Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Trades: Frank Robinson to the Orioles (Dec. 1965)

(The second in an occasional series about some of the big trades during the 1960s.)

On December 9, 1965 the Cincinnati Reds traded 10-year veteran Frank Robinson (their starting right fielder, a 6-time all-star, and the 1961 National League MVP) to the Baltimore Orioles for pitchers Milt Pappas and Jack Baldschun, and outfielder Dick Simpson.

Who got the better of this deal? In his first season with the Orioles, Robinson won the Triple Crown and AL MVP, and the Orioles won the World Series, so is there any need for debate? Let's look anyway:

Robinson had been a starter for the Reds since his rookie season. Primarily the right fielder, he was the regular left fielder in '56, '57, and '63, the regular 1st baseman in 1959, and in '58, '60, and '61 he split time between various outfield spots and 1st base. In the mid-1960s, the Reds had an abundance of good position players in Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Deron Johnson, Tommy Harper, youngsters Tommy Helms and Lee May, along with defensive specialists Vada Pinson and Chico Cardenas. What they lacked was good pitching. I guess they felt that after 10 years, Robinson would soon begin his decline, and therefore was the expendable one.

After the trade, Robinson won the 1966 Triple Crown and MVP, while leading the Orioles to their first-ever World Series appearance. The next season, he followed that up by batting .311 and hitting 30 homers and tallying 94 RBI, all while missing the month of July due to injuries. He would have 6 good seasons with the Orioles, then move on to the Dodgers and Angels before wrapping up with the Indians, first as a player, then as a player-manager for 2 seasons, before going on to manage the Giants, Orioles, Expos, and Nationals.

Righthander Milt Pappas had won in double figures for 8 straight seasons, and never turned in a losing season. After the trade, Milt had 2 good seasons with the Reds, then in mid-1968 was traded to the Braves in a 6-player deal that brought (among others) reliever Clay Carroll, who proved to be an important cog in the Big Red Machine of the 1970s. Pappas spent a few sub-par seasons with the Braves before resurrecting his career with the Cubs.

Jack Baldschun and Dick Simpson never played for the Orioles. In fact, they were each acquired (in separate trades) in the week leading up to the Robinson trade.

Baldschun had been the Phillies' bullpen ace from 1962 to 1965. He was acquired by the Orioles (for veteran outfielder Jackie Brandt and pitching prospect Darold Knowles) 3 days before being shipped on to Cincinnati. After the trade, Jack had 2 poor seasons in Cincinnati, followed by a complete season (1968) in the minors. He then moved on to the Padres.

Simpson had played in the Angels' minor-league system from 1961 to 1965, with brief callups to the Angels during those years. Seven days before the Robinson trade, Baltimore sent their 1965 starting 1st baseman Norm Siebern to California for Simpson. Simpson's career was a series of whistle stops over the 4 years after the trade.

Were these deals with Philadelphia and California engineered specifically to get the spare parts that the Reds needed to sweeten the (essentially) Robinson for Pappas deal? It seems likely, because although the Orioles weren't going to need Siebern anyway (because Boog Powell was going to take over 1st base on a full-time basis, after shuttling between 1B and LF) what would they need with Simpson? They had plenty of outfielders. Also, with Stu Miller, Dick Hall, and others in the bullpen, Baldschun seemed unnecessary.

ADVANTAGE: Orioles (in a slam-dunk!)

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