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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Strubel: Tim “Terrific” Leary and the subtle danger of talent

Turn on, tune in, flame out…a look back at Tim Leary.

It was a typical cold, windy 46-degree Sunday at Wrigley Field in Chicago. It was a day filled with hope for the Mets. Hopeful that rookie Tim Leary would be all the things he was promoted to be, hopeful the 22-year old would not feel overwhelmed by the pressure, hopeful that they were witnessing the beginning of “the next Seaver.”

Leary struck out Ivan DeJesus swinging and Joe Strain looking at a called third strike. Two batters, two strikeouts and now hope was floating in the Windy City. Bill Buckner grounded out and Mets fans were confused. Was this Tim Leary or Tom Seaver?

In the second inning, after Steve Henderson lined out and Bull Durham struck out, Cubs third baseman Ken Reitz worked walked. Leary threw a wild pitch and Reitz moved to second. But Leary retired Scot Thompson on a fly ball to end the inning.

Did you see it? What … the wild pitch?

No. Leary felt “a searing pain” in his elbow as he worked to Reitz. Something was wrong, really wrong. “I felt some pain in my arm on the way north,” remembered Leary.

Repoz Posted: December 25, 2010 at 07:52 PM | 5 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dodgers, history, mets, royals

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: December 26, 2010 at 12:43 AM (#3717889)
Joe Strain

Whoa! You usually have to work pretty hard to find a Cub name that doesn't even sound familiar. And this guy was an opening day 2B!

Man what a Metsian collection of 2B we had that year (1981 explaining the low PA totals):

Strain: 80 PA, 28 OPS+
Tabler: 117, 54
Dillard: 127, 70
Mike Tyson: 50, 45
Fletcher: 48, 55

Total: 193/249/269; 54?
   2. Rafael Bellylard: The Grinch of Orlando. Posted: December 27, 2010 at 04:02 AM (#3718257)
I remember Joe Strain when he came up with the Giants. I have no idea why.

I was in a APBA Card League for the 1990 season and I inherited a team in which the previous owner had an apparent fetish for relievers and switch-hitters. Sadly, Leary (ERA+: 97) was my second-best starter behind Bob Welch. I had such luminaries as Chuck Cary, Jim Abbott and Kevin Gross rounding out the rotation.

Fortunately, I had Eckersley, Randy Myers and Greg Harris (the good one) for a bullpen.

I found some of the old stat sheets from that league (amazing what you don't throw away), and was sadly reminded of what may have been the worst bench of all time. Alex Trevino, Cecil Espy, Junior Felix, Wayne Tolleson and the immortal Curtis Wilkerson.
   3. Downtown Bookie Posted: December 27, 2010 at 05:25 AM (#3718269)
I clicked on TFA, and I'm not sure if it was unintentionally truncated, or if it was intended to be a first part of several; but it stops the Tim Leary story in 1984, which IMHO creates a misleading impression about Leary's career. There are also some other issues with the article. From TFA:

Leary was selected out of UCLA in the first-round (second overall) by the Mets in the June 1979 Draft. Less than two years later, at age 22, Leary made his major league debut. It lasted seven batters.

According to Leary was born in March of 1958; making him 23; not 22, when he made his MLB debut in April of 1981. I think it's fair to say that 23 is not really all that "young" for someone making a MLB debut. Also in the article:

Torre and Gibson knew they'd have to convince GM Frank Cashen to get Leary on the 25-man roster. Cashen was staunchly conservative in his approach to promoting young, developing arms.

Just for reference's sake, also on the Mets roster in 1981 was 23 year old Neil Allen, who already had two MLB seasons under his belt (along with 13-20 MLB record, plus 30 MLB Saves). Ron Darling was 22 when he joined the big club in 1983. Darling would start 33 games for the Mets the next year, at the age of 23 (the same age Leary was in 1981). That same 1984 season, Sid Fernandez, at the age of 21, started 15 games for the Mets. And, of course (as mentioned in the article) there was Dwight Gooden, who made his MLB debut with the Mets in 1984 at the age of 19. So I'm not really sold on the idea the Mets GM Frank Cashen was "staunchly conservative in his approach to promoting young, developing arms" and was the type who needed to be "convinced" to promote a 23 year old pitcher to the MLB roster.

But more to the point, not mentioned in TFA is that Leary went on to pitch in 13 MLB seasons. Leary had three seasons where he pitched over 200 innings (1988, 1989 and 1990). He was the winner of the 1988 "Comeback Player of the Year" award, going 17-11 for the World Champion Dodgers (including this one-hitter against the Phillies). So while Leary's injury may have kept him from being the next Tom Seaver, a Major League career of 13 seasons and close to 1500 Innings Pitched is nothing to sneeze at.

   4. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: December 27, 2010 at 04:20 PM (#3718347)
This is my only knowledge of Joe Strain, but his picture haunts me.
   5. . . . . . . Posted: December 27, 2010 at 05:49 PM (#3718374)
a Major League career of 13 seasons and close to 1500 Innings Pitched is nothing to sneeze at.

Especially if you're tripped out as #### on LSD the entire time.

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