Sunday, March 25, 2018

The 1974 Topps Rookie All-Star Team - Mike Hargrove

Here they are - the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, selected "by the Youth of America" following the 1974 season and featured in the 1975 Topps set. 

I have completed the run of these up through 2018 Series One, at least all regular issue cards that bear the All-Star Rookie Trophy. 

Topps decided to skip the Trophies on the 1974 Topps Set, but they made a triumphant return in 1975. I wanted to show my appreciation for this expression of good judgement, so for the 1974 Lineup, I will do a separate post for each player. This was a pretty good crop of players, so let's dive in! 
First Baseman - Mike Hargrove

Mike Hargrove burst onto the scene in 1974, and battled the great Rod Carew for the AL batting crown all season long. He ultimately did not have enough plate appearances to qualify, but his .323 average was second only to Carew's .364 mark.

The hitting prowess was not a complete surprise- the year before his rookie season he outpaced his league in batting average by over 50 points - no other player in his league cracked .300. He finished the season with .351. Hargrove was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1974, even with teammate Jim Sundberg finishing the year with a higher WAR (most of that coming defensively as a catcher).

Things went quite well for Hargrove in his home state of Texas, making the All-Star squad in 1975 for the first and only time in his career. He was a very patient hitter. His deliberate and extensive routine before each plate appearance and between each pitch earned the ire of opposing pitchers and the nickname "The Human Rain Delay." Between each pitch Hargrove would step out of the batter's box, adjust his helmet, re-fasten each batting glove, hitch up each sleeve, and wipe each hand on his pants before returning to the box. To add to the frustration on the mound, he was also notoriously difficult to strike out and was adept at fouling off two strike offerings.

Following the 1978 season, Hargrove was included in a package of players to San Diego in exchange for, among others, Oscar Gamble. Hargove's stint in San Diego might be best described as "Forgettable." He played in 52 games, hit just .195 with no home runs. He was promptly traded in June of 1979 to Cleveland for outfielder Paul Dade. The next chapter of his career was much sunnier, away from the 17 foot high walls of San Diego and into the Mistake by the Lake, Cleveland's Municipal Stadium. In Cleveland, Hargrove had 5 more productive seasons, leading the AL in OBP in 1981, and continuing his patient approach at the plate. His career OBP is .396, 75th All-Time, which puts him in the same company as players like Rod Carew (.395), John Olerud (.398), and Richie Ashburn (.396) to name a few.

His career in baseball did not stop with his playing days. Following his retirement in 1985, he became a coach, then minor league manager. He made his way up through the Cleveland system quickly, and was named Manager mid way through the 1991 Season. He led Cleveland to AL Division titles every year from 1995 through 1999, and in 1997 was a game away from winning a World Series title. He had brief stops in Baltimore and Seattle. He left the Mariners in the midst of a 7 game winning streak in 2007. Others speculated that there was feud between Hargrove and Ichiro, but Hargove denies this and stated he left the team because he no longer felt the competitive fire he once did.

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