Friday, November 11, 2011

A bad-ass human target


The newest member of the "I'm Bad-ass and You're Not" Club is Don Baylor. Hit him as hard as you can. He ain't going down.

When I last saw Baylor, I didn't like him very much. It was during that flap between Hong-Chih Kuo and spaz-punk Gerardo Parra last season. After Parra's infuriating preening after homering of Kuo -- who had thrown wildly in the general direction of Parra earlier in the at-bat -- you could see the Diamondbacks braintrust lip-flapping in the dugout as they jawed with the understandably upset Dodgers. Baylor, the hitting coach for Arizona, chewing on a toothpick, looked positively evil.

How funny, I thought then, that Baylor would be so fired up over what began as a very tenuous brush-back. Wasn't this the guy who got hit 267 times during his career and shrugged off every one?

Baylor is one of the all-time greats at getting hit by a pitch. Only three other players in history subjected their body to one of baseball's most painful practices more than him. Perhaps just as importantly, Baylor is one of the few sluggers -- protege Frank Robinson is another -- among the top 10 all-time hit batters. Baylor was not afraid to to sacrifice the body that also produced so much power.

He led the league in getting hit by a pitch eight times, beginning in 1973 with Baltimore. He also led the league in HBPs with Oakland, California, the New York Yankees and Boston. He seemed to relish his willingness to be plunked as his career advanced. The greatest concentration of HBPs in his career came between 1984-87, the back third of his career. He was hit by a pitch 110 times during that span -- more than 40 percent of his career total.

In 1986, while with Boston, he set a single-season record by getting hit 35 times. It was so impressive and so bad-ass that he landed a piece in People magazine, of all places.

But where Baylor was at his most bad-ass, and most impressive, was in his attitude about getting hit by a pitch.

Baylor never consider an HBP as an affront, as an assault on his manhood, as being shown up, played, or whatever too many players of the last couple of decades choose to interpret from a ball that ends up striking them. To my knowledge, Baylor never charged the mound (he got a little big late in his career, so perhaps that wasn't an option). It just wasn't his mind-set.

In that People magazine article, Baylor famously said:

"My first goal when I go to the plate is to get a hit. My second goal is to get hit."

Baylor was simply old school, which in this case means he was sensible. Baylor crowded the plate. Getting hit -- and not raising a stink about it -- accomplished two things. First, it got him on base. Second, it showed the pitcher that being hit by a ball wasn't going to affect the way he went about his job. The next at-bat, Baylor was back  in the batter's box, crowding the plate.

It worked, too. I was a huge fan of Baylor's when he won the American League MVP in 1979 with 36 home runs and 139 RBIs. He piled up 338 home runs in his career. No doubt a few of those home runs were in the same game in which he got hit by a pitch. I don't know who has the most games in which they both homered and were hit by a pitch, but I bet Baylor is right up there.

Now, that's bad-ass.

Baylor ended up managing and coaching for some teams I don't enjoy. There were also those few years for the Yankees during the '80s. And then that whole "I'm a Man" showcase with Parra last year. So I'm not the fan of him that I was in 1979.

But I'm looking at body of work on the field here when I select Bad Ass club members.

And because Baylor got hit 267 times in his career and refused to be intimidated or act like "getting an owie" was a big deal, he is now the 11th member of the "I'm Bad Ass and You're Not" Club.

Welcome.

I'm sure you and fellow Bad-Ass member Nolan Ryan have a lot to discuss. Especially when he drilled that fastball into your wrist in '73.

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Thanks, all, for voting for the best Ron Cey Dodger card. Cey was HBP only 62 times in his career -- although he was famously drilled in the helmet by a Rich Gossage pitch during the World Series and lived to tell about it.

If that's not bad-ass, I'm not sure what is.

But on to the voting -- in reverse order.

The 1981 Topps and 1983 Donruss Cey cards received one vote apiece.

The 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1983 Topps cards received two votes each.

The 1982 In Action Topps card received three votes.

The 1976 Topps card received six votes


The 1977 Topps card received 10 votes.


The 1974 Topps card received 12 votes and was leading for most of the poll.


But the 1975 Topps card staged a late comeback and received 13 votes and is the best Cey card of all-time.

What a coincidence.

It's my all-time favorite card.

No, I did not tinker with the results. Not even a little.

8 comments:

  1. When I first started watching baseball on a daily basis, Baylor had just come to the Yankees. I was so super impressed with his getting hit by pitches. I loved it. One of the first things I learned about baseball was that very point by Baylor's example -- doesn't matter how you get on base, just do it. So it always puzzled me why players would move out of the way or get mad. Personally, if I was big leaguer, I'd tip my hat to the pitcher after getting smacked in the ribs. Of course, the next time up, I'd probably get hit again because I tipped my hat... well, if they want to keep putting me on base, let 'em!

    I always have this vision in my head of Baylor standing in the afternoon sunlight at Yankee, and the ball just sails in and smacks his bicep. He just nonchalantly heads for 1st. That is so cool!

    ...and the '77 Topps Cey should've won :-P

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  2. Great selection of THE card that certifies Baylor as a bad-ass.

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  3. I'm late to the party, and it won't affect the outcome, but I vote for the '87 OPC Cey.

    http://ohmyopc.blogspot.com/2011/07/1987-ron-cey.html

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  4. Dammit, 1985 needs more votes in the poll at the right. I am going to be pissed if it doesn't win. What did I ever do to deserve this?

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  5. *Pondering how messed up a '71/'85 blog would be*

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  6. Not as messed up as your face will be if 85 doesn't win the poll.

    :)

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  7. You're starting to remind me of the calls I get at work.

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  8. Good, maybe you'll take things seriously now.

    :)

    word verification: olympicsubset

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