RIP Joaquín Andújar

JoaquinCardinal Nation is in mourning today at the sad news of the passing of Joaquín Andújar.  Those of us who followed Cardinals baseball in the 1980s know Joaquín well.  He was a fiery, passionate pitcher, who loved the game and loved pitching.  Joaquín called himself One Tough Dominican. The St. Louis radio DJ’s called him Walking Underwear due to Joaquín’s thick accent.  It was fun watching him on and off the mound. Here’s one of my favorite stories about Joaquín from Whitey Herzog’s book You’re Missin’ a Great Game:

Ozzie still tells the damnedest stories.  Like the day in Montreal I came out to the mound to talk to talk to Goombah about pitching to Al Oliver. Ozzie’s on the mound as usual, with his arms folded, looking annoyed.  Joaquin wants to stay in there, of course, even though Oliver’s a good left-handed hitter. So I just say, “Look, I’ll leave you in, but be careful.” Joaquin looks at me like I’ve insulted his manhood.  He frowns and points at his chest. “He one tough hitter,” he says.  “Me one tough pitcher!”

Before I can even put my foot in the dugout, the ball’s going over the left centerfield fence.  And Ozzie comes back to the mound laughing, slaps Goombah on the back and says, “Hey Jack! You one tough pitcher, he one better batter!”

Joaquín started his career in 1969 after signing with the Mets, just a month shy of his 17th birthday.  He played in the Reds’ farm system for 6 years until he was traded to the Astros after the 1975 season. Joaquín made his major league debut against, ironically, the Reds in 1976. In 1977, Joaquín was named to the All-Star Game as the Astros’ representative, but could not play due to an injury he sustained in his last start before the All-Star Game.

Joaquín pitched out of the Astros’ bullpen in 1978.  He began the 1979 season in the bullpen, but was put in the starting rotation.  His work in the rotation earned him another start in the All-Star Game, but Joaquín could not attend.

In 1980, Joaquín split his pitching between the bullpen and the starting rotation.  Joaquín made his first post-season appearance in 1980 because of a one-game playoff between the Astros and the Dodgers. Joaquín got a save in game 2 of the NLCS against the Phillies. Joaquín was traded to the Cardinals for Tony Scott in 1981 just before the players’ strike.

Joaquín’s best career years were with the Cardinals.  Joaquín was put in the starting rotation after the 1981 players’ strike and had a 6-1 record.  1982 was a great year for Joaquín – he had a 15-10 record, and he pitched 265.2 innings.  Joaquín started and won game 3 of the NLCS against the Braves.  In the World Series, he started and won games 3 and 7.

Joaquín  had a career year in 1984, with a 20-14 record and a 3.34 ERA.  He also led the league in wins, innings pitched (261.1), and shutouts (4).  Joaquín was also selected to the All-Star Game for the fourth time.  He also won the Gold Glove.  Andújar was also arguably the ace of the Cardinals’ staff – in 1982 and 1984, he led the team in ERA, wins, games started, complete games, innings pitched, shutouts and strikeouts.

In 1985, Andújar was selected to the All-Star Game for the fourth time after starting with a 12-1 record.  1985 was the year of the bitter rivalry between the Cards and the Mets. The radio DJ’s back in the 1980 (namely, J.C. Corcoran and his crew) really stirred the rivalry pot, calling the Mets “pond scum.” The Cards ended up winning the NL East over the Mets and beat the Dodgers in the NLCS to get to the World Series.

Sadly, the 1985 World Series didn’t go well for Joaquín.  He started but lost game 3.  Whitey decided to go with John Tudor for game 7 due to John’s low postseason ERA.  Tudor had a rare bad start and Joaquín was called in for mop up duty. Joaquín disagreed with Don Denkinger’s bad call of a ball.  After the next call, Joaquín had to be restrained and he was ejected from the game.  Joaquín was so angry about getting ejected that he assaulted a toilet in the men’s room at Kaufmann Stadium with a bat.

In 1986, the Cards traded Joaquín to the A’s for Tim Conroy and Mike Heath,  At the beginning of the season, Joaquín served a 5 game suspension for the World Series incident. Commissioner Peter Uberroth handed out year long suspensions to those who had admitted cocaine use during the Pittsburgh drug trials, including Joaquín, who had also dealt drugs to Lonnie Smith in 1982. The suspensions were downgraded to anti-drug donations and community service.

Joaquín only pitched for the A’s in 1986 and 1987.  He came home to the Astros in 1988 and pitched in the bullpen, but made some starts due to injuries.  Joaquín signed a one year contract with the Expos in 1989, but didn’t make the team.

After retiring from baseball, Joaquín started a trucking company in his native Dominican Republic and was involved in youth baseball activities.  He passed away today at the age of 62 from complications from diabetes.  One Tough Dominican should be too tough to die, at the young age of 62 or any other age. Joaquín, my sympathies and condolences are with your family.  Thanks for the memories and thanks for the great baseball.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Diane

Bibliography:

“Joaquín Andújar,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joaqu%C3%ADn_And%C3%BAjar

You’re Missin’ a Great Game by Whitey Herzog and Jonathan Pitts, Berkley Books, 1999.

