Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Greatest 20th Century Outfield Tandems (Part III)

Pittsburgh Pirates 1929-1932
It's no coincidence that yet another great outfield combination can be traced back to the Lively Ball Era, when offense was going full tilt. It was a family affair for the Pirates as brothers Paul and Lloyd Waner carried the Pittsburgh offense for over a decade and would go on to set the all-time mark for most hits by big league siblings. Though Paul  was nicknamed "Big Poison," he wasn't a physically imposing presence at 5-foot-8, 153 pounds. His production was much bigger than his frame as he hit no lower than .309 every year from 1926 through 1937, claiming three batting titles. He also covered a lot of ground in right field, eventually becoming the all-time leader in putouts among players at his position. Despite his considerable career accomplishments, Paul insisted that his younger brother Lloyd (a.k.a. "Little Poison") was a better all around player. The topic is open for debate. Lloyd almost never struck out, averaging just one whiff per every 45 at-bats. In 1941, he logged 219 consecutive AB's without being retired on strikes--a record that still stands. He also got to 2,000 career hits faster than any NL player before or since. During his 18 years in the majors, he led the league in hits, runs and triples once apiece. He was an excellent defensive center fielder as well, topping the circuit in putouts four times. The Waner brothers were paired with left fielder Adam Comorosky every year from 1929 through 1932. Though Comorosky couldn't compete with the Waners in terms of career numbers, he was a major contributor in that four-year span. He hit .321 with 97 ribbies in '29 then enjoyed his signature campaign the following season. He hit .313 in 1930 while accumulating 119 RBI's and 82 extra-base hits. His total of 23 triples has not been surpassed since. Additionally, he paced the circuit with 33 sacrifices that year. He slumped at the plate in '31 and '32, but continued to play his defensive post several points above the league average. He finished fifth in putouts both years even though he missed a combined total of 101 games.  Despite the best efforts of Comorosky and the Waners, the Pirates never finished higher than second place.

Boston Red Sox 1975-1980
In an era of free agency and dwindling team loyalties, it's amazing to think that the Red Sox kept the same outfield lineup for six straight seasons (almost). The tandem of Jim Rice, Fred Lynn and Dwight Evans made the lives of three different Boston managers pretty easy, at least when it came to filling out lineups. Left Fielder Rice was the most  productive of the bunch, hitting .282 or better every year from '75-'80 while driving-in no fewer than 85 runs. He reached the century mark in RBI's four times during that stretch. Rice's biggest season came in 1978, when he accrued a jaw-dropping total of 406 bases, pacing the loop in triples (15), homers (46) and RBI's (139). On the strength of those numbers, he was named AL MVP. Center fielder Lynn stole rookie of the year honors right out from under Rice in 1975, topping the circuit in doubles (47) and runs (103). Other accolades would follow that year as he captured the MVP award along with a Gold Glove--the first of four during his career. Lynn played hard in the outfield and was often injured because of it. His finest offensive season came in 1979, when he captured a batting title with a .333 mark and posted the highest on-base percentage in the AL at .423. He also reached career-highs in homers (39) and RBI's (122). Right fielder Evans was probably the most offensively challenged of the bunch, posting batting averages ranging from .274 to .247 between '75 and '80. Evans suffered a severe beaning in '78 and began to tamper with his batting mechanics to get comfortable at the plate. Nicknamed "The Man of a Thousand Stances"  by one sportswriter, his posture while batting was downright weird. He did have some power, launching 385 homers during his career including 6 grand slams. Later in his playing days, he would become a premier RBI man, reaching the century mark in that category four times. His primary value to the club during the '70's was defense as he led the league in assists three times, putouts twice and fielding percentage on two occasions. In '77, he suffered a knee injury and manager Don Zimmer was forced to throw a fourth outfielder into the mix: veteran Carl Yastrzemki (who made periodic outfield appearances all along). While Lynn, Rice and Dewey Evans played together, the Sox made two postseason appearances and finished third or higher four five straight seasons.         

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