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Bill Madlock

Bill Madlock

Position(s):
3B, 2B, 1B, DH
Nicknames:
Mad Dog
Born:
January 2, 1951
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
5' 11"
Weight:
180 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-07-1973 with TEX
Allstar Selections:
1975 AsMVP

Intro

Bill Madlock may be the most overlooked four-time batting champion in the history of baseball. One reason is that he bounced among six teams in his 15 seasons. The other is that he was a poor defensive player and a one-dimensional offensive player for most of his career. But he still won those four batting titles, more than any other third baseman until Wade Boggs. Madlock was acquired three times by teams battling for a playoff spot, and his hot bat helped the 1979 Pirates, 1985 Dodgers and 1987 Tigers get to the post-season.

Quotes About

When the club takes the field, Madlock takes charge." — Chuck Tanner

Best Season

We picked this season because Madlock was as good as he ever got in the field. He made 14 errors in 136 games at third base. More importantly, he won his second straight batting title (.339) and set career-highs in doubles and RBI (he would later break his RBI mark twice). On the final day of the season, Madlock collected four hits against the Braves, raising his batting average six points to nip Ken Griffey of the Reds for the title. Griffey had not started his final game but entered after getting the word that Madlock had two hits. Griffey went 0-for-2 and finished at .336. In 1983 Madlock again won a batting crown on the last day - this time he was on the bench with a calf injury. The Cardinals' Lonnie Smith fell two hits shy, going 2-for-4 on the final day.

Factoid 1

Despite Bill Madlock's six hits against the Mets on July 26, 1975, the Cubs lost the game, 9-8.

Factoid 2

Bill Madlock was the first player to win more than one batting title with two different teams. He won the crown with the Cubs in 1975 and 1976, and the Pirates in 1981 and 1983.

Transition

Madlock had a nice, compact swing that produced line drives and shots in the gap. Because he was a bit ornery and difficult to deal with, and because his glove was always a question mark (it's hard to field when your glove is that shape) he was dealt a few times. On June 28, 1979, the Giants sent him to the Pirates, who were in fourth place, 6 1/2 games back of the Montreal Expos. Madlock responded favorably to the trade, putting up multiple hit games in nine of his first 14 games in a Buc uniform. He hit safely in the last ten games of the regular season as the Pirates passed the Expos for the division title. He had hit .328 with seven homers and 44 RBI in 85 games after the swap. A poor base stealer much of his career, Madlock even latched on to Chuck Tanner's running style, swiping 21 bases in Pittsburgh. In the LCS against the Reds he hit a homer in game three as the Bucs won 7-1. In the World Series he was red hot, hitting .375 (9-for-24) with three RBI and five walks for a .483 OBP. His reputation as a clutch player was cemented. Madlock enjoyed five full seasons in Pittsburgh, winning two batting titles. In 1984 he had his worst season, hitting .253, the lowest mark of his career. With his average at .251 the next season, the Pirates dealt him to the Dodgers just prior to the trade deadline, on August 31. Once again his engines were ignited after being dealt to a contender. The Dodgers were in front, seven games ahead of the Padres when they acquired Madlock. "You better believe I'm happy," the 34-year old Madlock said when he heard of the deal. On cue, Mad Dog started hitting, tearing up the league for a .360 mark in 34 games for LA. The team went 21-13 with Madlock in the lineup. In the playoffs against the Cardinals, Madlock hit home runs in games four, five and six, but unfortunately the Cardinals won all three and dispatched the Dodgers. The veteran batting champion had hit .333 (8-for-24) with seven RBI and five runs scored in addition to his three taters. ,br> By 1987, Madlock was no longer hitting far enough over .300 to hide his flaws. Age had slowed his bat, but he had a little magic left. In May the Dodgers released the four-time batting champion. He drew a little interest and eventually signed with the Detroit Tigers, who were struggling in the Al East. On June 4 Madlock was signed off the waiver wire. He helped spark the Tigers, hitting for power and running the bases with abandon. His hard slide in Toronto (when he took out Tony Fernandez) in late September helped win the division.

