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Ken Phelps

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Kenneth Allen Phelps

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[edit] Biographical Information

Ken Phelps played 11 seasons in the big leagues, gradually earning attention as a player who posted high on-base percentages and high slugging percentages in spite of having low batting averages.

His name became synonymous with a certain type of overlooked player when Bill James made him the focus of a recurring feature in his Baseball Abstracts in the mid-1980s. The idea of the Ken Phelps All-Stars was to bring to light players who had been successful in the minor leagues but had never been given the chance to prove their mettle in the majors (at that time, Phelps had finally established himself with the Seattle Mariners after years of minor league stardom). Every year, James would identify a full team of players who could help a team if only given some playing time. The antithesis of the Ken Phelps type was teammate Henry Cotto, a flashy player who would always be given playing time in spite of never showing an ability to contribute anything of value to his team's offense. Phelps had long been a favorite of James, dating back to his days as a slugging first baseman in the Kansas City Royals farm system in the late 1970s.

Phelps' value as a player came both from his remarkable home run power, and his ability to draw walks, even though he was slow and an indifferent fielder. Phelps' career OPS+ was 132 (higher than contemporary Hall of Fame player Jim Rice's 128). He is the fastest American League player to reach 100 home runs, taking him only 1,322 at-bats, and also was the fastest to reach 100 home runs in the major leagues: his 1,330 at bats were the record until Ryan Howard, who reached the total in 1,141.

By 1988, his contribution was well-enough regarded that the New York Yankees traded top prospect Jay Buhner to acquire Phelps, a trade later rued by Yankee fans, and which became the subject of a famous joke on the sitcom Seinfeld. Phelps slugged .551 with the Yankees in his first partial season with the team, but dropped off the second year.

His final home run came with the Oakland Athletics on April 20, 1990. The pinch hit blast broke up Brian Holman's bid for a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning.

Phelps was a radio broadcaster for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004.

[edit] Quote

"My baseball people kept saying Ken Phelps, Ken Phelps" Steinbrenner to Mr. Costanza - Seinfeld

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