Introducing… Steve Rogers

Over the many decades man has played baseball, a great number of fine players have been hindered by teammates of lesser quality.  Pitchers tend to suffer the greatest stress of roster weakness.  Fine pitchers have often struggled to win games because their teammates can’t support them with runs or defense.  Steve Rogers, one of the finest pitchers of the late 1970s and early 1980s, spent his entire Major League career with the lackluster Expos of Montreal, ending his career with a winning percentage just over .500 despite his obvious talents.

Rogers was the fourth pick in the nation in the 1971 draft by the Expos and made his Major League debut two years later.  The kid from Missouri was an immediate sensation.  As a rookie in ’73, Steve went 10-5 on a 1.54 ERA.  How he lost five games on his microscopic ERA is beyond reason until you realize that he played for Montreal.  Steve pitched his entire career with the Expos and even though he never was a 20-game winner, writers knew how brilliant he was and he finished in the Top Five in Cy Young Award voting on three separate occasions.

With an amazing freshman showing under his belt, Steve fanned 154 batters his sophomore campaign.  He made his first All-Star team in 1974 but All-Star or not, he was still playing in Montreal and led the National League in losses.  Steve trimmed his ERA to 3.29 in 1975 and wouldn’t allow it to get any higher than that until 1981.  He cut his ERA down eight more points in 1976 when he paced Montreal with four shutouts.

Clearly the go-to guy in skipper Dick Williams’ rotation in 1977, Rogers won 17 games with as many complete games.  He notched 206 strikeouts (third in the NL) and had a nifty 3.10 ERA.  But his ERA fell substantially in 1978 when he posted a terrific mark of 2.47 during his second All-Star season.  The man from north of the border missed his share of bats, indicated by averaging just 0.849 hits per inning.

Steve tied for the league lead in shutouts in 1979 as he made another All-Star squad.  In the first year of the 1980s, Steve went 16-11 for Montreal while leading the NL in complete games and fashioning a 2.98 ERA.  His only taste of postseason action came in the strike shortened 1981 season when Steve led the Expos into October.  He owned the Phillies in the division series, going 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA, outpitching Hall of Famer Steve Carlton in each of his starts.  He kept batters off balance in the NLCS, winning Game 3, but the Expos fell to the Dodgers despite Steve’s 1.80 NLCS ERA.

The finest hour for Rogers came in 1982 when he finished second in Cy Young Award voting to the man he outperformed the previous season’s postseason: Steve Carlton.  During that terrific season, Steve went 19-8 with an NL best 2.40 ERA.  He fanned 179 batters and showed fine control by averaging just 0.235 walks per inning.  He followed up his amazing ’82 season with a fine 1983 campaign.  That year he led the NL in shutouts while winning 17 games on 3.23 ERA.

But 1983 was Steve’s last good year.  His ERA swelled to 4.31 in 1984 and he made just seven starts for the Expos in 1985 before his release.  Now that the Montreal Expos are no longer in existence, Steve Rogers will forever be known as the greatest pitcher to ever wear an Expos uniform.

THE NUMBERS

W 158/L 152/PCT .510/G 399/CG 129/IP 2,839/H 2,619/BB 876/SO 1,621/SHO 37/ERA 3.17

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2 comments
  1. Michael said:

    Rogers was one of my favorite players growing up during the 70s/80s. It’s a shame that he was forgotten so quickly after his retirement. During his prime, it was widely acknowledged that he was one of the NLs best starting pitchers.

    • brettkiser said:

      I agree with you. Rogers finished high in Cy Young Award voting a couple of years despite never notching 20 wins–a benchmark for the award back in his day. Hall of Fame voters have herded in inferior pitchers because they have high winning percentages simply because they pitched for better teams. Had Steve Rogers any help in Montreal, his winning percentage would be more flattering. When judging pitchers for Hall of Fame enshrinement, voters should look at peripheral stats and not just focus on winning percentage. But things are changing. Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum won Cy Young Awards last year even though neither fellow reached 20 wins… but they were the best pitchers in their respective leagues.

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