Mad Dog

There were an unusual number of controversial incidents in Madlock's career. Here's a detailed list of fights, incidents and trade rumors from his 15-year career and beyond: On August 22, 1971, while with Pittsfield of the Eastern League, Madlock was suspended for the entire season for his involvement in a brawl. It all started when Madlock was nearly beaned in the head by pitcher Bob Cluck. An enraged Madlock broke from the restraint of home plate umpire Ken Kaiser and charged the mound, setting off a war. White Sox scout Deacon Jones, who was in the stands, said, "It was the best fight I've seen in my many years in baseball." The Pittsfield police had to come onto the field to restore order, arresting one player. Several witnesses claimed that Madlock had swung a bat and hit a Waterbury player in the arm. Later, the league shortened his suspension, League President Roy Jackson stating: "As I reconstruct the picture, there was no actual swinging of the bat over his head, but there was some swishing of it back and forth. I want to be fair about it. He (Madlock) has served a 14-day suspension and has paid a $75 fine. That's a reasonable penalty. I feel that he has learned his lesson." August 1975: Madlock was fined by the National League office for his argument with umpire Art Williams on a close play at first base in which Madlock was called out. In a rare display of invective, Madlock managed to be thumbed by both Williams and home plate umpire Bruce Froemming, who overheard the third baseman's angry profanity-laden tirade. Two years later Madlock and Williams butted heads again. On July 3, 1977, Williams called Madlock out on a pitch, prompting the Giants' star fell to his knees, hand his bat to the stunned umpire and proclaim: "You take this and try to hit that pitch." Madlock was run out of the game, his second straight ejection. On May 1, 1976, Madlock was part of a fight between the Cubs and the Giants in Candlestick Park. It was all precipitated by brushback pitches (of course). When Madlock was hit by Jim Barr, the ultimate fight broke out, featuring a real doozy between the Giants' Gary Matthews and Chicago's George Mitterwald. Madlock was fined $500 for charging the mound and throwing punches. August 1976: Madlock criticized his teammates on the Cubs' pitching staff for not "protecting him." After being plunked nine times by pitches to lead the NL to that point, Mad Dog challenged Cubs' pitchers to get some payback. Why would the Cubs trade a two-time defending batting title winner? In January 1977, 82-year old owner Phil Wrigley gave the answer: "When these players are impossible to deal with, I'd rather let somebody else have them." Madlock was unhappy with the team's contract offer (reportedly over $100,000) and according to the Cubs, uncooperative. "My bags are packed. If the Cubs don't think I'm worth it, fine. They can send me on. I'd be stupid to sign for $105,000 or $110,000." March 1978: Madlock and Giants' ace John Montefusco got into a clubhouse fight after words were exchanged. Madlock interrupted Montefusco as he was being interviewed and soon fists were flying. After the fight, Madlock ripped his teammate: "I've heard and read where Montefusco has said this team is a team of losers." In the spring of 1979, Madlock got into a feud with Giants ownership. On June 26 he helped instigate an ugly brawl between the Giants and Braves. Madlock was brushed back by a pitch and after popping up on a later delivery, he elbowed Atlanta hurler Bo McLaughlin while running to first. A full-scale baseball fight ensued, with Madlock jabbing punches at McLaughlin and Braves' pitcher Larry McWilliams as well. the incident was later called the "final straw" that sent Madlock to Pittsburgh in a trade two days later. April, 1980: Madlock hollered at a Pirates' farmhand pitcher (Jess Zaske) to "throw harder!" during batting practice prior to an exhibition game against the Twins. Several Pirates players (including Dave Parker) standing around the cage yelled at Zaske to "Hit him!" Zaske came inside with his next pitch, skimming Madlock's left arm. Madlock walked to the mound and punched Zaske. Asked why he had thrown at the Pirates' star, Zaske said "They told me to." Madlock later apologized for the incident. On May 1, 1980, Madlock got into his most infamous situation. After home plate umpire Gerry Crawford rung him up on a called strike three, Madlock let him have it. When a teammate handed him his glove, Madlock continued to argue with Crawford face-to-face. During the argument he took his glove and shoved it into the face of the startled umpire. He was immediately ejected and fined. The National League suspended him indefinitely, eventually deciding on 15 days and a $5,000 fine, one of the biggest punishments in history. The furor over his indiscretion was lost on Mad Dog: "If I had wanted to hurt him, I would have." Madlock lost far more than the $5,000 fine. His 15 days of unemployment cost him more than $27,000. August 1980: Madlock came under attack by the Chicago Cubs after he rolled hard into second base, taking out rookie infielder Steve Macko and putting him on the disabled