Underappreciated Giants: Volume Three

One of my first memories: I was six, and my sister and a friend were babysitting me. I had huge, unorganized boxes of baseball cards, and my sister’s friend asked me if I had a Tom O’Malley card. I knew that I did, but I didn’t know where it was. That started a two-hour search through my boxes. Apparently, in 1983, Tom O’Malley was considered cute, and my ’83 Fleer Tom O’Malley card was evidence of this. One teenage girl can’t just describe a guy as "cute" and not provide evidence to support her claim, so the eventual archeological dig was justified. We found the card, and my sister’s reaction was "meh." I have no idea why I remember this, and it truly is one of my earliest memories.

Could that be the most useless paragraph I’ve ever written for this site? It’s up against stiff competition, but I think it comes out on top. But, heck, how else was I supposed to introduce O’Malley?

Tom O’Malley was a young third baseman who came up for the Giants when he was 21. He posted a .275/.350/.364 in 92 games, which was good enough to win the starting job in 1983. He followed up his age-21 season with a .259/.345/.339. No power, but a promising on-base percentage for a 22-year-old, and his low strikeout rate indicated that he had solid bat control. With the Giants needing to rebuild, surely the Giants could have some patience and hope for some doubles power to emerge, right?

No. He was sent down to AAA, where he hit .346/.434/.447 for the Phoenix Giants. Then he was traded to the White Sox for Mike Trujillo, who never pitched an inning for the Giants, though I think he laid down some sweet bass lines for Suicidal Tendencies and Infectious Grooves. The White Sox gave O’Malley 16 at-bats before releasing him in the offseason. The Orioles, Rangers, Expos, and Mets all gave him cups of coffee in the majors after that, but the bulk of his American career was spent in AAA as a perennial minor league all-star.

O’Malley probably tired of riding buses, and he went to Japan, where he was a gaijin beast. Over six seasons, O’Malley hit .315/.422/.519 for the Hansin Tigers and Yakult Swallows, and won a Central League MVP and a Japan Series MVP.

His defense was probably pretty bad; he made a healthy amount of errors, and he was never really tried at second base, which is where his lack of power would have played better. But I can’t help but think that O’Malley was just a product of the wrong era. A 22-year-old with a league-average OBP would be sought after today, especially if teams were willing to give him away for free. Before the era of statistical awareness, teams looked at him and noticed his batting average, lack of power, and iffy defense. As such, he was labeled a AAAA-player, and he could never overcome the poor performances he gave in limited samples.

So here’s to Tom O’Malley, member of that legendary ’83-’84 Giants organization. Some of you have probably never heard of him. A lot of you probably weren’t even born yet. And a few of you stubbornly insist that he was not a baseball player, but rather 1,241 different turn-of-the-century New York City police officers. But he’s always stuck out to me – partly because he hit .265 for the Giants, and partly because he hit .500 among teenage girls. If he were a prospect today, he would probably have had a much longer MLB career.

If you don’t have anything to write about O’Malley, you can use this as a comment starter: What Giants player from the past do you think got a raw deal? Maybe it was someone who was used improperly, or maybe it was someone who just never got enough at-bats or innings.

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