#34: Terry Pendleton

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Switch Hitting, Righthanded Throwing Third Baseman
Seasons With Braves: 1991-1994; 1996
Stats With Braves: .287/.327/.445, 71 HR, 322 RBI, 319 RS

Some of you probably think that this seems low, and it seems low to me, too. But regardless of what he meant to the franchise, TP only played three full seasons, one half season, and a fraction of a fifth with the Braves. Of course, in those five seasons, he won an MVP, finished second another time, and sparked the 1991 turnaround.

The Cardinals drafted Pendleton out of Cal State-Fresno in the seventh round of the 1982 draft; he was in the majors two years later. I am not certain if the Cards were the absolute best team for TP or the absolute worst. The best, because they appreciated defense above all else and were willing to overlook some offensive deficiencies. The worst, because they simply didn’t care about offensive deficiencies and were willing to let him get by with 35 walks a year. His best year in a Cards uniform was 1987, when he hit .286/.360/.412 with 12 homers (second on the NL Champions) but he never drew anything close to that year’s 70 walks again and wouldn’t hit over .264 again until he got out of a Cardinal uniform. That’s what he hit in 1989, but he slumped badly in 1990 and the post-Herzog regime in St. Louis replaced him with converted catcher Todd Zeile.

Terry was John Schuerholz’s first player acquisition with the Braves. Schuerholz was criticized for this, bringing in a subpar hitter coming off a bad year and suffering hamstring problems. In retrospect, it’s clear that JS made upgrading the defense his highest priority, and Pendleton was the key component in that. What maybe couldn’t have been predicted was that Pendleton would blossom into a star for the first two seasons of his contract.

The pitching immediately got better when TP arrived. Funny how putting the best defensive third baseman in the game behind a rotation largely made up of lefthanders had that effect. He was also the offensive driving force, leading the league in batting average and hitting 22 homers, a career high. And there is no question that he stepped in to fill a leadership void. From the beginning he was a coach on the field, directing the other infielders and counseling the pitchers. Unless you are the sort of person who wants to give the MVP to the guy who has the best offensive stats — in which case, we don’t actually need to vote — Pendleton’s MVP award was more than justified.

Terry’s stats weren’t quite as good in 1992, but it was still a fine year and he finished second in the MVP voting and made the All-Star team and won the Gold Glove, things he should have done the year before. Also, he played 160 games, which bounced up his counting stats so he drove in 105 runs, scored 99, and had 199 hits, all career highs. He fell off after that, to no more than solid in 1993, and was slumping badly when he was in the lineup in 1994, losing playing time to Jose Oliva. With Chipper Jones returning from his knee injury and looking for a lineup spot, the Braves let TP go as a free agent.

He was okay for the Marlins in 1995, but didn’t play well in 1996. Late in the season, the Braves reacquired him in the midst of Blauser’s struggles and moved Chipper to shortstop. Chipper did pretty well but Pendleton was done and hit .204/.271/.315. He finished his career with depressing stops in Cincinnati and Kansas City, and of course is now the Braves’ hitting coach.

Terry Pendleton Statistics – Baseball-Reference.com

16 thoughts on “#34: Terry Pendleton”

  1. And let’s not forget who started that 9th inning rally in the 7th game of the 1992 NLCS: TP with a looping double into the rightfield corner.

  2. I remember that commitment to defense. Schuerholz brought in a new groundskeeper, had a new field installed and managed to keep motorcross events from being held during the season.

    Then he brought in TP, Belliard and Bream.

  3. Good stuff Mac. I remember thinking that this FA acquisition was dumb. The guy had never hit like a 3basemen in STL. I couldn’t understand why we would need a defensive player for an offensive position. Man did TP exceed expectations. Not one of the great Atlanta Braves but an important one in the history of the team.

  4. I remember going to an all-day rock concert at ATL-Fulton Co. Stadium in late August 1976 (Kiss, Blue Oyster Cult, Edgar & Johnny Winter, Bob Seger & .38 Special), and the field got destroyed.

    The tarps that were put down on the bases lasted about 5 minutes. People were running all over the place, kicking up clumps of grass & dirt. Teenage wasteland in full effect, falling out everywhere. (I was 13 & hadn’t developed any bad habits at that point–I was there for Kiss.)

    After that gig, I began to understand all the bad hops that used to torment the Darrell Chaneys of the world. That infield was a disaster.

  5. I also remember watching a game in which a Braves hitter got drilled. The next inning, the pitcher didn’t throw at the first opposing hitter, or the second. After that, TP just walked off the field and went and got showered, in the middle of the game. It was old school baseball, and said,” Hey, if you don’t want to protect your teammates, I’m outta here.”

    It spoke volumes to a young team.

  6. That was Marvin Freeman, and as much as I loved TP, it was a terrible thing for him to do. Walking off the field mid-game is leadership? Not in my book.

  7. But then, it’s possible my perspective was skewed, having been a member of Marvin’s Free Men. The game in question was played on 5/26/93 against the Reds. Tim Belcher had hit Deion in the top of the seventh, and Marvin came in for Maddux in the bottom of the inning. He struck out Reggie Sanders, then TP walked off the field during Joe Oliver’s AB, and was replaced by Bill Pecota. (thanks, Retrosheet)

    You could make the argument that it was an unconventional form of leadership, I guess. But these things are usually dealt with in the dugout or locker room. For what it’s worth, Marvin stunk up the joint in his next three appearances, then went on the DL for a while.

