Sunday, August 10, 2014

#424 Rick Miller

Card thoughts: Rick Miller is not a pitcher, although he looks like he’s warming up one in the bullpen before a game.

The player: Rick Miller was on a team for one reason: His defense. Although he hit righthanders well enough to be platooned occasionally, his real value was as fourth outfielder who you could count on not to blow the big play.

Miller won a basketball scholarship to Michigan State, but when he injured his ankle, he turned to baseball, where he was converted from a pitcher into an outfielder. After winning the Big Ten batting title, Miller was drafted by the Red Sox. In the minors, he showed good defense, but his tendency to try for home runs, despite his small size, led to mediocre batting averages. Despite this, he was called up to the Red Sox at the end of the 1972 season as a defensive replacement for their lumbering outfield. In 15 games, Miller hit .333, including a double in his first at bat.

Playing more in 1973, usually backing up Tommy Harper in center, he hit just .214. Slated for the same role in 1974, injuries to Reggie Smith, and lackluster play by #60 Dwight Evans, allowed Miller to get into 143 games (a career high) and steal 12 bases. Miller also married #290 CarltonFisk’s sister after the season.

The next 3 seasons saw Miller’s playing time decline, as youngsters Jim Rice and Fred Lynn needed less defensive backup than their forbears. In addition, they rarely came out of the lineup, meaning Miller had to be content in a pinch hitting role. The low point in his career was in 1975, when he hit just .194. While his number rebounded some the following seasons, it looked like his days as a regular player were over.

But then came free agency, and the owners didn’t really know how to lavish their money in those days. For some reason, the Angels chose to sign Rick Miller, a 30 year old reserve outfielder as their starting centerfielder after the 1977 season. As the team’s leadoff hitter, he hit .263, with an on base percentage of .341. On the other hand he was caught stealing 13 times, while stealing just 3 bases. But in the field, he was as good as ever, winning the Gold Glove.

1979 was Miller’s best year, as he hit .291 in the regular season, and .250 in the ALCS. After another year with the Angels, Miller came back to the Red Sox, this time as their starting center fielder. But as he was always a stopgap solution, Miller was perpetually in danger of losing his job when someone better came around. This time, it was #255 Tony Armas in 1984.

The rest of his career was uneventful on the field, as he mostly pinch hit. But in his last season, Miller ended up going after some fans in the stands in Anaheim after they spent the game heckling his family.

Rear guard: Miller's 1,000th hit came off the Angels' Ken Forsch, and was a pinch hit double (Miller was pinch hitting for #35 Glenn Hoffman). Furthermore, the hit score the first run of the game in the eighth inning. Unfortunately, Miller was thrown out at the plate by Gary Pettis while attempting to score on a single to center by Jerry Remy. The Red Sox could have used that run as Bob Stanley couldn't hold the lead in the ninth,

1 comment:

night owl said...

Love the cards in which the photo conflicts with the player's position, even if it's just a perception thing.