SI Vault
Hail to the new Carew
Anthony Cotton
June 30, 1980
Everyone snickered when Ken Landreaux said he was as good a hitter as Rod, but to Minnesota's delight the outfielder has been backing up his words ever since
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
June 30, 1980

Hail To The New Carew

Everyone snickered when Ken Landreaux said he was as good a hitter as Rod, but to Minnesota's delight the outfielder has been backing up his words ever since

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

The Sun Devils stuck to their promise despite a senior year in which he played sparingly and batted well under .300. Landreaux says the problem was a new coach who spent more time preparing for the football season than coaching baseball. In turn, Landreaux attended only selected games. "He didn't want to coach and I didn't want to play for him," Landreaux says. "Besides, I knew more about the game than he did."

Landreaux was much happier at Arizona State, where he played three years, averaged .342 and made All-America. Coach Jim Brock says, "Ken came in as the classic player, the most complete player we ever had." No mean compliment, considering that Landreaux's predecessors include the Dodgers' Rick Monday, the Brewers' Sal Bando, the Yankees' Reggie Jackson and the Rangers' Bump Wills.

Landreaux left ASU in 1976 to sign with the Angels, and that year he played 21 games with El Paso of the Double A Texas League. In 1977 he became the minor league Player of the Year after a torrid split season in which he batted .354 at El Paso and .359 at Salt Lake City (Triple A).

This immediate success convinced Landreaux that the next step, playing in the majors in his own backyard, would be a breeze. Instead, he rode the Angels' bench in 1978, appearing in only 93 games and batting .223. During the off-season Landreaux was one of four players California sent to Minnesota for Rod Carew. Landreaux took the news of the trade in typical fashion, insisting the Angels had been robbed, that a straight-up Carew-for-Landreaux deal would have been more equitable. "That's how I felt, I had to put some static in the air," Landreaux says.

Landreaux may not have measured up to the Carew of today last season, but he did compare well with Rod at the same stage. By batting .305 and driving in 83 runs, he easily topped Carew's (1968) second-year figures of .273 and 42.

Despite Landreaux's continued success, he is feeling disillusioned about life in the major leagues. He is still upset that the Angels traded him, and even more upset at what he considers shabby treatment by owner Calvin Griffith. Recently Griffith fined Landreaux $100 for wearing his pants so low that they covered the team emblem on his leggings. The fine was imposed early in Landreaux's hitting streak and was immediately followed by a two-game benching because, according to Mauch, "Ken's pre-game warmup indicated to me that he needed a rest."

Landreaux has also been chagrined by what he considers to be a lack of recognition for his defensive ability. After spending the first part of the season in leftfield, he was moved to center two weeks ago and has played very well there. This is no small accomplishment considering the adventurous terrain in Metropolitan Stadium, where, Landreaux swears, line drives have hit the turf and rolled back toward the infield.

"I can't play defense; that's what I've always heard," Landreaux says. He is so hung up on the matter that when Mauch recently described Landreaux as his "best defensive outfielder," the player said the manager didn't really mean it.

Mauch feels Landreaux's unhappiness could be cured by the sixth-place Twins winning a few more games. "Everything about the man is taste, class and style," Mauch says. "Losing the way we've been doing is very upsetting to him."

Landreaux smiles at the suggestion as he moves into the batting cage. Doing what he does best, shooting the ball up the middle, he releases some of his annoyance. "Right now I'm just tired," he says, which may explain why his average has fallen from a May 21 high of .366. "I'll probably taper off until the All-Star break, but after that, look out. I mean, I don't even start to hit until July."

1 2