  8. Most of the Braves were probably glad that Tim Belcher hit Deion Sanders. There’s somebody who doesn’t come close to sniffing this list, to say the least.

  9. You could make the argument that it was an unconventional form of leadership, I guess.

    Personally I thought that was TP being a dick. Showing up your teammate like that is the opposite of leadership.

  10. It spoke volumes to a young team.

    And yet, it’s kind of funny — if he did it today, the pinheads on ESPN would never let him hear the end of it.

    JS shores up the defense in 1991 — Braves go worst-to-first. JS lets the infield defense slip away from him in 2006 — Braves play sub-.500 baseball for the first time in 15 years. Coincidence?

  11. It’s funny, with Steve Avery I grab onto the positive memory of his great 1995 postseason. With TP – and I know this isn’t fair, given all he did in other years – but what I always remember is game 6 of the 1996 Series. Right after Jermaine Dye drew a rare walk (maybe even on four pitches, but I may be mistaken) with the BASES LOADED, TP swings at ball one and ball two against a pitcher who is clearly, clearly struggling. Eventually he hits into a double play and an excellent chance for a rally is gone, Braves trailing 3-1 in a game they eventually lose 3-2.

    It’s odd, because that 1996 Series still evokes nothing but painful memories, but my blame is scattered. I don’t fault Avery for his game 4 implosion, because it was a role for which he was ill-suited and Bobby ordered the stupid, stupid intentional walk to load the bases in order for Avery to face Wade freaking Boggs. I don’t blame Wohlers as mucgh for the HR pitch as Iblame Belliard for the flubbed DP.

    It’s not all fair or rational, but whenI think of that one AB for Terry I always think how he should have known better. If a guy just walks JERMAINE DYE (1996 version) with the bases loaded and one out, why are you swinging away. Ugh.

    I appreciate TP for so many great games (he homered in the firs game I attended), I just wish the Braves hadn’t brought back the crap version of TP in 1996.

  12. I like the comment that the ’91 MVP was well deserved. I have always agreed with that sentiment, and hate hearing that Bonds should have won it.

  13. TP did play a pivotal role for the Braves after coming over from the Cards, but even back in ’91 I just never had much confidence in the guy offensively. Probably placed about right.

  14. On the Pendleton at-bat in Game Six of the ’96 World Series, I just re-watched the game on ESPN Classic (or the parts of the game that ESPN Classic bothers to show between endless commercials) and he actually worked the count to 3-1 against Jimmy Key before hitting into the inning-ending, bases loaded double-play. He still probably shouldn’t have swung at the 3-1 pitch (it looked like a pitcher’s strike, down-and-away, outside corner), but he wasn’t just hacking through that plate appearance. Pendleton also singled in the ninth off John Wetteland as the Braves mounted a rally, only to be stranded at third base as the potential tying run when Mark Lemke popped-out with Chipper Jones on deck.

    As for 1991, Pendleton led the National League in batting average, hits, and total bases while tallying 22 home runs, 64 extra-base hits, and even 10 steals in 12 attempts.

  15. Oh, and I definitely blame Wohlers first and foremost for that Game Four outcome in the 1996 World Series. He possessed arguably the National League’s best fastball, throwing 98-99 mph to Jim Leyritz, and instead he hurled his third-best pitch, his slider, for four of the six pitches. Making matters even worse, Wohlers was struggling to command his slider, missing his spot badly (and up) on three of the four. On the last one, he missed right in the middle of the strike zone, hence Leyrtiz’s homer. Yes, Belliard bobbled the potential double-play grounder, but Mariano Duncan hit the ball sharply and it came up Belliard’s arm; what are you going to do? Physical mishaps are part of the game, but Wohlers melted mentally against Leyritz and really botched his pitch selection.

    As for the intentional walk that loaded the bases in the tenth, Avery stood a much better chance of retiring the left-handed, aging Boggs rather than the switch-hitting, hot-hitting Bernie Williams. Avery actually went ahead of Boggs 1-2 and then lost him, thanks in part to a dubious umpiring call. Avery appeared to throw the 1-2 pitch for a strike, a slider that nipped the front corner of the outside edge at the bottom of Boggs’ knees, but the ump failed to ring him up.

    And Avery has himself to blame for the jam. He retired the first two hitters and then pitched very passively to Tim Raines, resulting in a needless two-out walk. He also went ahead of both Derek Jeter and Boggs 1-2 and couldn’t put either guy away; he seemed to become timid after retiring the first two Yankee hitters.

    But really, the game should have been over by then as Wohlers blew matters in the eighth with his ridiculous pitch selection. Also, Eddie Perez was catching him and Perez being a rookie catcher surely didn’t help, although the ultimate responsibility obviously lies with the pitcher. How can you possess perhaps the game’s best fastball and then lose confidence or interest in it when you need it the most? If Wohlers had looked to finish-off Leyritz with two-strike fastballs rather than sliders, the Braves probably would have won their second consecutive World Series.

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