Longtime baseball executive Bill Lajoie, whose eye for talent helped build the Detroit Tigers team that won the 1984 World Series championship, died Tuesday. He was 76.
The key to that Tigers team’s success was not Lajoie’s general manager moves, however. It was the work he had put in the previous fifteen or sixteen years as a Tigers scout, head of scouting, assistant GM and vice president of baseball operations. During those years he found and signed Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson, Jack Morris and Lance Parrish. As GM his trade for Willie Hernandez prior to the 1984 season sealed the deal, however.
After leaving Detroit, Lajoie worked for the Red Sox, Dodgers, Reds, Braves and Brewers in various capacities.
As I write this, I have in front of me my 1979 Tigers yearbook. Pages 4-6 features team ownership and front office staff. Lajoie is pictured there along with 30 other random executives. He’s one of maybe three or four who look like they were born in the 20th century. I know very little about the Tigers’ front office of that era, but knowing who Lajoie and his staff were responsible for brining in to Detroit — and knowing how tradition-bound the team was under owner John Fetzer — it’s not hard to imagine that Lajoie was the first one in the office each day, the first one who had a computer desk and all of that.
Maybe that’s just fancy on my part and Lajoie was a fuddy-duddy. But he was responsible for the most comprehensive overhaul the Tigers ever experienced, and for helping put together a team against which all future Tigers teams will be measured.
Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.
Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.
The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.
The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.
If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.
If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.
Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.
Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.
It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.