Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Decisions: David Clyde.
Number 29 on the list is the David Clyde saga. Clyde, shown here on card number 76 of the 1999 Sports Illustrated set, was the number one draft pick in 1973. An extremely talented lefty, he had scouts and sports writers predicting a Hall of Fame career.
Unfortunately David was drafted by a team in serious financial trouble. Rangers owner Bob Short moved the team to Texas in 1972 because he was going broke in Washington DC. In the meantime some of his other investments were falling through. With cash drying up, Short needed to sell the team. When you're last in the American League and putting just 6,000 fans in the seats per game, selling becomes a difficult proposition.
Somebody, some say Short, some say Clyde, proposed David make two starts before heading off to the minors. On July 27, 1973 David Clyde made the jump from high school to the Major Leagues. Clyde lasted five innings and beat the Minnesota Twins. He also attracted over 35,000 fans and sold out Arlington Stadium for the first time since the Rangers came to town. His second start came against the Tigers and was another win.
Bob Short overruled manager Whitey Herzog and declared Clyde to be a permanent member of the team. With Billy Martin replacing Herzog as manager, the last protection for the young arm was gone. So was Clyde after just two seasons and one appearance in 1975.
David Clyde never reached his full potential with the Rangers or with any other team. In large part that was due to Bob Short holding him in the Majors and Billy Martin over using his arm. Without the seasoning and instruction in the minors Clyde was not prepared to face Major League hitting.
What Clyde did do was sell tickets. When he pitched in 1973 he drew 20,000 fans on average. That was well above the norm for a team that lost over 100 games that season. The revenue enabled Short to convince Brad Corbett that baseball in north Texas was a viable business. That got the team sold and Short out of baseball. That was good news.
Clyde also influenced the Rangers and baseball in another way, the way young prospects are treated. Promotion from high school to the Majors is almost unheard of and young players are expected to spend some time in the minors. The way the Washington Nationals have handled Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg is a good example. The refusal of the Rangers to rush young pitching in recent years is another. Even with financial and contention pressures arguing for quick promotion, the specter of David Clyde's ruined career exerts an opposing pressure. Nobody wants to be responsible for the next David Clyde.