Thursday, January 13, 2011

The 1887 World Series: Von der Ahe's Reaction

Chris Von der Ahe says his team is getting some of the "big head" knocked out of it, and he thinks the men will be more reasonable next spring when asked to sign for another season.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 23, 1887

I think this speaks to something Comiskey once said about the reason for the player sales after the 1887 season. Comiskey specifically mentioned that one of the reasons for the sales was that some of the players' egos were out of control and that it was hurting the club. The hold-outs, the complaining about playing time, the stuff they pulled over the Cuban Giants exhibition and all of that was a problem and Von der Ahe and Comiskey attempted to address these issues by selling off some of the problem players. Caruthers was always carping about money. Bushong had problems with Boyle cutting into his playing time. Welch was a drunk and had problems getting along with some of his teammates. So they got rid of them. Foutz doesn't seem to fit into that pattern but he was sold off because the club thought, because of his injuries, that he was finished as a pitcher. The ironic thing is that, by 1889, the problems got much worse.

Von der Ahe has been complaining of the umpiring of Kelly, claiming that the Browns have got the worst of it all through. The Detroit players laugh at this, as they declare that the Wolverines have had two close decisions given against them where the Browns have had one.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 23, 1887

The problem, of course, was that Kelly lacked vim, nerve and grit. They should have gotten David Eckstein to umpire the series.


David Ball said...

Jeff, starting in the fall of 1886 and then continuing through the 1887/88 off season, Chicago engaged in the same kind of mass selloff of established players as Von der Ahe did.

Neither team won a pennant again for many years, but my view of the Chicago situation is that they did acquire a lot of young talent to replace their veterans, nd the team probably would have gone downhill faster if they had stood pat and made only a few changes.

Do you have an opinion as to whether that same proposition would be true of the Browns?

Jeffrey Kittel said...

Well, after the sales, the Browns were still a contending club until the 1892 season. They won in 1888, probably should have won in 1889 (which I'll get to in a second), were competative in 1890 even after losing the core of the club to the PL and then finished second in 1891. That's a solid decade of winning baseball before things fell apart. I don't think any club can sustain that kind of winning without bringing in new talent over time.

The Browns were good at doing this. They made a lot of changes between the 1883 club, which finished second, and the 1886 club which won the world series. The 1888 club, of course, is vastly different than the 1886 club. The only real constants on the club throughout this period was Comiskey, O'Neill and Latham. Everybody else was replaceable.

Would they have been a contending club in 1888-1891 if they hadn't made any moves? I think they probably would have. The 1887 team was reasonably young, with most players being between 23 and 27. That club should have been able to contend for the rest of the decade.

But 1889 and 1890 was really a watershed for the club. The 1889 season was just chaos and you probably know some of the stuff that was going on already. But that club was at war with itself and with management. A lot of the problems that first manifested themselves in 1887 became worse in 1889. But I think they would have won the pennant if they had traded Latham before the season (he and King were probably the two biggest problems). 1890 was the Players' Revolt and, according to VdA, the club lost money, which may have had a long-term effect on how VdA managed the club.

By 1891, Comiskey and O'Neill returned but were both on the wrong side of thirty. It's an interesting club with a lot of good young players on it. I think that club, if kept together, would have been very competative for a few years. I'm not exactly sure what happened between 1891 and 1892 but the Browns had a completely different club in 1892 and it wasn't a good club.

So I guess the bottom line is that the Browns were always making changes between 1883 and 1892 and that was important in keeping the team competative over the decade. Some moves worked, some didn't but they kept a core of players in place and built around them for ten years. By 1892, that core was done and it was never replaced.