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Sunday, June 01, 2014

Ferkovich: Why I’ll never sell my Mark Fidrych rookie card

Crying, Waiting, Hoping, Collecting.

I began carrying my Mark Fidrych card around in my wallet once I’d reached my mid-teens. It became a kind of shopworn talisman, endowed with the power to remind me, at a glance, of younger, longer summers.

As I grew older, this began to bother me a bit. After all, I wasn’t a kid anymore. Why should I be carrying a tattered baseball card around? But then, sometime in the early 1990s, I read that Bob Costas, the TV sports personality, had been carrying a 1950s-era Mickey Mantle baseball card in his wallet for decades. Thus, Costas unwittingly became my enabler. Mark Fidrych stayed in my wallet. Heck, if it was good enough for Bob Costas, it was good enough for me.

Bill James, the noted baseball historian and sabermatrician, wrote, “It was always very unlikely that Mark Fidrych would have a career of more than a few seasons. There is simply no such thing as a starting pitcher who has a long career with a low strikeout rate.” James is a pretty smart guy, and he may be correct in his prognostication of The Bird. Suppose Fidrych had remained healthy, pitched ten or eleven years, but been mostly a .500 pitcher? What if, at some point, he’d been a contract holdout? What if he’d signed a long-term deal with the Yankees? What if the business of baseball had eventually hardened him, causing him to lose his boyish enthusiasm? Surely his legacy would be different today.

But that never happened, which is what makes the allure of Mark Fidrych so strong, even after nearly 40 years. He is the Buddy Holly of baseball. The Bird died in a freak accident in 2009 at the young age of 54. And yet we still cherish our image of him as he was in1976. Even though we have collectively grown up and changed, we can convince ourselves that The Bird, in our own version of reality, never did.

I still have his rookie card, but I stopped carrying it in my wallet long, long ago. It is now encased in a vinyl holder, in a box with other cards, in a closet at home. Given its shabby condition, it has no monetary value whatsoever. I have many baseball cards that would sell for serious money, if I ever decided to part with them, but my 1977 Topps Mark Fidrych (#265) is worth more to me than any of them.

Repoz Posted: June 01, 2014 at 09:57 AM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, tigers

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   1. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: June 01, 2014 at 10:06 AM (#4716785)
I own exactly one celebrity autograph: Mark Fidrych's. It's on my wall, and I'm looking at it as I type this.

“It was always very unlikely that Mark Fidrych would have a career of more than a few seasons. There is simply no such thing as a starting pitcher who has a long career with a low strikeout rate.”

True, but. If the Bird's K/9 rate increased just a little bit, and he continued to do what he was doing -- pound the ball down low, don't walk people and don't give up homers -- he could've been fairly successful, especially with Trammell and Whitaker behind him. And it's not like he was just getting by; he had a 9.6 WAR in 1976. Surely a string of 4-5 WAR seasons wasn't unreasonable if he had stayed healthy.

It's hard to say what a healthy Bird would've done; most of his comps were dead-ball pitchers, and not nearly as good. I'm not saying the guy would've been a Hall of Famer, but a Jimmy Key-type career certainly was a possibility.
   2. Greg K Posted: June 01, 2014 at 10:47 AM (#4716795)
The neutralized numbers on B-Ref just adjust run environment right? They don't neutralize strikeout rates over eras?

I was trying to find the easiest way to measure Fidrych's strikeout rates as relative to league average vs. guys like Key or Buehrle.

Another one I could never figure out is Henderson Alvarez. He throws mid-90s with crazy movement (or at least he did in Toronto) but strikes almost nobody out.
   3. They paved Misirlou, put up a parking lot Posted: June 01, 2014 at 10:53 AM (#4716796)
Why I’ll never sell my Mark Fidrych rookie card
.
.
.

Given its shabby condition, it has no monetary value whatsoever.


Well, there you go.
   4. toratoratora Posted: June 01, 2014 at 11:14 AM (#4716805)
Alvarez still leaves that impression. I was doing some research on him ( potential fantasy pickup) and ran across a quote from one of the marlins that essentially said the guy has crazy good stuff, mad movement, should be fernandez lite yet somehow doesnt get any K's. He's a baffling pitcher
   5. Shibal Posted: June 01, 2014 at 02:13 PM (#4716873)
Next article up:

Why I'll never sell my old high school basketball shoes.

   6. Greg K Posted: June 01, 2014 at 04:39 PM (#4716935)
The reason I'll never sell my old baseball cards is that:

A) Me and my brother played hundreds of games with them, pushing the cards along the concrete floor in the basement as they chased fly balls or stole bases, so they are not in great shape.

