PHOENIX, AZ: Carlos Beltran #15 of the San Francisco Giants hits a single agianst the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Via the Cardinals blog Fungoes, I found a discussion of hitters who, over the years, have hurt the Cardinals the most. Now, generally these lists are a combination of the expected great hitters and the unexpected flukes; in other words, trivia. However, sometimes teams pay, umm, a little too much attention to such trivia. Not to point any fingers but ...
Oddly enough, three of the biggest Cardinal killers now play for them. Lance Berkman (.313 .415 .601) and Matt Holliday (.394 .475 .750) both have better-than-career marks against their current team. And although he doesn't have the regular-season bona fides (.258/.344/.463), Carlos Beltran has ripped the Cardinals in the playoffs (63 PAs) to the damage of .357/.476/.815.
But maybe it's not so strange, after all. It's possible that John Mozeliak and the front office have fallen prey to a bit of confirmation bias. That is, they (like all of us) tend to privilege their own experiences. So when the Cardinals have witnessed the likes of Big Puma, Big Country and Big-Game Beltran raking the Cardinal pitching staff, those players' performances are elevated in the their memories. Not that they're not accomplished players, of course. But even in the case of Rafael Furcal, it's possible that the Cardinals have an undue appreciation of his gifts based on how much better he performed in his career against them: .344/.388/.444 compared with a career line of .282/.348/.408.
I really doubt if Mozeliak would consciously acquire players because they'd done well against the Cardinals. However, it would be difficult to remove that sort of thing from one's subconscious. As much as some baseball men might try to strip the subjective feelings from the equation, they're always going to be lurking somewhere in the background, doing their dirty work. But it's not like Berkman and Holliday haven't been really good since joining the Cardinals. And I expect Beltrán to be really good, too.
There must be many, many examples of this over the years, though.
In March of 1972 the Red Sox traded Sparky Lyle to the Yankees for Danny Cater, who'd batted .347 in 54 road games at Fenway Park. Of course that deal was a spectacular success for the Yankees and a spectacular disaster for the Red Sox.
But my favorite example is Rich McKinney. Playing third base for the White Sox in 1971, McKinney batted .367 in eight games against the Yankees. After the season, the White Sox traded McKinney to the Yankees for Stan Bahnsen.
In 1972, McKinney batted .215 and fielded .917 in 37 games with New York. The Yankees traded him to the A's, and McKinney's career faded quite quickly. Meanwhile, Bahnsen won 51 games in the next three seasons. The Yankees finished two games out of first place in 1974, and you could argue that trading Bahnsen for McKinney cost the Yankees a division title.