Tuesday, August 2, 2011

#217 - Tim Foli

It's early August and the market's falling out of the sky, but here's Tim Foli ready to catch it. Too bad he's about 38 years early. Tim's down in Florida in spring training in one of the better shots at the Expos facility. I know those are stands behind Tim but the red seats look a little like the starting blocks at a horse track. There is all sorts of stuff behind Tim on the field. He needs to do a better job picking up after himself.

Tim Foli was another multi-sport athlete out of California. Slated to go to USC on a football scholarship he opted for baseball when the Mets made him the number one pick in the '68 draft. He split that year - he was only 17 - between Rookie ball and Double A and hit pretty well but was a little sloppy in the field. In '69 the average upticked in Single A but the D didn't. But in '70 he moved to Triple A and cut his errors in half and was starting to look like the heir to Bud Harrelson. After a few games in NY that fall, he was on the Mets roster for all of '71 where he split time between second and third during a tough offensive season. The following winter he went to Montreal with Ken Singleton and Mike Jorgensen for Rusty Staub.

In Montreal Foli became the starting shortstop. He was a fiery guy, frequently getting tossed out of games. He was a pretty typical '70's shortstop: good fielder but not so hot at the plate. He didn't walk very much but didn't strike out a lot either, averaging about a K every 15 at bats over his career. By '74 he got control of his temper - although he still liked to bait umpires - and cut down his E totals, becoming a team leader. In '76 he would reach new offensive highs - six homers, 54 RBIs, and a .264 average. That year he hit for the cycle. In order. Over two days. That happened because the game was at Wrigley and was called due to darkness. He got the triple trying to get an out stretching a double to end the game but made it in under the tag. After a crappy start to the '77 season he was sent to the Giants for Chris Speier in an exchange of once hot young shortstops.

Foli finished out an uninspired season in San Francisco and then in '78 went back to the Mets in a sale where his numbers picked up a bit. The next April he got lucky: he went to the Pirates in another even-up for Frank Taveras (poor Frank!). In Pittsburgh, Tim became a project of manager Chuck Tanner, became a nearly-.300 hitter and spent a lot of the season batting second. He then turned in a super post-season hitting .333 with zero strikeouts in 45 plate appearances. Tim would hang out as the regular shortstop through '81 and then go to the Angels for Brian Harper. In California, Tim would be the more-or-less first multi-year starting shortstop since Jim Fregosi twelve years earlier. In '82 he led the league in sacrifice hits. For the '84 season he went to the Yankees and then returned to Pittsburgh in '85 where he played a few games before being released. Tim finished with a .251 average, .276 in the post-season. He led the league shortstops twice in putouts and once in assists.

After playing, Foli did the coaching thing. He coached for the Rangers ('86-'87), Brewers ('91-'95), Royals ('96-'97), Mets ('98-2000), Reds ('00-'03), and Nationals ('05-present). Some of those seasons he managed or coached in the minors. At the last three stops he worked with Bob Boone with whom he became friends while on the Angels.

Tim has a pretty blase card back but gets points for his improving defense. His signed name may be the shortest one in the set this year. I will take a cursory look at that.

A quickie, these guys played together:

1. Foli and Ray Sadecki '71 Mets.

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