B) For one whole set we got the stupendously stupid notion that it would be a good idea to fake sign each card as the player. On a related note we also disfigured every Dennis Rasmussen card we had by scratching out his face and drawing a cartoon animal we named "Deflater Mouse" instead.

C) I love them.
   7. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: June 01, 2014 at 04:50 PM (#4716943)
There is simply no such thing as a starting pitcher who has a long career with a low strikeout rate.

Kirk Rueter made regular starts for 13 seasons, won 130 games, striking out 3.8 per nine.
   8. Swedish Chef Posted: June 01, 2014 at 05:02 PM (#4716956)
“It was always very unlikely that Mark Fidrych would have a career of more than a few seasons. There is simply no such thing as a starting pitcher who has a long career with a low strikeout rate.”

There are pitchers who raise their SO rate significantly. Curt Schilling had 5.8 in his first full season. Randy Johnson went from 7-something to 12 as he got older.
   9. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: June 01, 2014 at 06:09 PM (#4716989)
Kirk Rueter made regular starts for 13 seasons, won 130 games, striking out 3.8 per nine.


As did Scott McGregor, who debuted in the same season and same division as the Bird.

   10. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 01, 2014 at 06:17 PM (#4716993)
If the Bird's K/9 rate increased just a little bit, and he continued to do what he was doing -- pound the ball down low, don't walk people and don't give up homers -- he could've been fairly successful, especially with Trammell and Whitaker behind him.


Fidrych did raise his K rate in his abbreviated second season, and was almost as good as he was in his first season, putting up a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts. He struck out 4.7 per nine innings in 1977, against a league average of 5.0.

The Bird was a lot like Kevin Brown. Brown struck out 4.9 per nine in his fist full season, against a league average of 5.5. I don't see any reason a healthy Fidrych couldn't have had Kevin Brown's career. Plus, he was awesome.
   11. Morty Causa Posted: June 01, 2014 at 07:19 PM (#4717016)
I think a twenty-one-year-old who puts up numbers like Mark did his rookie year is entitled to a lot more respect than he seems to generally get. Check out his game logs for 1977. He didn't pitch in '77 until May 27, and they started him off with a 9-inning stint. He pitched 7 times in June, six times going 9 innings. His strikeouts seem to be up from '76. But, check the number of times he pitched in '76 as a rookie (his first start wasn't until May 5, and he completed almost all his starts. Nowadays, what they demanded of him in his rookie and sophomore season (coming off an injury) would seem crazy/criminal.
   12. TJ Posted: June 01, 2014 at 07:47 PM (#4717022)
I think it depends on what you consider a "long career". Would a 10-year career with a WAR around 40 be considered long enough? That's about what Mel Stottlemyre posted, and I can see a scenario where a healthy Fidrych could have done something similar. Not a HOF career, but a nice career nonetheless...
   13. PreservedFish Posted: June 02, 2014 at 12:52 AM (#4717140)
Fidrych doubters can waddle over to Fangraphs to see what his WAR looks like when BABIP is assumed to be entirely luck-driven. He had a 4.8 WAR in his rookie year and 2.7 WAR in his next year, in 11 starts. Conveniently, the healthy starters of 2014 are all around 11 starts, and only two of them have more than 2.7 WAR. I think it's fair to say that he was a stud.

The trick for pitchers like this (Henderson Alvarez too) is HR rate - if you can induce truly weak contact, then you don't really need to strike anyone out.
   14. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: June 02, 2014 at 02:44 AM (#4717149)
Why I'll never sell my old high school basketball shoes.


Not just any old basketball shoes, but the original air jordans from 1984. Of course they are all tattered, worn and scuffed up from many pick up games and general wear and tear, but they are cool and not worth anything...and I won't sell them!
   15. Booey Posted: June 02, 2014 at 03:04 PM (#4717512)
The reason I'll never sell my old baseball cards is that:

A) Me and my brother played hundreds of games with them, pushing the cards along the concrete floor in the basement as they chased fly balls or stole bases, so they are not in great shape.

B) For one whole set we got the stupendously stupid notion that it would be a good idea to fake sign each card as the player. On a related note we also disfigured every Dennis Rasmussen card we had by scratching out his face and drawing a cartoon animal we named "Deflater Mouse" instead.

C) I love them.


D) Baseball cards aren't worth crap anymore, not even if they were in mint condition.

That last one makes me sad. I have thousands of cards from the late 80's and early 90's that are basically worthless from a monetary standpoint.
   16. Ron J2 Posted: June 02, 2014 at 04:00 PM (#4717562)
#15 I gave a pile from that period to my nephew -- then 11. He was extremely happy to have them.

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