Bob Tufts was a left-handed pitcher who played for the Royals from 1982-1983. He appeared in just sixteen games for the Royals, but was involved in two of the biggest trades in franchise history. In spring training of the 1982 season, the Royals completed a blockbuster trade acquiring former Cy Young-winner Vida Blue from the San Francisco Giants along with a young left-hander named Bob Tufts in exchange for four players. Two years later, Tufts was dealt in a much less-heralded trade, but with much better results for the Royals when Kansas City received left-hander Charlie Leibrandt from the Reds. Tufts retired from the game after the 1983 season, but has since gone on to enjoy success on Wall Street in the equities business. He has since been an outspoken defender of player's rights against critics lamenting the rise of steroids in the game. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for Royals Review.
Royals Review: First, tell us a little about what kind of pitcher you were. What did you throw? What was your pitching philosophy?
Bob Tufts: I threw conventionally as a high school pitcher growing up in Lynnfield, Massachusetts - four seam fastballs, straight over the top and tried to throw hard with a curve that was a 12 to 6 type. I learned on my own to drop my arm angle and throw two seam pitches in college and throw everything for the middle of the plate - and below the waist - to let the fastball sink and go away from righties (in to lefties) and to change the curve to a slider, dropping it down and in on them (and away from lefties). Over time, my motion became - well - an oddity and helped me become deceptive and a decent relief pitcher despite the lack of velocity.
My philosophy would not fit the modern WHIP statistics and I probably would not have been drafted in this era. I didn't strike out enough batters, gave up lots of ground ball singles while pitching to contact as a low ball pitcher. As long as I had a good third baseman and shortstop, I could do very well getting righties to try to pull fastballs tailing away or sliders that jammed them. I did try to strike out lefties by using more sliders that were set up by fastballs tailing in on their hands and learned to throw some fastballs in on righties to tie them up.
RR: You began your career with the San Francisco Giants, what were your impressions of that organization and how they developed pitching?
BT: The Giants - like most teams - believed that you draft pitchers that throw hard and that they can be taught finesse like locating pitches and change-ups or breaking pitches. My view is that this takes some self-realization and God rarely sorts out the good bodies and good heads on the same player and that this type of scouting and player development is wishful thinking.
Some pitching coaches merely went along for the ride. Don McMahon openly admitted that he hung around pitchers that were doing well to look good and shied away from those doing poorly. You were pretty much left on your own to try to figure it out. Some of the best advice that I received was from the Giants bullpen coach John Van Ornum and the Phoenix (then the top Giants AAA affiliate) trainer Harry Jordan, who watched every Phoenix game and was able to spot a flaw that others missed.
RR: At the age of 25, after only a brief stint in San Francisco, you were dealt in a blockbuster deal with former MVP Vida Blue for four players, including future All-Star Atlee Hammaker. Was it a shock to be involved in the deal and what were your thoughts about coming to Kansas City?
BT: Yes. Giants GM Tom Haller had told me that I would be part of the 1982 team as a set-up man. I was slightly stunned, as I had been part of the organization since 1977 and knew nothing about the KC team except for Rich Gale (who had played baseball and roomed with my brother Bill at the University of New Hampshire), and Rich had already been traded to the Giants during that off-season.
I flew to the Royals minor league camp for the last week of spring training in 1982 and was greeted with a speech by minor league director Dick Balderson, who talked about how getting married had ruined a prospect (I was recently engaged to be married in November of 1982) and from other minor league coaches that stressed how the major league team needed hard throwers (so why did they trade for me?). Ouch!
RR: What differences did you detect between how things were done in San Fran and how things were done in KC?
BT: There was an expectation of winning in the Royals organization. Frank Robinson had just begun to try to put that stamp on the Giants team. And as demonstrated by the Royals Academy and an early acceptance of computers, the Royals were more open to new ideas and techniques.
It's funny, the Royals organization was biased towards drafting and developing hard throwers, but they made the playoffs in 1984 and 1985 with Bud Black and Charlie Leibrandt - with Dan Quisenberry in the pen. Definitely not the hardest throwing pitchers in the league.