St. Louis Cardinals

Former Dodgers, Cardinals outfielder Wally Moon dies

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Former National League Rookie of the Year Wally Moon, who played for the Cardinals and Dodgers, has passed away at the age of 87.

Moon came up with the Cardinals and was named NL Rookie of the Year in 1954 after hitting .304/.371/.435 with 12 homers and 18 stolen bases. He’d man center field at first and then moved to the corner as he played in St. Louis through the 1958 season, making the All-Star team in 1957 and even earning a few down ballot MVP votes in 1956.

Moon would make his fame, however, with the Los Angeles Dodgers after being traded there following the 1958 season. At the time the Dodgers played in the Los Angeles Coliseum, which was not configured well for baseball, with the right-field fence standing 440 feet away and the left field fence only 220 feet from home plate. To compensate for the short left-field porch, the Dodgers put up a 42-foot-tall net. As a left-handed hitter, Moon had a problem but he realized that by swinging with a pronounced uppercut and attempting to push the ball the opposite way, even a moderately hard hit ball could clear that net for a homer. Moon didn’t hit a lot of homers, but in 1959 he hit a career-high 19, 14 of which came in Los Angeles. His homers came to be called, appropriate enough, “Moonshots.”

Moon’s primary calling card was his plate discipline. He hit well for contact, finishing with a .289 career average, and took his walks, finishing with a .371 career on-base percentage, leading the National League in the category in 1961 with an outstanding .434 rate. While rarely the best or most famous player on his Dodgers teams, it’s no accident that they won often with his bat in the lineup, winning the World Series in 1959 and 1963 and winning a final title when Moon was a part-time player in 1965.

Moon would retire following the 1965 season, finishing his career with a line of .289/.371/.445, for an OPS+ of 118. He hit 142 homers and knocked in 661 runs in 1,457 career regular-season games across 12 seasons.

Following his playing career Moon would coach for the San Diego Padres and later managed and owned the Dodgers minor league franchise in San Antonio and took other minor league managing jobs, notably in the Yankees system.

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.