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Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #189, Rick Dempsey (Article 34)

by Paul Semendinger (continuing a series)

Rick Dempsey wasn’t a Yankee for long, and because he was a Yankee catcher in the mid-1970s playing behind Thurman Munson, the opportunities from him to play were also very limited.

For Rick Dempsey to get a chance to play, he needed to be traded. And he was, as part of one of the biggest (and worst) trades the Yankees ever made.

But, before we get to the trade, here are some interesting statistics:

24 – The number of seasons Rick Dempsey played in the Major Leagues.

4 – The number of seasons Rick Dempsey played as a Yankee (1973-76)

141 – The number of games that Rick Dempsey played as a Yankee.

.233 – Rick Dempsey’s lifetime batting average

.165 – Rick Dempsey’s lifetime batting average as a pinch hitter

.303 – Rick Dempsey’s lifetime batting average in post season play

.400 – Rick Dempsey’s carer batting average with a 3-0 count. In 24 years, he had two hits in five at bats with a 3-0 count. The other 29 times, he batted with a 3-0 count, he walked.

.000 – (Why is this a statistic?) Rick Dempsey’s batting average when hitting a ball into foul territory (Isn’t everyone’s batting average .000 when hitting the ball foul? You’re either out or the ball is foul.)



(from Baseball-Reference)

June 15, 1976: Traded by the New York Yankees with Tippy Martinez, Rudy May, Scott McGregor and Dave Pagan to the Baltimore Orioles for Doyle Alexander, Jimmy Freeman, Elrod Hendricks, Ken Holtzman and Grant Jackson.

This was not the best day in Yankees’ history…

The Yankees traded away top talent and did not receive much in return. The top talent the Yankees traded helped the Orioles become winners for quite some time – at the expense of the Yankees!

For the Orioles, Tippy Martinez became a top-notch closer, Scott McGregor became a top-of-the-rotation starter, and Rick Dempsey became their solid starting catcher. These three players formed a strong core on Orioles teams that went to the World Series in 1979 (losing to the Pirates) and 1983 (defeating the Phillies).

Let’s take a deep-dive into bWAR to see how lopsided this trade really was:

Individual Player Value for the Orioles in bWAR:

Rick Dempsey = 21.2

Tippy Martinez = 7.7

Scott McGregor = 20.2

Dave Pagan = -1.2

Rudy May = -.2 (this is as an Oriole after the trade. May was later traded to the Expos in a package that brought the Orioles Don Stanhouse and Gary Roenicke. He would, in 1980, return to the Yankees.)

Total Value For Orioles = 47.7

Individual Player Value for the Yankees:

Doyle Alexander = 1.0 (He left the Yankees as a Free Agent after the 1976 season. He would return to NY in 1983 and would go 0-2, 6.35 in 8 games)

Jimmy Freeman = 0 (He never pitched in the Major Leagues after the trade)

Elrod Hendricks = .2 (He was a Yankee for all of 36 games between 1976 and 1977. In 1978, he returned to the Orioles.

Ken Holtzman = -1.9 (He was traded to the Cubs for Ron Davis in 1978. Ron Davis was a solid relief pitcher for the Yankees, but for this exercise, there are no bonus points for the players these guys were traded for.)

Grant Jackson = 1.9

Total Value for the Yankees = 1.2


In judging that trade in value to the teams from the players they received, the Orioles won 47.7 to 1.2.

That has to be the worst trade in Yankees history.

Rick Dempsey never had much of a chance to succeed in New York, but he went to Baltimore and helped guide their pitchers to excellence.

After the 1986 season, Rick Dempsey bounced around a bit playing for the Cleveland Indians (1987), the Los Angeles Dodgers (1988-90)< and the Milwaukee Brewers (1991) before returning to the Orioles for eight games to close out his career in 1992.



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