list. Madlock: "I was just being aggressive." After the strike, which ripped apart the season, was settled in 1981, Madlock criticized the scheduling of exhibition games during a training period. "We're better off just working out. I can't get up playing an American League club, not even in spring training." After winning his third batting title, in 1981, Madlock signed a six-year, $5.4 million contract with the Pirates. During the '81 season, the Pirates had accused the Chicago Cubs of tampering with Madlock and infielder Phil garner, both potential free agents. In May 1982, Madlock stood up for Pirates' scout Howie Haak, who was embroiled in controversy over some remarks he made about blacks in baseball. Haak claimed the Pirates needed more white players to draw fans. Madlock deflected the controversy, "What Howie said was the truth and it wasn't anything that hadn't been said before. I know Howie. He is not a racist." In early July of 1985 (while MLB players were on strike), Pirates' team captain Bill Madlock slammed the idea of city or county ownership of the team, which was being proposed by some as salvation for the struggling franchise. "The City Council can't make decisions now on little things. To me, it would be ridiculous... They'd have to understand that baseball is a business, but you can't run it like a business. A corporation, they deal in numbers and to them, a ballplayer would just be another employee." In August 1985, Madlock was ready to leave Pittsburgh. He saw the writing on the wall: "Hey, I'm a Pirate, you know that, and it's left up to the Pirates. If they're going to go with a youth movement here and it looks that way, maybe it would be in their best interests to trade me." To encourage a swap to the Yankees, for whom Madlock wanted to play, the former batting champ turned it on against the Mets, knowing that George Steinbrenner was watchful. In a three-game set in Shea Stadium, Madlock blasted four homers, had six RBI, six runs scored, and seven hits. "Do the Yankees need a third baseman?" Madlock said with a sly grin. "I gave them (Pittsburgh) permission. I'm a 10-and-5 man and I gave them no limitations on where I could be traded." Later that month Madlock was dealt to the Dodgers. In March of 1986 Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth exonerated Madlock as part of the "Pittsburgh Drug Trials." Madlock's name had been wrongly associated with that scandal, which netted several Pirates' and opposing players for using and selling illegal substances in MLB clubhouses in the early 1980s. Madlock held bitter feelings over the issue, especially toward former teammate Dave Parker, who had told the court that Madlock had given him amphetamines in their Pirates' days. Said Madlock, "It hurt to think that a guy you've known for 10, 12 years, someone you think is your friend, would lie for no apparent reason. I haven't talked to him since — and I don't know if I ever will — so I don't know his reason." Ueberroth and MLB's position was that Madlock had been wrongly accused. "Bill Badlock's reputation on and off the field is above reproach," the commish said. Parker shot back at his former teammate: "...Three or four other individuals had already mentioned his (Madlock's) name. When they asked me on the stand, I wasn't about to perjure myself for a borderline friend..." Willie Stargell had also been accused of supplying players with drugs, but he too was cleared by MLB. September 1987: Now with Detroit, Madlock injured Blue Jays' infielder Tony Fernandez with a hard slide in a big game in the division race. Madlock quickly came under fire, again. Blue Jays players and fans chimed in. Within a few days of the incident, Madlock was receiving death threats in his Toronto hotel room. "It's nothing. I've been in scrapes before, and this ain't even close." The play was a turning point in the race, and Detroit took the AL East by two games, eliminating the Jays on the final day of the season. In February 1989, more than a year after his final major league competition, Madlock was still trying to get back into the game. He was discouraged by what he saw, and as usual he was not shy about speaking out. "I'm not stupid enough to believe I can start out at the top, but you don't have to go to college and get a Ph.D. to be a manager. We (blacks) can play for them, but we can't manage them. We can hit home runs and chase the ball, run it down, but when the black player is getting ready to retire, all they say is, 'See you later.' In August of 1991 Madlock's name was cleared in charges of income tax evasion. It was revealed that his former agent had swindled the IRS and was solely responsible for the shady dealing for which Madlock's name had been dragged into the headlines for a few years. Madlock suffered some embarrassing episodes after his playing days were through. Twice he was arrested for writing bad checks, once as he was leaving a plane taking him back from an old-timers' event at the All-Star game in 1995. He also failed to appear several times for court hearings and bench warrants were issued for his arrest. Despite the setbacks, Madlock was later hired into MLB.

