Thursday, December 12, 2013

#380 LaMarr Hoyt

Card thoughts:  LaMarr Hoyt is smiling in this picture. But the burly pitcher was about to have a rough couple of years off the field.

The player: Hoyt was a late bloomer. He had an inconsistent minor league career, where he would pitch well seemingly only every other year. Drafted by the Yankees, Hoyt was traded with Oscar Gamble to the White Sox in 1977 for future Yankee hero Bucky Dent. With the White Sox, he was demoted from AA all the way down to the low-A Midwest League, where he won 18 games at Appleton. He finally stuck for good in the majors at age 25 (three years later), when he won 9 games in 1980 after being called up to the White Sox in early June.

Hoyt was sent to the pen in 1981, where he was the co-team leader in saves with 10. At this point, he just looked to be an average pitcher, who would probably just end up as a swingman. But in 1982, Hoyt would lead the league in wins with 19. He was even better the following season, as he won an astonishing 24 games, despite having an ERA just above league average. The key to his success was his control: He also led in WHIP (1.029), walks per 9 innings (1.1) and strikeouts to base on ball ratio (almost 5 to 1).

Hoyt’s superb pitching propelled the White Sox into the playoffs, where he beat Scott McGregor in a pitchers duel in Game 1 of the ALCS, 2-1. Although the Sox lost the series, Hoyt would win the Cy Young Award after the season.

The next year, both the Sox and Hoyt tumbled. Although his excellent control didn’t desert him, he was hitting the fat part of the plate too much, and Hoyt wound up leading the league in losses (18).

After a blockbuster trade to the Padres, Hoyt experienced a massive turnaround, going 16-8, and being named the starting pitcher for the 1985 All Star Game. He not only won the game, but was named the MVP.

But everything began falling apart for Hoyt after the season. A doctor told him his rotator cuff was shot, and it was unlikely he’d ever pitch again. He was arrested trying to smuggle marijuana, valium, and Quaaludes (possibly to self-medicate a problem he had with insomnia) across the Mexican border.  Sent to rehab, he missed all of spring training, a pitched poorly through the shoulder pain during the season (8-11, 5.15 ERA). Having not learned his lesson, Hoyt again attempted to smuggle valium and Quaaludes across the border and was again caught by Customs. This time, he went to jail and when released, he was suspended by the baseball commissioner, Peter Ueberroth, under the “Just Say No” policy of baseball. When reinstated, he was promptly released by the Padres. Signed to a “make-good” contract with the White Sox, Hoyt was once again busted for drugs, this time intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana.

The drug problems effectively ended his career at 31. He apparently has gotten his life together, and has worked as a roving instructor for the White Sox.

Rear guard: Dave Roberts is NOT the more recent Dave Roberts (he also played two seasons in San Diego). There was also a pitcher named Dave Roberts who pitched for the Padres from 1969-1970). This Dave Roberts had a career year in 1973, belting a career high 21 home runs. Roberts would only hit 26 more in a 10 year career. Here's his 1974 card.

No comments: