Friday, November 7, 2014

Philography: Von Hayes

For Phillies fans who were around at the time, the rationale for the trade by GM Paul Owens with the Cleveland Indians that brought Von Hayes to town following the 1982 season seemed sound.

The Phils had been regular contenders for the better part of the period from 1975-1981, a seven year string of success that had yielded a World Series championship, 4 N.L. East titles, and even a split-season title in the work stoppage season of 1981.

In 1982, the Phillies had not been far off. They finished 89-73, just 3 games behind the Saint Louis Cardinals in the N.L. East. The Cards went on to win the World Series that season. But even prior to that 1982 season, the organization had begun the turnover from the 70's core to a new generation of players.

They said goodbye to 1980 World Series heroes Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Bake McBride, Keith Moreland, and Dickie Noles as well as manager Dallas Green. Coming in to Philly were starting pitcher Mike Krukow and shortstop Ivan DeJesus.

Krukow joined with holdovers Steve Carlton, John Denny, and Dick Ruthven to give the team an enviable pitching rotation, but the team's offensive core was limited and aging. Mike Schmidt and Garry Maddox were 32, Gary Matthews and Manny Trillo were 31, and Pete Rose was now 41 years old.


Popular World Series hero Manny Trillo was one of the 5-for-1
So the deal with Cleveland was to land the Phils a near-ready, high ceiling offensive outfielder. Hayes fit the bill perfectly. At the time of the trade on December 9th, 1982 he was a 23-year old coming off his first full season in the Majors.

A 7th round pick of the Tribe in the 1979 Draft out of Saint Mary's (CA) College, he could run, hit, field, and hit for power. At the minor league level, he played 2 full seasons. As a 21-year old in his first pro season at A-Waterloo in 1980, Hayes hit .329 with a .405 on-base percentage. He showed his power/speed combo with 15 homers, 90 rbi, 51 steals, and 105 runs scored.

Hayes skipped AA completely, and in 1981 at AAA-Charleston hit .314 with a .401 on-base percentage, 10 homers, 73 rbi, and 34 steals in almost 120 fewer plate appearances than the year before. His performance resulted in a promotion to the Indians, and it would be a decade until, late in his career, he saw another minor league appearance.

After getting his feet wet over the last couple months of the 1981 season in Cleveland, his first full 1982 season resulted in 14 homers, 82 rbi, and 32 steals. The Phillies scouts had seen enough, and Owens pulled the trigger during the off-season in what would become one of the more controversial and discussed deals in team history.

The problem with the deal, at least as far as the media was concerned, was not with the player coming to the club, but in the price paid to land Hayes. The media hung the handle "Five-for-one" on Hayes to recognize that the Phils gave up 5 players in order to bring this one individual to the organization.

The package headed to Cleveland included longtime popular World Series hero 2nd baseman Manny Trillo, starting rightfielder George Vukovich, and a trio of prospects: infielder Julio Franco, pitcher Jay Baller and infielder Jerry Willard. To many, this seemed a steep price to pay, and the deal would be criticized for years. But the fact is, when evaluated fairly, the Phillies got the better end.

In his first season with the Phillies, Hayes split time at all three outfield spots, playing mostly in rightfield. He got just 392 plate appearances, stealing 20 bases, for a Phils team that put on a late charge to win the N.L. East and eventually reach the World Series. Hayes saw limited postseason action, going 0-5 as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement. He appeared in the first four games of the World Series that was eventually lost to the Orioles 4-1.

In 1984, Hayes played his first full Phillies season. It was the first of four consecutive years, and five of six, in which he would appear in at least 152 games. He hit .292, stole 48 bases, drove 16 homers, and drove in 67 while scoring 85 times. He tailed off in 1985, with his average (.263), homers (13), runs (76), and especially his steals (21) all dropping.

Meanwhile, the Phillies were also collapsing. In 1984 the club finished exactly at .500, with an 81-81 record and in 4th place. In '85 they dropped even further, to 75-87 and 5th place. As the championship era faded further into the past, Von Hayes, who was supposed to lead the charge into the future, became a poster boy for the team's struggles with his own personal struggles. The nickname "Five-for-One" became a full-blown insult thrown in his face at every turn.

Hayes did have a bright moment in 1985. On June 11th that season, Hayes led off with a homerun against New York Mets pitcher Tom Gorman. The Phillies batted around, and Hayes came up again. In his 2nd at-bat of the opening frame, Hayes again homered, this time off Mets reliever Calvin Schiraldi. He thus became the first player in MLB history to hit 2 homeruns in the 1st inning of a game. The Phils won 26-7, the most runs scored by a team in MLB in more than 40 years.