Traynor vs. Madlock

Let me start by stating without any hesitation that Pie Traynor was a better defensive third baseman than Bill Madlock. Much better. How much better? Well, that's debatable, but it's not even close.  What I'm interested in discussing here is whether or not Madlock was a better hitter than Hall of Famer Pie Traynor.  I think you'll see that he was. Madlock played from 1973 to 1987, playing all but 108 of his 1,800+ games in the National League. Traynor played in a great hitter's era, from 1920-1935, and again for five games in 1937. He spent his entire career with the Pirates. Below is a comparison of the two players' stats against the league they played in: Pie Traynor Traynor's League Bill Madlock Madlock's League AVG .320 .282 .305 .257 SLG .435  .395 .442 .380 OBP .362 .338 .365 .323 OPS* .797 .733 .807 .703 TA** .746 .669 .754 .636 DW*** .770 .702 .763 .666 Thus, Traynor bests Madlock in batting average and diamond weight, and is comparable in every other offensive category listed. However, Madlock did it in a context where runs and hits were harder to come by. Madlock's career batting average of .305 is 18.4% better than the league norm. Traynor's .320 is 13.4% better. Madlock's TA is 18.5% above league average, while Tarynor's is 11.4. IF Madlock and Traynor could have played in the same league, Madlock would have out hit Pie, probably by about 10-12 points. *On-base percentage plus slugging **Total Average: a stat that measures all hitting and base running stats against opportunities ***Diamond Weight: a measure of the combined effectiveness of the hitter's on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Diamond Weight measures the two stats on an even field, whereas OPS does not.Explanation of these and other baseball stats.

Three in a Row

On May 29, 1987, Madlock hit three homers in a game for the first time in his career. His last homer was very dramatic. The Tigers entered the bottom of the ninth trailing the Orioles 7-4. Johnny Grubb homered. Matt Nokes homered. Then Madlock followed with a blast into the left field lower deck that tied the game 7-7. It was his third homer of the game and it helped break him out of a slump. The Tigers later won in the 11th on Alan Trammell's RBI single. Madlock had entered the contest 0-for-21.

The Carew Flap

In the spring of 1979 Madlock got into a verbal echange with Giants' owner Bob Lurie over Rod Carew. The Giants had tried to acquire Carew in the off-season but had been unsuccesful. Lurie blamed Madlock, whom he said discouraged Carew from coming to the Bay Area. Mad Dog responded with vigor: "Put this in the newspaper. I wish I didn't have a multi-year contract. Maybe I'll ask to be traded after this season. Of course, if we don't win it this year, I won't have to ask. They'll start getting rid of the big salaries." Once the season started Madlock ripped Candlestick Park and drew a three-game suspension for criticizing manager Joe Altobelli. Madlock was traded in June to Pittsburgh.

Three Titles or Four?

If you look back at newspaper accounts in the 1980s you'll often run across conflicting accounts of Madlock's batting title total. Some had Mad Dog with three and some with four (which is correct). Here's why: the 1981 NL Batting Championship was erroneously awarded to Pete Rose by Total-Baseball (in editions I and II). The confusion stemmed from the strike-shortened season, which caused some to count games played inconsistently, thus figuring 3.1 plate appearances incorrectly. Madlock won the title, as he had enough PA's based on the Bucs 103 games played.

Notes

There are two big reasons Madlock was never voted to start and failed to earn more All-Star recognition: 1) Mike Schmidt and Ron Cey, and 2) the rule that each team had to have one representative. Surprisingly, this was one thing Madlock was never too upset about: "I'm not the least bit bitter. I don't worry about things I have no control over." ... Madlock received the Roberto Clemente Award in January, 1982. The honor is awarded to the player who best exemplifies the standards of excellence established by the late Hall of Famer... Madlock's .336 average with the Cubs is the highest in franchise history for players with at least 400 games. Riggs Stephenson is a shade behind him... In 1983 Madlock replaced Willie Stargell as captain of the Pirates... Madlock was hired by MLB as a Commissioner's office rep prior to the 2002 season. His primary duty? Timing ML games and meeting with teams that, in MLB's opinion, play too slow... In October 2001, two struggling franchises did what struggling franchises often do to make it look like they mean business: they fired some coaches. The Brewers axed hitting coach Rod Carew and the Tigers fired Bill Madlock, who also served as hitting coach. Carew and Madlock had a combined 11 batting titles between them.

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Tagged:
1979 World Series, Baseball History, Batting title, Bill Madlock, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, thirdbase

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