Today marks 42 days since the owners of Major League Baseball teams and commissioner Rob Manfred unanimously voted to begin a player lockout after failing to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement before the deadline. For the first time since December 2nd, MLB and the MLBPA are meeting today to make core-economics proposals. If things go awry during this meeting, it could spell disaster for those who want the 2022 season to start on time.
Well... is there another option?
If the situation devolves further then the league could consider the idea of replacement players: those willing to cross the picket line for playing time and contracts.
Today there are several things stopping the league from genuinely pursuing the avenue of replacement players. Because the situation is not a strike but instead a league instituted lockout after the expiration of the CBA, they have less legal recourse to bring in replacement players under federal labor laws. They could sign replacement players as “team employees” to play, but that would bring about a lawsuit from the player’s union faster than they could pull on their socks. However, back in 1994 with a full-on player’s strike threatening the upcoming 1995 season, MLB prepared for a shortened 144-game campaign with all 30 teams bringing in replacement players. Many of these players had either never played in the majors, were years removed from their last major league stint, or weren’t even playing affiliated ball recently.
1995 ended up being one of the first real marquee years for the Colorado Rockies. The Blake Street Bombers emerged in the newly built Coors Field, led by Larry Walker in his first season adorned in Purple. The Rockies had their first ever winning season and made their first ever playoff berth in the first ever Wild Card. All of that was in jeopardy with the team bringing in a roster of replacements for spring training. Thankfully the strike was resolved on April 2nd, 1995 and teams proceeded with their MLBPA rosters for the season. Had the strike not ended, we could have seen a very different starting nine in Coors Field’s debut season. These are the 1995 Replacement Rockies that could have been.
Believe it or not, the Replacement Rockies were actually the first team to play professional baseball at Coors Field. On March 31st and April 1st of 1995, The Rockies welcomed the New York Yankees for a two game exhibition series in which both teams fielded rosters of replacement players who had chosen to cross the picket line.
Thanks to the excellent Max Rieper over at Royals Review, we actually have a pretty strong picture of the Replacement Rockies roster. In an article from the Rocky Mountain News published on March 30, 1995 titled “Emotion different as spring training closes in Arizona. Rockies play one more exhibition game before heading to Colorado to open Coors Field,” the majority of a 40-man roster can be found.
Replacement Rockies 40-man Roster
|Albert Bustillos||Steve Bernhardt||Alan Cockrell||Gary Resetar|
|Curt Conley||Stu Cole||Brian Culp||Jason Smith|
|Mike Farmer||Sam Ferretti||Angel Echevarria||Randy Snyder|
|Barry Goldman||Jay Gainer||Ced Landrum||Jeff Twist|
|Jon Goodrich||Webster Garrison||Lou List|
|Ken Grundt||Andy Hartung||Timmie Morrow|
|Jim Hunter||Link Jarrett||Ben Ortman|
|Garland Kiser||Jon Mathews|
|Randy Kramer||Mike Oakland|
|Jeff Locklear||Fred Ocasio|
|Brad Moore||Billy White|
It lists 37 players that are corroborated by other articles, as well as lists of players who crossed the picket line to play. Max was also able to dig up the starting lineup for this exhibition series. This lineup features the majority of names listed by Don Baylor to be on the projected Opening Day lineup, which was recovered from a March 20th, 1995 article by the Denver Post’s Woody Paige titled “Now, heere’s your substitute lineup.” Piece everything together and you have 38 players and a full starting lineup.
General manager Bob Gebhard was positive about the roster, but realistic.
“We’re actually in better shape than a lot of clubs because we’ve got guys who can play a number of positions, so we’re covered everywhere,” Gebhard said. “You’ll find that like in regular baseball, the dropoff after the first couple of starters on every team will be pretty drastic.”
The skipper was... less enthusiastic.
“From what I’ve seen, Roger Maris’ home-run record is safe,” Baylor said. “There aren’t a lot of power hitters.”
