Good Day/Bad Day: Players Released on Their Birthdays

The Common Man is having a birthday today, and won’t shut the Hell up about it. The previous link will bring you to a nice little post TCM wrote about the best players born on his birthday. He gets Tony Oliva and Strasburg, I get Rondell White. But I digress.

In rebuttal to TCM’s obsession with a day that EVERYONE celebrates, I submit these musings on birthdays by professional joke-maker, Patton Oswalt. [NSFW]

 

As fate would have it, I was actually engaged yesterday in a little research project of my own involving birthdays. See, Rick Ankiel was designated for assignment yesterday. I read the news that morning, and struggled to muster a modicum of interest. Ankiel was an expendable player on a team that needed the space for its returning dominant relief pitcher.

Then, for reasons unknown, I logged on to Baseball Reference. I’m sure I was looking up something of dire importance. On BBRef, there is a widget on the right side that displays players who are having a birthday on that specific day. Shocked was I to find the aforementioned Rick Ankiel on that list as well.

Rick Ankiel was designated for assignment on his damn birthday. Bummer? Bummer. Now I’m interested. This brought up the inevitable question;

“This has probably happened before, right?”

I decided to check my Retrosheet database to see if I could find instances of players suffering the same fate as Mr. Ankiel. I was then hit with the sobering fact that I did not have a Retrosheet database.

Two and half hours, A LOT of Googling, and a whole pot of coffee later, I had my database. Now to do some querying.

As it happens, the Retrosheet transactions database doesn’t include assignment designations. But it DOES include releases. While this is not quite what I was looking for, it’s actually more intriguing. Being sent to the minors is bad. Being sent home altogether will really put a damper on your special day.

Here are the top five players – based on FanGraphs WAR – that were given their full release on the anniversary of their mothers releasing them into this cruel world.

Don Buford – Born/Released on February 2nd

Buford played ten years in the big leagues, splitting time between the White Sox and Orioles. His most productive year was 1971, as part of Earl Weaver’s American-League Champion team in Baltimore, a team that had won the World Series the year before. In 1971, Buford led the league in runs with 99(!), and made his only All-Star Game appearance. After coming to Baltimore in 1968 he saw his OBP jump .045 points, and it would continue to climb for four more years, reaching .413 in 1971. He also led the league in caught stealing three different seasons, maxing out at 22 in 1966. He was released before the 1973 season.

Wally Joyner – Born/Released on June 6th

Wally Joyner burst on to the scene with the California Angels in 1986, making his only All-Star appearance and finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting, behind none other than Jose Canseco. The first baseman/designated hitter served as a slightly-above average player throughout most of 16 seasons, posting a 116 wRC+ for his career, and hitting double-digit home runs every season he played more than 130 games. He was released during the 2001 season, at age 39.

Kevin Seitzer – Born/Released on March 26th

Seitzer, like Joyner, was an All-Star and placed 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting.  He managed this feat in 1987, a season after Joyner did it. He would lead the league in hits that year with 207. Seitzer would have one additional All-Star appearance in 1995 with the Milwaukee Brewers. He finished his career with a .362 OBP and a 116 wRC+, and has served as the Kansas City Royals hitting coach since 2009.

Matt Young – Born/Released on August 9th

Yet another former All-Star joins the list, though Young represents the first pitcher. Young finished his career with a 17.4 fWAR, splitting time between starting and relieving. His career is nothing remarkable, though he did pitch an 8-inning no hitter in which he allowed two runs and surrendered seven walks.

Julian Tavarez – Born/Released on May 22nd

Julian Tavarez was a fairly innocuous relief pitcher, and quite possibly the ugliest baseball player of his era. He pitched for 11 teams, and earned a World Series ring with the 2007 Red Sox. He was released by the Red Sox early in the 2008 season (the birthday release), and managed to play for two more teams that season – the Brewers and Braves.

Look, a lot of terrible things – things far more terrible than losing your job as a major-league baseball player – can happen on your birthday. Nevertheless, it’s still kind of a drag to get fired on a day meant for celebration – Mr. Oswalt’s comments notwithstanding.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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