Players who really need the All-Star break

Summertime, for most of us, means vacation time.  For kids of all ages who attend school, summer is a roughly two-and-a-half month break from book work.  For those of us who work for a living, summer means time for a vacation to get away from the workplace and relax.   For baseball players, the All-Star break is their vacation unless, of course, they have been selected to play in the All-Star game.

There are 5 Cardinals who are going to the All-Star Game this week.  They have played an excellent first half and deserve to go.  Despite the Cards having one of the best records in baseball, there are still some issues with certain Cards players.  These players need to take the All-Star break to rest, regroup and/or rejuvenate.

1.        Matt Holliday –  Matt’s right hamstring cramped up on him while running to first base during a game last week.  He has been on a day-to-day basis since then.  The All-Star break will help him rest his hurting hammy and hopefully avoid a trip to the disabled list.

2.       David Freese – Freese has looked terrible at the plate lately.  He will not take a walk.    It doesn’t matter how you get on base, just that you do get on base.  If you don’t get on base, there is no possibility of a run, and without enough runs, you don’t win.

3.       Jon Jay – Jay doesn’t look so great at the plate either.  If it weren’t for Jay’s errorless streak, Taveras comes up from Memphis (that is, if his ankle holds up).

4.       Lance Lynn – Lance can’t win on the road.  There is always one inning where opposing batters seem use him for batting practice.  That’s okay if our offense can make up the runs given up.  A short break may help him get his head together.

Even with the minor difficulties listed above, the first half of the season has been great.  The Cardinals have nothing to be ashamed of.  They had the best record in baseball for a while.  The Cards had a June swoon that appears to be reversing itself.  The interleague series did not go well this year, unfortunately.

I’m looking forward to the second half of the season.  The possibility of Chris Carpenter returning is intriguing.  With the exception of a long road trip at the end of July (Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati), most of the remaining games are at home, and the Cards play best at home.  And is John Mozeliak done wheeling and dealing?  The trade deadline is July 31.

For those of us who love Cardinals baseball so much that we don’t know what to do with ourselves when a game isn’t being played, the All-Star break is too long.  But for those players not participating in the All-Star festivities, it’s time to go for them to go home to their families and enjoy a little R&R time so they’re ready to go for the second half of the season and hopefully, a playoff run.

I’ll enjoy tonight’s game, hoping to see Adam Wainwright pitch another masterpiece.  The All-Star break will help me look even more forward to Friday night’s game and the resumption of the season.  I hope it will for you too.

Thanks for reading!  See you next time!

Diane

Rock the vote!

The All-Star vote, that is.  The front runners in the NL All-Star Game vote were announced today and there are no Cardinals players on the list.  Not even our beloved Yadier Molina, the best catcher in baseball, who was the recipient of the 2012 Gold Glove and the 2012 Platinum Glove, is #1 on the list.  Yadi trails the Giants’ Buster Posey by 300,000 votes.  This is a travesty.  The Cardinals have the best record in baseball and none of their players are in the lead at their positions.

There is a way to rectify this and you can help.  If you have not filled out your All-Star ballot, do it now! You do not have to attend a Major League game to get a paper All-Star Game ballot, although you certainly can if you’re able to get to a game. You can place your All-Star Game ballot vote online.  This is much easier and there are no possibilities of “hanging chads.”  You can vote up to 25 times per email address.  If you hook up your ballot to your MLB.com account, you can vote an additional 10 times.  Okay, maybe that’s stuffing the ballot box.  LOL!  Here’s the direct link to the All-Star Game ballot:  http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/all_star/y2013/ballot.jsp?tcid=ASG13_News_Stack

You can’t vote for pitchers, since those are chosen by the AL and NL team managers, but you can vote for position players (and the DH for the American League).  The Cards have several deserving players.  Besides the aforementioned Mr. Molina, Carlos Beltran deserves to be an All-Star.  He has been awesome this season.  Carlos is currently 4th in the outfield voting field.  Matt Carpenter has been playing quite well at 2B.  If I could vote for pitchers, I would vote for Lance Lynn as a starter and Edward Mujica as the closer.  They both have great records this year.

As you may know, whichever league wins the All-Star Game gets home field advantage in the World Series.  The National League has won the last three All-Star Games and (you guessed it) the National League has won the last three World Series – 2010, Giants; 2011, Cardinals; and 2012, Giants. (Hey, that means it’s the Cards’ turn again!  LOL!)  So we want to make sure that we load the All-Star Game with Cardinals players.

So just in case you missed it above, here’s the link to the online All-Star Game ballot again: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/all_star/y2013/ballot.jsp?tcid=ASG13_News_Stack.  Remember, vote early, vote often and vote Cardinals!  Don’t forget, All-Star Game voting ends July 7.  Drop me a note in the comment section below and let me know you voted.  Thanks for reading! See you next time!

Diane