Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blast from the Past: Wally Joyner

Wally Joyner

California Angels (1986-1991)
Kansas City Royals (1992-1995)
San Diego Padres (1996-1999)
Atlanta Braves (2000)
Anaheim Angels (2001)

December 5, 1979: Signed as a Free Agent with the California Angels.
Or baseball-reference could have said it like this:
December 5, 1979: The day little Jeff learned baseball is a business.

That was the day my all-time favorite Royal, Freddie Patek, left Kansas City. My 8 year old heart was broken and I realized your favorite players don't play for your favorite teams forever. So since Patek was headed out west my allegiance went with him and I became a fan of the California Angels. Of course I still liked the Royals but watching them without Freddie was sad. KC making it to World Series eased my sadness a little but it wasn't the same. After Freddie retired I still pulled for the Angels and the Royals and since those two teams owned the AL West (1976-1986 KC or Cal won the division 9 times) I was usually happy at the end of the year. But I really didn't have a favorite player, that is until Wally Joyner took over first base for the Angels.

In 1986 the Big A in Anaheim became Wally World, it was a phenomenon. He took the league by storm by hitting 20 home runs before the all-star break. He slumped badly in the second half and finished with 22 home runs and 100 rbi's. He finished 2nd in ROY voting and 8th in MVP voting. A staph infection limited him to 3 games in the ALCS but he hit .455/.538/.909 and it's easy to assume that with a healthy Joyner the Angels would have advanced to the world series.
Joyner had a career year in 1987 when he pounded 34 home runs and drove in 117. His .528 slg pct would be the highest of his career. And then for whatever reason he quit hitting home runs and had only one more 20+ home run season in his career and that was in 1991, his last with the Angels.

December 9, 1991: Signed as a Free Agent with the Kansas City Royals.
Also known as:
December 9, 1991: Jeff forgives the Royals for letting Freddie leave.

I was ecstatic, my favorite player played for my favorite team. Unfortunately Joyner had a rough first year in KC and only hit .269 with 9 home runs. He put together three very nice seasons from 93-95 hitting over .300 twice. His OBP's were .375, .386, and .394. And I am not trying to be unfair to Dougie but Joyner's defense at first base was the best ever by a Royal. He was super smooth. It seems criminal that he was never rewarded with a gold glove, maybe if he had hit a few more home runs he would have won a couple.
Joyners best game as a Royal came on July 23, 1993 when he had 2 home runs and 6 rbi's in a 7-6 win over Detroit.

And though I didn't follow the Angels quite as closely after Joyner left I was thrilled when they won the world series in 2002.

December 21, 1995: Traded by the Kansas City Royals with Aaron Dorlarque (minors) to the San Diego Padres for Bip Roberts and Bryan Wolff (minors).

This didn't bug for me two reasons:
1. I wasn't 8 years old.
2. The strike of 94-95 left me jaded and my interest in baseball was at an all-time low.

And while it didn't seem KC got their moneys worth out of Joyner he is top 10 in a few stats.
Batting average - 4th (.293)
OBP - 5th (.371)
OPS - 10th (.805)

Wally's best year for the Padres was 1997 when he hit .327/.390/.486 with 13 home runs and 83 rbi's. Wally was solid again in 1998 helping the Padres reach the world series where they were promptly embarrassed by the Yankees. In 1999 Wally had the worst year of his career posting a 89 OPS+, the first time he was ever under 100. After a so-so season with the Braves in 2000 he returned to the Angels and retired midway through the 2001 season.

While Joyner didn't have the career that many thought he would back in 1986 it was still very nice. 2060 hits, 204 home runs, 1106 rbi's, 409 doubles and a very respectable .289/.362/.440 line. Not to mention he truly was one of the nicest guys to ever play the game.


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