Thursday, July 12, 2012

#399 - Mike Paul

I used to sit next to a guy at work who always said not to trust someone with two first names. But Mike Paul here looks like a stand-up guy. It is interesting that we get a card of someone who has been airbrushed right after the Duke Sims card because it points out my observation I made on that post: Mike here went to the Cubs in August of ’73 and needs to be air-brushed into his new colors; Duke went to NY the last week of September and Topps got him in his. Plus this photo looks awfully similar to the one on his ’73 card so it’s probably a year old anyway. But Topps was based in Brooklyn back then so maybe that’s the answer. Anyway, this post is about Mike and not Duke, so let’s get to the correct subject, who appears to be at the Rangers’ spring training site. ’73 was probably sort of a downer for Mike. He’d had by far his best season in ’72 as a swing guy and he had a shot at either a regular rotation job or as pen ace but his numbers went in the wrong direction pretty much from the get-go. In August he nearly killed Dwight Evans with a beanball and shortly thereafter he was traded to the Cubs for Larry Gura. Then in the last month for those guys he couldn’t get his strikeouts to top his walks. That’s no fun. This would be his final card.

Mike Paul was born in Detroit but shortly thereafter it was Arizona all the way as he went to high school and Cerritos Junior College in the state before attending the University of Arizona. He was a strikeout demon at all three spots – at Cerritos in ’65 he was 13-0 and was his conference’s player of the year - and had a nice run in the ’66 CWS, going 7-2 on the season with a 1.89 ERA. In the summers of ’64 to ’66 he played summer ball in Alaska for the Goldpanners where Tom Seaver and Graig Nettles were among his teammates. He was drafted by the Indians following his senior year at Arizona in ’67. He got going in A ball that summer and was soon up to Triple A and for the year he went a combined 5-6 with a 2.34 ERA with 140 strikeouts in 104 innings. In ’68 he returned to A ball but after going 2-1 in four starts with a 1.09 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 33 innings he was called all the way up.

Paul had a very good rookie year as he managed to keep throwing strikes at a pace of nearly one an inning. Pitching primarily from the pen he added three saves and in ’69 added a couple more and also got a bunch of starts. Despite his record his ERA was better than league average. But by ’70 hitters had figured him out and his next two seasons were not so hot as his ERA climbed more than a run each season. Both years he returned to Triple A to iron out his problems. In ’70 at that level he went 6-1 as a starter with a 2.15 ERA but ’71 wasn’t as good with a 6-7 and 4.37. After the season he was traded to the Senators with Rich Hand, Roy Foster and Ken Suarez for Denny Riddleberger, Del Unser, and a couple other guys. Shortly thereafter the Senators became the Rangers and Mike got to play for Ted Williams in his last season as a manager. Ted was notoriously unfavorable towards pitchers but Mike didn’t seem to mind as he posted excellent numbers and led MLB in fewest homers allowed per nine innings (he only gave up four all year).

In ’74 things started poorly for Paul as he gave up a grand slam to Ron Fairly his second inning of work. He was released later in April and then hooked up with the Phillies organization where he played the next two seasons at Triple A Toledo. For the Mud Hens Mike went 7-2 the first year and had a 25-inning stretch where he didn’t walk anyone. He also got another HOF manager in Jim Bunning (it may have been this experience that sent Bunning running to Congress). In ’75 the numbers weren’t as good and after the season he was released. Mike went 27-48 with a 3.91 ERA up top and 29-21 in the minors with a 3.24 ERA.

After his release Paul continued to pitch in Mexico, principally for Juarez. He apparently did very well as some sources indicate his career ERA down there was below 2.00. In ’80 he went 22-6 with a 2.20 ERA. He pitched below the boarder through the ’82 season and then turned to coaching. He worked in the Padres system (’83-’84), Milwaukee’s (’85-’86), and then Seattle’s (’87-’88) before being named Mariners pitching coach, which he did for three seasons (’89-’91). He was then an advance scout: for Oakland (’92-’94); back in Texas (’95-2001); another follow-up for the Cubs (’02); Arizona (’03-’04); Washington (’05); and Colorado (’06 through ?). I run out of dirt on his professional undertakings after that though he does get some interview time in various stories regarding the Rangers’ recent post-season successes.

Understandably Topps jumps on Mike’s success in ’72 for its star bullets. He also enjoyed horseback riding so maybe he was good at steeplechasing. For a short name he sure does air out that signature. When Mike was with Cleveland he roomed with Tony Horton for a while. That poor guy was one of the more tragic baseball stories of the early Seventies.

Mike and Duke played together:

1. Paul and Duke Sims ’68 to ’70 Indians.

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