The thing that hurt Orlando Cepeda was he came up at about the same time as Willie McCovey. So, the Giants had two power hitting first basemen who weren’t that great in the field. Both players were capable of hitting 40 homeruns a year at Candlestick which wasn’t a great hitters park. The Giants did try Cepeda at third base. He played there all of four games. His fielding percentage was .625. Some might argue he was not given enough time, but .625 is really bad.
So, the Giants tried Cepeda and McCovey in left. Cepeda was a better fielder in left than McCovey, but that isn’t saying much. They also had young outfielders coming up. Felipe Alou came up in 1960. In 1961 not only did Matty Alou come up, but Harvey Kuenn was added to the team. Cepeda started that year at first, left field and right field. He hit 46 homeruns and finished in second place in the MVP vote.
In 1962 the same 5 outfielders were around, but McCovey was hurt part of the year, so Cepeda got to play more first base. In 1963 Willie McCovey proved he couldn’t play left field. Actually, his stats weren’t bad in 1963, so they put him there again in 1964. There his stats were bad. In 1965 he hurt his knee. Coming back in 1966 realizing that they were better off with McCovey at first and his manager thinking Cepeda had a bad attitude they traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ray Sadecki.
Now Sadecki was only 25 and won 20 games two years before, but this seems like a terrible trade. I wonder if the Giants thought that Cepeda couldn’t play anymore. Sadecki won 20 games for the St. Cardinals in 1964, but his ERA wasn’t that great. He had an off year in 1965. His won-loss record was more a reflection of his team that year then Sadecki’s pitching.
The problem was Cepeda was a proven great hitter. St. Louis had a hole at first base and Cepeda more than filled it. He was the best hitter on the team in 1966. How could the Giants not have gotten more than a mediocre starting pitcher? I wonder if they bad mouthed Cepeda to the press too much.
In 1967 Cepeda had a great year, and the Cardinals won the pennant and the World Series. Cepeda was voted the National League MVP. Sadecki had a solid year and made like the Giants didn’t make a bad trade, but it probably didn’t thrill Giants fans.
However, McCovey benefited from being at first base full time and he was the best hitter in baseball from 1968 thru 1970. That is three good years. No, I don’t blame the Giants for trading Cepeda, I’m saying they should have traded McCovey and Cepeda earlier in their careers. That way they would have gotten more for either one of them. They needed middle infielders, but did they make a plan to get one through a trade. They had a lot of talent to trade, and they trade it for Ray Sadecki. Terrible.
I think the Giants were unable to make a decision because they didn’t want to trade the wrong one. So, they had this problem for 4 or 5 years. I have a friend who was unable to make a decision. He would waiver back and forth and be bogged down he didn’t move. I thought even making the wrong decision would have been better as he would at least be moving forward, and it would be easier to make adjustments. I think if the Giants traded either one for a decent player and preferably players, the one who remained would have settled in at first and had an even better career. Also, the Giants could have had more talent in positions they were week and might have won more pennants in the 1960s. Alas it didn’t happen.