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Sunday, March 09, 2014

Holmes: Number one pick Mike Ivie battled emotional troubles in career that ended with the Tigers

Operation Ivie: Turn it around!

When you’re a first round selection in the Major League Baseball amateur draft, there are expectations. When you’re the overall #1 pick, those expectations are high. In 1970, Mike Ivie was that #1 pick, but he never lived up to the expectations, not in two stops with pro clubs in California, not with the Houston Astros, nor in a final, last-ditch trial with the Detroit Tigers. As a result, the once promising prospect’s career was over at the age of 30.

...Though Ivie was named to the NL All-Rookie team in 1975, he never matured as a hitter with the Padres. His practice game rarely showed up for the real games. In more than 1,300 AB’s for San Diego, Ivie hit only 25 home runs. He hit hundreds in BP and dozens more in spring training, often sending baseballs soaring so far that the opposing team was stunned. But Ivie couldn’t get it together in the big leagues. Also, not so quietly, Ivie experienced some emotional problems early in his career. He had difficulty handling the catcher position in the minor leagues, even when the Padres tried several former catchers to help him learn the nuances of “handling a game.” At times, Ivie seemed to “check out”, sort of going through the motions. He complained that he couldn’t concentrate, and after the Padres had an eye specialist examine him, he was prescribed contact lenses. They thought maybe an astigmatism was bothering his focus. But Ivie only continued to struggle with the mental part of the game. When he went into slumps he could go days in a funk, barely interacting with the team. Most troubling, he developed a problem throwing the baseball back to the pitcher from behind the plate. On one occasion in a game against the New York Mets, Ivie threw the ball into left field on several hops, startling the left fielder, who thought the ball had been hit into play. As his struggles grew, frustration compounded the issue.

...Ivie never got back into professional baseball after the Tigers let him go, which was ultimately fine with him. The pressure was just too much. Maybe it was the expectations he had placed on him as a teenager, or maybe it was something mental. Ivie thought his problems started early in his life.

“It goes back a long way to my childhood,” Ivie told Joseph Durso of the New York Times in 1981. “I was an only child, and everybody expected me to be the best player in the world. My dad wanted me to be the best in the Little League. You know, you’re supposed to go 6 for 5. The pressure started building up.”

Repoz Posted: March 09, 2014 at 09:33 AM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   1. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: March 09, 2014 at 10:12 AM (#4668525)
In 1970, Mike Ivie was that #1 pick

Shouldn't I-vie had been #4?
   2. Publius Publicola Posted: March 09, 2014 at 12:43 PM (#4668591)
Wasn't Ivie diagnosed with bi-polar disorder? I think I read that somewhere.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: March 09, 2014 at 04:43 PM (#4668709)
I'd forgotten about him starting as a C. But I see they shifted him at 19 so it doesn't seem similar to Montero, etc.

I also see the Padres gave him a cup of coffee at 18 ... and he went 8 for 17. Imagine being 18 and going 8 for 17 in the big leagues ... I'd think I was a god.

And I also see (but didn't remember) that his offensive struggles are overstated. From 23-26 he put up a 127 OPS+ in about 1800 PA. Given the parks in SD and SF, that 170 ISO looks just fine for that era.

His problem was that he never could hit RHP.

And I always confuse Mike Ivie and Mike Vail.
   4. stratosaur Posted: March 09, 2014 at 05:30 PM (#4668733)
Opening Day, 1980. Giants were playing in San Diego. The San Diego fans had really turned on Mike Ivie since he was viewed as a disappointment then had a big 1978 and 1979 with the Giants. He didn't want to catch or play third and kind of forced a move to first then out of town. In retrospect considering how tough it was to hit in San Diego Stadium he had not fared all that badly but there was a lot of hype to live up to.

He wore a batting helmet in the field that night. I was one of the thousands booing him every time up. He still had two hits but when he dropped an easy foul fly near the stands he drew a thunderous ovation. You could tell by his body language that it really bothered him (we were sitting close by). He kind of deflated but played out the game.

According the game logs on BBR he missed the next 8 games and never played another one in San Diego despite spending the rest of 1980 and part of 1981 in the NL West (Giants, Astros).

Sometimes you forget that players are human beings too and many can't handle the abuse a crowd can throw at them. Who knows what kind of impact that had on him along with the pinky injury.

Interesting archival article on Ivie from July 1980 SI Article on Ivie from July 1980
   5. Publius Publicola Posted: March 09, 2014 at 06:03 PM (#4668748)
Danny Thomas too. Now there's a really sad story.
   6. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: March 09, 2014 at 07:34 PM (#4668783)
Interesting archival article on Ivie from July 1980 SI Article on Ivie from July 1980


From article:

Coach Jim Lefebvre, who said, "Ivie is a deserter. If he pulled something like this in the Army, he'd have a bullet hole in the back of his head."


Yikes.

   7. Cblau Posted: March 09, 2014 at 08:10 PM (#4668793)
Danny Thomas too. Now there's a really sad story.


True. He never should have done that Make Room for Granddaddy series. What an embarrassment.
   8. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: March 09, 2014 at 09:51 PM (#4668836)
Danny Thomas too. Now there's a really sad story.

True. He never should have done that Make Room for Granddaddy series. What an embarrassment.


Getting back to Ivie, sometimes a top prospect can't make it through a glass table.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: March 10, 2014 at 12:46 AM (#4668878)
He didn't want to catch or play third and kind of forced a move to first then out of town.

In fairness ...

As I mentioned, they moved him off of C at 19 and he never played it again in the minors. They moved him to 1B for 19-20 then added some OF at 21. B-R lists him with just 11 games and 14 chances at 3B in the minors through 21 (14 chances suggesting these were late-inning shifts).

So the idea of shifting him to 3B and especially back to C in the majors was a bit far-fetched if not downright dumb. For his ML career, he had -9 Rtot in half a season of starts at 3B but was average at 1B in 470 starts.

The main thing was the Padres didn't draft and develop well. Name, draft position, career WAR, 1st round picks:

70 Ivie 1 7.2
71 Jay Franklin 2 -.2
72 Dave Roberts 1 .4
73 Dave Winfield 4 64
74 Bill Almon 1 4.7
75 Mike Lentz 2 never made the majors

As somebody mentioned in another thread, Ivie, Almon and Roberts are three of the all-time #1 busts. Not including guys picked in the last 4 years, Lentz is one of just 4 #2 picks never to make the majors and Franklin is among the 7 worst that did. 3 #1 and 2 #2 over 6 years and they all bust. At least they got Winfield right.

The top of that 73 draft was weird:

Clyde 1 WAR
Stearns 20
Yount 77
Winfield 64
Tufts (not that one) DNP
LeMaster -5 WAR
Taylor DNP
Roenicke 15
Olsen DNP
Rockett -5 WAR
Bane -1
Edelen -1
Heinhold DNP
Mazzilli 15
crap after that.

Those 24 totaled 179 WAR, over 2/3 of it in 2 players. Maybe that's not worse than usual but I'm guessing it's a pretty extreme distribution. Two guys at -5 career WAR -- how often can that happen? 8 of the 24 never made the majors and another 7 posted negative WAR.
   10. Yellow Tango Posted: March 10, 2014 at 12:55 AM (#4668879)
The SI article makes that clubhouse sound really toxic.
   11. Sunday silence Posted: March 10, 2014 at 02:07 AM (#4668894)
On one occasion in a game against the New York Mets, Ivie threw the ball into left field on several hops, startling the left fielder, who thought the ball had been hit into play.


...because he was so beaned up on pots of greenie coffee.

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