Don Baylor, longtime AL player and later an NL manager, has passed away at the age of 68. Baylor played over 2000 games, all in the AL, in a career spanning 19 years that included an MVP selection in 1979 and appearances in 7 post-seasons and 3 World Series. After his playing days, Baylor was the first manager of the expansion Colorado Rockies, guiding them to a post-season appearance in only their third season. More on Baylor after the jump.
After cups of coffee in 1970 and 1971, Baylor joined the powerhouse Orioles to stay in 1972, becoming their regular left-fielder for the following three seasons. In his time in Baltimore, Baylor posted a solid 125 OPS+ while twice leading the junior circuit in HPB, a talent he would perfect later in his career. Baylor’s power game blossomed with 25 bombs in his last season on the Chesapeake, becoming the first Brown or Oriole in more than 50 years with a season of 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases.
With Charlie Finley following Connie Mack in the A’s tradition of housecleaning after a run of championship seasons, Baltimore offered up Baylor to pry prize catch Reggie Jackson from Oakland in a package deal that also saw pitchers Mike Torrez and Ken Holtzman swap teams. Baylor and Jackson would both play just one season for their new teams (Jackson followed Baylor with a 25 HR, 25 SB campaign that has yet to be matched by another Oriole) before both hit the free agent market and made good in extended stays with their new clubs.
For Baylor, greener pastures lay in Anaheim where he turned in a career best 5.2 oWAR in his 1979 MVP season, leading the junior circuit in Runs (120) and RBI (139) while belting 36 home runs and 33 doubles. That was the first 120 run/120 RBI season by an Angel, a feat matched since only by Vladimir Guerrero in 2004. Baylor’s heroics in 1979 helped the Angels to their first post-season appearance, falling to the Orioles in the ALCS. Three years later, Reggie Jackson swapped coasts to join Baylor as a free agent signee in Anaheim; together, they helped a veteran Angel ballclub to its second post-season appearance (unfortunately a painful one as they dropped three straight in Milwaukee, after taking a 2-0 ALCS lead at home).
In his 6 years in Anaheim, Baylor split time between the outfield and DH in the first four seasons before becoming an everyday DH in the final two campaigns. Baylor’s glove was a liability for any team, so the move to being a full-time DH was certainly overdue. Following the 1982 season, Baylor signed as a free agent with the Yankees where he turned in three solid, if unspectacular, seasons as the everyday DH, posting 20 HR and 80 RBI each time. More than 30 years later, Baylor remains the only Yankee DH to post those totals more than once.
Following the 1985 season, New York dealt the 36 year-old Baylor to the Red Sox for Mike Easler. In his last big season, Baylor’s 31 home runs and 94 RBI helped the Red Sox to the 1986 AL pennant, before falling in the World Series in 7 games (as Boston had also done in 1946, 1967 and 1975). The next year, Boston dealt Baylor in a deadline deal to the Twins who went on to that franchise’s first World Series title in more than 60 years. Down 5-3 in the game and trailing 3-2 in the series, Baylor’s two run homer tied game 6 as the upstart Minnesotans came back from the brink to best the Cardinals. For his final season, Baylor returned to Oakland (following Reggie’s farewell campaign there the year before) and again saw action in the World Series. Quiz: which other player appeared in three consecutive World Series for three different teams?
Baylor’s career totals include more than 2000 hits, 1200 runs, 1200 RBI, 300 home runs and 300 doubles. He recorded 200 hits, 100 runs and 100 RBI for five different teams, and saw post-season action for each of those franchises. Baylor posted 0.750 career OPS in both the LCS and World Series, one of 20 players to do so in 10+ games in each of those playoff rounds. Among players with more than half their career games at DH, Baylor ranks 4th in Games, Runs, HR and RBI, and 5th in Hits and WAR. Baylor led the AL in HPB on eight different occasions; his career total of 267 is an AL record, and ranks second only to Craig Biggio‘s MLB mark of 285.
For those looking for a more challenging Baylor quiz, try this one under the Player Stats Quiz pages of the site.