25 years ago today: Angels rookie Wally Joyner hits 11th, 12th homers

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A brief trip back to “Wally World.”

23-year-old first baseman Wally Joyner was probably the biggest story of the early part of the 1986 season, hitting homer after homer on his way to becoming the first rookie voted into the All-Star Game.

And it was a big surprise. Joyner was well regarded as a prospect after being taken in the third round in the 1983 draft, but he hit exactly 12 homers in both of his full seasons in the minors. In the PCL in 1985, he finished with a modest .283/.363/.440 line and 73 RBI in 477 at-bats.

That kind of line probably wouldn’t have gotten him a gig in 2011. The Angels, though, believed the power spike he experienced in Puerto Rico over the winter was for real and chose to have him replace future Hall of Famer Rod Carew as their first baseman headed into the 1986 season.

Joyner was a star from day one. He homered in his second game as a major leaguer, and he ended April with a .333-6-16 line. The first half of May proved even better: he followed his two-homer game against the Red Sox on May 12 with another one four days later. 36 games into his rookie season, he was hitting .316/.361/.645 and leading the majors with 15 homers and 37 RBI.

Joyner, though, was unable to maintain the pace. He hit just seven homers over the rest of the season and finished second to Jose Canseco in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting. Worse, after a great start in the ALCS against Boston, he went down with a leg infection, preventing him from playing in the final four games as the Angels were eliminated. He was 5-for-11 with a homer and two doubles in the first three games.

Joyner went on to have his best season as a sophomore in 1987, finishing with 34 homers and 117 RBI. He remained a valuable player in subsequent seasons, particularly in 1991, his last year with the Angels before he signed with the Royals, and in 1997, when he hit .327 for the Padres. However, he never went to a second All-Star Game.

Also, while Joyner was thought of very highly as a defensive first baseman, he failed to win a Gold Glove. The Yankees’ Don Mattingly had a stranglehold on the award at the time.

In 2001, Joyner returned to the Angels for a farewell tour and hit .243 in 161 at-bats. He ended his career with a .289/.362/.440 line, 204 homers and 1,106 RBI in 16 seasons.

2017 Preview: Chicago White Sox

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Chicago White Sox.

After a couple of years of an all-in approach with a core of Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier, Adam Eaton and friends, Rick Hahn and the White Sox finally decided to tear it all down. And they tore it all down pretty productively, actually, dealing Sale and Eaton for a boatload of prospects, leading with Yoan Moncada, who has hit .287/.395/.480 with 23 home runs, 100 RBI and 94 stolen bases in 187 minor league games.

They also picked up righthander Michael Kopech who hits triple digits on the regular, one-time top prospect and still-promising Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning. They all join existing young talent like Tim Anderson, Carlos Rodon, Zack Collins, Carson Fulmer and Alec Hansen. The system, she is stocked.

 

In addition to all that new talent, the Sox have a new manager in Rick Renteria. What he’ll have to work with at the big league level is somewhat spotty, however, and could change pretty radically as the season wears on.

Still in house: Carols Quintana, Frazier, Cabrera and David Robertson, all of who are likely on the trading block (we know Quintana is). Hahn will entertain offers for anything not nailed down which, in this case, means anyone over the age of 25 or so. We could give a blow-by-blow of the offense, the pitching and the defense like we normally do here, but if you’re an obsessive White Sox fan you know that stuff already and if you’re not, all you really need to know is that between those inevitable departures and the loss of their ace in Sale and their best position player in Eaton, last year’s 78-wins are gonna seem like a distant memory.

Beyond trading stars for prospects, the White Sox have signaled that they’re in non-compete mode in other ways as well. New in the fold: Derek Holland, Peter Bourjos and Geovany Soto. Veterans who do a task or two well, go about their business and, if they have a super nice year, can get dealt at the deadline. In short, the lifeblood of a rebuild, not the stuff of greatness. There’s nobility in fulfilling that role even if there aren’t a lot of wins to be found in it.

Where are some wins to be found? Jose Abreu had a down year in 2016 and could be better this year. Both Holland and James Shields are capable of better years than they had last year. Indeed, it’d be close to impossible for Shields to be worse. They’ll have Carlos Rodon, who took a step forward last year and could be poised for a breakout. Quintana and company will be around until July most likely before they’re traded and before Hahn begins to call young dudes up for second half cups of coffee.

And that’s what this season is about, really. The cups of coffee. Seeing what the Sox have in their young talent, particularly Moncada, who has little left to prove in the minors, even if he spends some more time there and Rodon, who is already a key part of the big club. They may lose just as many games or more than they lost the past couple of seasons, but they’ll do it with more interesting players who fans can imagine being better in a White Sox uniform one day. And, heck, if someone develops a bit more quickly than expected, it could actually lead to good baseball. At least here and there.

Prediction: Fourth place, American League Central.

The Braves cave, a little anyway, on their outside food policy

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On Friday the Atlanta Braves announced a new policy for outside food, prohibiting ticket holders from bringing in their own. This was a reversal of their old policy — and the policies of the majority of teams around the league — which allowe fans to bring in soft-sided coolers with their own food and beverages, at least as long as the beverages were sealed.

The Braves claimed that the policy change was “a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league,” but this was clearly untrue as no other teams are cracking down on outside food like this. If there are new security procedures, everyone else is able to accommodate them without an opportunistic crackdown on fans bringing in PB&J for their toddlers. It seemed more likely that this was a simple cash grab.

Today the Braves have reversed the policy somewhat:

While they’re looking for kudos here, this is likewise an admission that the “security” stuff was bull because, last I checked, security procedures aren’t subject to popular referendum and aren’t changed when people complain. What really happened here, it seems, is the Braves, for the first time in living memory, were called out by the public for their greed and realized that even they have some responsibility to not be jackasses about this sort of thing.

Still, a gallon bag policy is not the same as it was before. You could bring coolers into Turner Field and still can bring them into most parks around the league. But I guess this is better than nothing.