But now, without further ado, here are your 1995 Colorado Replacement Rockies:
Replacement Rockies Starting Lineup
Center Fielder, number 28: Ced Landrum
Ced Landrum signed as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Cubs in 1985, and made his MLB debut for the Cubs in 1991. During that season he slashed .233/.313/.279 with two doubles and a triple in 99 plate appearances. A slap-hitting speedster with a 42.3% ground ball rate in 1991, Landrum wouldn’t hit for extra bases but would be a stealing threat instead. He stole 27 bases in 1991 and was caught five times. After not playing in the majors in 1992, Landrum emerged for a short stint with the New York Mets in 1993 with only 20 plate appearances. He played no professional baseball in 1994 before crossing the picket line for the Rockies at the age of 32. In spring training he was hitting .317 with four stolen bases by March 20th. After the strike ended, Landrum played the 1995 season with the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox before heading to Mexico in 1996. He was inducted into the Unviersity of North Alabama’s athletic hall of fame in 1997.
Third baseman, number 9: Andy Hartung
Andy Hartung was drafted by the Chicago Cubs late in the 1990 amateur draft, but never made it above Double-A. Cut by the A+ Daytona Cubs after slashing .191/.302/.318 with three home runs in 1994, Hartung finished the season playing independent ball. He fared much better with the Northern League’s Duluth-Superior Dukes with a line of .271/.350/.458 and eight home runs. In spring training as of March 20th Hartung had hit three home runs with a batting average in the high .300s. After the strike ended Hartung was assigned to the Double-A New Haven Ravens, where he was cut after just 12 games with a batting average of .097. He finished 1995 playing independent ball and retired after the season. He was inducted into his alma mater’s athletic hall of fame in 2016 at the University of Maine.
Shortstop, number 39: Stu Cole
Yes, it’s that Stu Cole! Your current Colorado Rockies third base coach! A third round pick in 1987 for the Kansas City Royals, Cole slashed .266/.341/.363 in nine seasons of minor league play. He only got one real crack at the majors though: a nine game cup of coffee in 1991 where he was used exclusively as a pinch hitter and registered one hit with two walks in nine plate appearances. He three strong seasons with the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox from 1993-1995. His best season came in 1994 with a line of .302/.346/.456 with five home runs and 35 RBIs. Cole had been batting .347 in 1995 spring training, but returned to the Sky Sox after the strike ended. He began his coaching career with the Rockies in 1996, and 26 years later he’s still with the organization. One last fun fact for you: Cole registered 1 1⁄3 innings as a pitcher with the Sky Sox, posting an ERA of 13.50 while giving up two hits, two earned runs, and two walks across eight batters faced!
First baseman, number 37, Jay Gainer
Jay Gainer didn’t make the decision to cross the picket line until April 1 of 1995, and skipper Don Baylor was preparing to name someone else as the opening day first baseman until he did. Gainer was drafted in the 24th round of the 1990 draft by the San Diego Padres and was traded to the Rockies in 1993. One of the few players on the replacement roster with major league experience, Gainer made his debut on May 14, 1993 with the Rockies by hitting a home run on the first pitch of his first at-bat. In 23 at-bats he hit three home runs while slashing .171/.244/.390. When Woody Paige reported on the potential opening day lineup, Gainer had hit three home runs in the last week, but was unsure if he would play. After the strike he spent 1995 and 1996 with the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox, then spent the rest of his career playing in Mexico, Italy, and American independent leagues.
Right fielder, number 44: Alan Cockrell
A star quarterback and outfielder with the University of Tennessee, Alan Cockrell was a first round draft pick for the San Francisco Giants in 1984. Cockrell developed quickly and ascended through the minors. He was in Triple-A by 1987... and in Triple-A he stayed. In a 13 year professional baseball career, Cockrell spent ten seasons in Triple-A for various organizations. He had been with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox when it was an affiliate for the Cleveland Indians in 1990 and 1992, and returned to the Sky Sox in 1994 after it had become a Rockies affiliate. Cockrell isn’t explicitly named by Paige as one of Baylor’s likely starters—right field was the only position not listed— though his candidacy can be assumed due to being in the exhibition lineup. Cockrell stayed with the Rockies organization after the strike and finally made his major league debut in 1996 at the age of 33. He appeared in just nine games with nine at-bats, earning two hits and a double. If the name sounds familiar at all, it’s because Alan Cockrell was the hitting coach for the Rocktober Rockies in 2007.