In 1986 though, Hayes rebounded, producing his career-best season. He hit .305 with a .379 on-base percentage, blasted a career-high 19 homers, drove in a career-high 98 runs, scored an NL-high 107 times, and he stole 24 bases. In addition to Runs, he led the NL in Doubles. The result was not only an 8th place finish in National League MVP balloting as an individual, but his performance was a key part of the team rebounding to an 86-75 record.

The team success was fleeting, however. In '87 the club fell below .500 again at 80-82, and then in 1988 they completely collapsed to 65-96, their worst season since 1972. Hayes wasn't the reason for the 1987 slip. He cracked a career-high 21 homers, both drove in and scored 84 runs, stole 16 bags, and continued as one of the league's best all-around outfielders. But in '88, he got hurt right before the All-Star break. He would not play again until September as the team collapsed.

As the 80's drifted through the 2nd half, the old gang was slowly dismantled, or drifted away. Tug McGraw had retired after the 1984 season. Gary Maddox retired after 1986, having been a parti-timer the last 3-4 seasons. Steve Carlton was traded away during the 1986 season. He hung around for a couple years before finally retiring following the 1988 season.

At this point, Phillies all-timer Mike Schmidt was clearly seeing the writing on the wall. The good old days of his being an impact player were over, as were the teams days as a contender, and the effort to play became a chore. In late May of the 1989 season, Schmidt suddenly and, to many, surprisingly retired.

The efforts that Phillies management did make to try and bridge that late-70's, early-80's winning group largely failed, with the exceptions of Hayes and Juan Samuel. The Phils had brought "Sammy" in full-time in 1984. He was 2nd in NL Rookie of the Year voting that season, and through the 80's had become an All-Star, and a Silver Slugger winner.

Despite solid play from Juan Samuel and Hayes the Phils declined

But as the Phillies mostly lost, as the old heroes aged and left, and as it became obvious to the fan base that the winning wasn't returning, both Hayes and Samuel, arguably the two faces of the franchise in the 2nd half of the 80's (aside from the aging Schmidt) received a lion's share of the blame from the fans. Despite the fact that they produced, the fans saw them and saw losing, and many equated the two.

Still, Hayes had a final hurrah in him. In 1989, with Schmidt retired, Samuel traded to the Mets (for Lenny Dykstra), and the Phils struggling to a last place finish, old "Five-for-One" became a National League All-Star for the only time in his career. Hayes banged a career-best 26 homers, stole 28 bases, and scored 93 runs. For the player originally billed as a power-speed combo, it was his only career 20-20 season at age 30.

He also had another big moment of glory as well in 1989. On June 8th, the Pirates scored 10 runs in the top of the 1st inning at Veteran's Stadium. Pirates broadcaster and former pitcher Jim Rooker said on-air that "If we lose this game, I'll walk home." Hayes smashed a pair of homeruns in leading the Phillies all the way back to a 15-11 victory. Rooker did not walk home, but did conduct a charity walk from Pittsburgh to Philly after the season.

The early 1990's were the end days of Von Hayes career as an MLB player. He played a full season in Philly in 1990 as the team improved slightly to 77-85. His final season as a full-timer ended with 17 homers, 73 rbi, 70 runs, and 16 steals. 

In 1991 his arm was broken by a pitch from the Reds' Tom Browning, which caused him to miss more than a month, and the Phillies cut ties with him. He caught on with the Angels as a part-timer in 1992, and then retired, claiming that he was never able to recover fully from the broken arm.

Over the course of a career encompassing parts of a dozen MLB seasons, 9 of them in Philadelphia, Von Hayes ended with a career .267 batting average and a .354 on-base percentage. He accumulated 143 homeruns and 253 steals. On the current Phillies all-time lists he is 10th in Steals, 17th in Homeruns, 21st in Extra-Base Hits, 24th in Runs, and 25th in Hits.

After his playing days were over, Von Hayes eventually tried to get into the game as a manager and coach, and had some success in the minor leagues. He was the High-A level California League Manager of the Year in 2004 at Modesto, and the AA Texas League Manager of the Year in 2005 at Midland, guiding both clubs to championships. He last managed with the Independent local Camden Riversharks in 2010 and 2011.

As for the trade, old "Five-for-One" was a win for the Fightins in the end. Trillo called it a career soon after the deal. All three of Vukovich, Baller, and Willard were inconsequential as MLB players. Only Franco enjoyed success and longevity, but Hayes out-performed him and the Indians dealt Franco away to Texas eventually.

In the end, Von Hayes became a symbol for everything that was going wrong with the Philadelphia Phillies as the 1980's moved from early-decade glory to an end-of-decade bottoming out. That decline coincided with his, and Juan Samuel's, presence as key players. But it would be hard to blame that decline on either of them. Hayes was one of the few consistent bright spots during that largely dark era of Philadelphia Phillies baseball.



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