Monday, December 10, 2012

#467 - Winston Llenas

In yet another AL card – this one represents the seventh in the last eight – Winston Llenas makes a comeback after having no card since ’71 when he had his rookie one. Winston shows off his batting stance which he would reprise in front of the big termite mound in the ’75 set. I don’t know how many times he actually bunted in ’73 but he did have two successful sacrifice hits that season so it doesn’t seem the pose is that representative of his style. ’73 was Winston’s biggest season and his .269 average was pretty good for a backup infielder. He led the Al in both pinch hits and pinch hit at bats with 16 and 56 – for a .286 average – respectively. Winston had one of the longest hauls to get to the majors so let’s get this thing started.

Like just about every other player out of the Dominican Republic from his era Winston Llenas played ball for the team of the reigning despot, Rafael Trujillo, and was signed from it by Kansas City in ’61. After hitting .244 that summer while playing second in D ball his average fell a bunch the next year at the same level while playing both middle infield positions and he was released. In ’63 he was picked up by the Angels and in A ball improved on both his average and his fielding before spending a few games at Triple A, playing second in both spots. His whole time while playing baseball in the States he also played winter ball back home where he was a star and in ’64 he finally brought his DR game with him by nailing A pitching for a .346 average, this time moving to third. He did a better job that year in his few games in Triple A and in ’65 while his average fell 60 points the rest of his stats were in line with his prior year and his .286 was pretty good for a second baseman anyway. In ’66 at that level it was all hot corner as he doubled his homer total. In ’67 and ’68 Winston got loaned to the Mexican League – roughly a Triple A equivalent – where he really turned on the power the first season, recording over 100 RBI’s, and the second year made his debut for the Angels, getting into a couple games at third. In ’69 it was back to the States where he hit super well in half a season for Triple A Hawaii and reprised his performance in a few games up top. ’70 and ’71 were strictly Triple A where on defense he added some outfield time and averaged .316 with over 100 RBI’s. ’72 was all up top where he backed up Ken McMullen – who pretty much never sat – at third base and got very little playing time, but did up his offensive numbers considerably from his prior two times up.

In ’73 Llenas began the season back in Triple A but he really had nothing left to prove at that level and after hitting nearly .400 he was back in Anaheim where he again backed up third and put in some time at the revolving door that was second base that season. He stayed up in ’74 where he put up very similar numbers in about as many plate appearances while putting in time in the outfield and second. In ’75 his average fell to .186 and since the Angels had a lot of young guys who could hit that – Winston was 31 then – he was returned to the minors and then released. He played a year of ball in Japan for Taiheiyo in ’76 and then returned to this hemisphere where he played (’77-’82) and managed (’78-82) in Mexico. In the latter role he did pretty well, posting a record of 367-260. ‘82 was also his last year of playing ball in the DR and when he was done there he was second all-time in homers and RBI’s. Up top in the States he hit .230 with three homers and 61 RBI’s in what amounted to about a full season. In the minors he averaged a bit over .300 with over 100 homers and 500 RBI's.

Llenas had maintained his Angel ties while he was away and in ’83 and ’84 managed in their system where he went a combined 136-144. He then returned full-time to the DR where he’d already taken over managing his old club, Aguilas, and eventually moved to upper management and, finally, ownership. He was still involved with the team in early 2012.

Winston’s got no room for any star bullets since his whole history is on the back of his card. I love that he was named after Winston Churchill. Apparently he was a chubby baby – his nickname was exactly that, Chilote – and he bore a resemblance to the British Lion.

The Angels gave up Nolan Ryan’s fourth career no-hitter as the team’s contribution to the baseball centennial in ’76. That one happened June 1, 1975 against Baltimore at home and our boy Winston here played left field in the game. It was typical Ryan – four walks and nine strikeouts and he was flying that year before he got hurt, the game taking his record to 9-3 with a 2.45 ERA. The game took only two hours and seven balls made it to the outfield with only one error by California. Ryan would go on to post a total of seven no-no’s.

Winston was all Angels and Billings pretty much all Rangers so we’ll need another guy:

1. Llenas and Tommy McCraw ’73 to ’74 Angels;
2. McCraw and Dick Billings ’71 Senators.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff! I've had this card since 1974, and I learned more about Winston Llenas in a couple of minutes than I'd ever known before.

    For what it's worth, he's also shown in a bunting pose on his 1975 card.