Once in a while during a slow off-season, as a writer you have to look around for some inspiration. I was doing so one day last week, when I came across a top 10 bum list from one of Fansided’s other baseball sites, Lasorda’s Lair. I thought, that is a pretty good idea, and at least could be some fun for me anyway. So a big nod to them for the idea, and please check out their list as well.
My list of Tigers bums doesn’t go back too far in history. Approximately the past 30 years or so, and while I am sure that there is going to be some dispute about the list (hint: Jason Grilli is not on it), I wanted to let you know what I was thinking before I start this list. Essentially, it’s about performance, or lack of it, coupled with the expectation that the player would perform. A player’s draft status, and/or who they were traded for played a role in deciding who was on this list. As well as what they have/had done the rest of their careers.
I know that some of you out there are invariably asking yourself….who the hell is Mike Laga? And to that I would say, exactly.
Laga is the first in my list of Top Ten Bums to be an original Tigers player. The first two were traded and groomed in other organizations, and for various reasons didn’t pan out. The Tigers organization when it comes to Mike Laga have nobody but themselves to blame. For those of you not in their 30’s like myself, let me introduce you all to who Mike Laga is.
Laga was a 1B that the Tigers drafted in the first round of 1980 draft. He was picked 17th overall, so it isn’t like he was a top pick, but 17 is still pretty high. The Tigers had been doing a pretty good job of utilizing the draft to good effect in previous years, but in 1980, they took a big swing and miss.
Laga was a left handed hitter, that was known for his power. However, he wasn’t really known for much else. His ability to hit the baseball was one of those things he struggled to do. The Tigers realized this eventually and ended up trading Laga in 1986 as part of a deal for Mike Heath. St. Louis also realized that Laga couldn’t hit eventually as well, and his 9 season MLB career ended with just 423 at-bats.
I suppose a case could be made by the casual observer that Laga just never really got a chance. In parts of 5 years with the Tigers, Laga never recorded more than 88 at-bats. But this is where scouting comes in…well after the initial mistake of selecting him that high in the first place. The Tigers were clearly right to not give Laga a lot of bats. His career finished with a batting average of .199 and an OPS of .545. His career OPS+ was 63 folks. This was supposed to be a power hitting 1st baseman. The fact that Laga carved out parts of nine seasons in baseball is kind of a miracle unto itself given those kinds of numbers.
Part of the issue with Laga might be that he was part of Sparky’s young player touting machine. Every year it seemed that some young player with not a lot of talent would get propped up by Anderson. Or even if they had talent, Sparky would make some sort of proclamation that was ridiculous. In this article that talks about Sparky getting ill, Tom Gage recalls Sparky saying “Mike Laga would make you forget every power hitter who ever lived”.
Small samples be damned. Stinking up the joint is stinking up the joint, and Laga was carrying around dirty underwear that needed to be changed. The fact that Laga never lived up to his billing as the 17th pick overall in the draft, means he makes my bum list.