Catcher, number 38: Gary Resetar
On the younger side of the replacements, catcher Gary Resetar out of Rutgers was 27 in 1995 when he joined the Replacement Rockies. Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 1988, Resetar made it as far as Double-A before being out of affiliated ball following the 1991 season. He didn’t play in either 1992 or 1994 but did play indy ball with the Duluth Superior Dukes in 1993 were he slashed .319/.346/.380. Resetar was assigned to the Asheville Tourists following the strike, where he made just two plate appearances before being released. He never played professional baseball again.
Left fielder, number 49: Webster “Webby” Garrison
The Toronto Blue Jays drafted Webster “Webby” Garrison in the second round of the 1983 draft right out of high school. He played in the Jays’ minor league system until he was released after the 1990 season and caught on with the Oakland Athletics system. A strong and speedy doubles hitter, Garrison hit 32 doubles and 13 home runs with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in 1994 while slashing .302/.356/.459 when he joined the Rockies organization. Don Baylor didn’t know if Garrison would decide to play, but had him penciled in as the starter during spring 1995. Garrison returned to the Athletics organization and finally made his major league debut in 1996. He was hitless with a walk in 10 plate appearances. After retiring following the 1999 season he began coaching in the Athletics system and did so for over 20 years. He was forced to retire due to medical complications.
Second baseman, number 17: Sam Ferretti
The final position player in the Replacement Rockies’ starting lineup, Sam Ferretti was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 26th round of the 1987 draft. He played seven seasons of minor league ball with both the Indians and the Baltimore Orioles with a career slash of .243/.311/.312 and 14 total home runs. He never made it past Double-A and was completely out of baseball with a regular day job after 1993. When the strike ended he was released and out of professional baseball entirely until 2000, where he played a 35 game stint with the independent Newark Bears of the Atlantic League.
Pitcher, number 13: Albert Bustillos
Albert Bustillos, drafted incredibly late in the 1987 draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, surprisingly never made his major league debut. Bustillos had a strong 3.81 ERA in nine seasons of minor league baseball and didn’t have a total ERA over 4.00 until 1993. He struggled in Triple-A with a combined ERA of 5.01 over five seasons, compared to his 3.90 ERA in four seasons of Double-A ball. By March 20th of 1995, Bustillos had a record of 2-1 with a “miniscule earned run average” in spring training. In addition, he was the only Rockies pitcher to have an outing of more than four innings. Baylor had Bustillos penciled in at the top of the rotation. After the strike ended, Bustillos struggled to keep his ERA down with the Sky Sox and played one year with the CBPL Brother Elephants before retiring.
The Replacement Rockies had three confirmed bench players.
- Infielder, number 4: Billy White. Originally drafted in the third round by the Chicago Cubs, White was a career .266 hitter through 8 seasons of minor league baseball. White was batting .391 on March 20th.
- Outfielder, number 11: Ben Ortman. Drafted by the Rockies in 1993, Ortman was a career .250 minor league hitter and only played three seasons. Ortman was described as “hovering around .400” on March 20th.
- First baseman, number 16: Mike Oakland. Oakland played four seasons of minor league ball with the Rockies organization after being drafted in 1992. He had a .257 career average. In his previous game before March 20th Ortman went 3-for-4 with a three run home run after a 4-for-18 slump.
There you have it. A group of players who crossed the picket line hoping for an incredible opportunity to either get an early crack at the big leagues, finally bust into the league after years in the minors, or revive a big league career that had faltered.
Thankfully the strike ended before the need to commit to the Replacement Rockies became official, leading to the incredible season we all know and love. Could you imagine though, if a 144-game season was played with this lineup? Woody Paige said it best:
“Get out your scorecard. They aren’t the Genuine Rockies, but it’s only rock ‘n roll.”
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RoxPile’s Kevin Henry explores career milestones that three Rockies will be gunning for in 2022. Bud Black is just two wins away from 1,000 career victories as a manager. CJ Cron is gunning for 500 career RBIs, and Charlie Blackmon could hit his 200th career home run.
Nick Groke over at the Athletic has some interesting predictions for the 2022 Rockies. Will Peter Lambert start the season as the fifth member of the rotation? Will Charlie Blackmon return to the All-Star Game? Will Elehuris Montero beome a fixture of the big league roster? Perhaps most importantly: Will Illegal Pete’s open a burrito stand at Coors Field?
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