Wednesday, March 7, 2012

1986 Sportflics & Steve Carlton: Briefing for a Descent into Hell.

In Ball Four, Jim Bouton wrote, “You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time."

This observation made in 1970 was clearly on display in 1986.
At the age of 41, Steve Carlton refused to hang them up and began the most disastrous endings to a legendary career.

It truly was a descent into sports hell.

On June 24th, 1986 the Phillies unconditionally released Steve Carlton after first asking him to retire. He refused. He felt he could still pitch. This despite the fact that he was getting rocked off the mound every start.

On July 4th, 1986 the Giants signed Carlton. The reason the Giants signed him was because Steve, while getting rocked by the rest of the NL, somehow dominated the Giants.
Versus Giants 15.1 innings, 12 hits, no walks, 12 strike outs and a 1.19 era. In his other 14 starts: 68 innings, 90 hits, 45 walks, 50 strikeouts 5.05 era. Ouch.

So the Giants actually thought he had gas left in the tank.

The first thing Carlton does is break his 8- year ban on giving interviews. Right off the bat the Giants should have realized that not having Silent Steve wasn’t a good sign.
He stated the he was mechanically sound and his arm wasn’t sore. The Giants believed this lie because somehow he dominated them. But then again that what happens when your line up showcases Chris Brown as your three hole hitter and even more telling was that Chris Brown hit a home run off Carlton in the second game. Talk about a red flag.

So what we got is a talking and delusional Steve Carlton pitching for the Giants and he promptly stinks up Candlestick.

On August 5th, 1986 vs. the Cincinnati Reds Carlton strikes out Eric Davis for his 4,000th career strike out.

After the game Steve Carlton announced his retirement.

5 days later Steve signed with the Chicago White Sox. Surely he could fool those AL hitters who never saw him. Sure enough he threw six quality starts in his last ten starts of the year.

As I said before this was just the start of the decent into hell. 

About The Card
I happen to think that 1986 Sportflics is the best set produced for the year. But it was also the most expensive and even if you bought an entire box you'd only end up with half the set. That's if the coloration was good which it isn't - it's really bad which made things much worse. It didn't feature Jose Canseco,Wally Joyner or Cory Snyder which gave you no reason to spend the extra money. But as a card it was different in a good way. It wasn't cardboard and it had great bios on the back.
It was the first card pack to use tamper proof tin foil.