the majors, Cline managed a .238/.304/.304 triple slash. Unfortunately, his time with the Braves was even worse.

Ultimately, this trade paid next to no dividends for either team. Adcock struggled through one injury-filled season with the Indians before being sent to the Angels, where Adcock would play three seasons as a platoon option at first base and hit the final 53 homeruns of his career.

Adcock was a quiet force on some very good Milwaukee Braves teams. He smashed historic homeruns and despite being mislabeled as a platoon player, he posted great stats that were comparable to many of the better first basemen of the 50's.

1 comment:

  1. Boy, the 50s were full of interchangeable first basemen.

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