Jim Fregosi dead at 71 after multiple strokes

Jim FregosiBaseball lost a good man on Friday as Jim Fregosi died at the age of 71 following multiple strokes suffered last weekend.

Fregosi was taken off life support Thursday, two days after being transported from the Cayman Islands to a hospital in Miami. Fregosi was on an MLB alumni cruise and suffered multiple strokes over the weekend.

Fregosi was a six-time all-star as a shortstop for the California Angels. He was traded by the Angels to the Mets for Nolan Ryan in 1971. He played 18 seasons in the majors — 11 with the Angels, two with the Mets and Pirates and five with the Rangers. Fregosi also managed the Angels, Phillies, White Sox and Blue Jays.

For the past 13 seasons he has served as a special assistant to the Atlanta Braves GM. It was during his time as a special assistant that I briefly got to know him.

I worked for the Dodgers during the 2004 season, and Fregosi would frequently show up at the stadium for whatever scouting/special assistant work he was doing for Atlanta. Every time I would see him, he had a new funny story, great one-liner or dirty joke to tell me. Guy was a legend and could put a smile on anyone’s face. He was a cool ass dude and a great baseball man. He’ll be missed.

Jim Fregosi Wanted John Kruk to be Fat

I made the argument a few years ago that baseball players are meant to be fat. I wasn’t advocating for players to be out of shape so much as I was defending players who are good but fat; if it works for them, why change? Well I’m pleased to say that Jim Fregosi and I are on the same page regarding fat boys who can ball.

I was watching MLB Tonight on MLB Network Friday night when they showed a clip of Matt Stairs grounding out for the Padres. The analysts mentioned that Stairs had lost weight and got in shape but it still didn’t help him run down the first base line any faster. That comment led to a mini-discussion about how losing weight doesn’t always help players. That’s when former Phillies closer Mitch Williams chimed in with this great anecdote about his former teammate John Kruk and former manager Jim Fregosi:

I’m telling you, there’s certain guys that get in shape and it affects their swing. John Kruk got in great shape one winter and couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. Fregosi said ‘You’re getting fat again or you’re not playing.’ That’s exactly what he said to him.

Based on Kruk’s numbers, I’m guessing this incident occurred during the 1990 season. That year, Krukie was hitting .207 after the first 10 games and .241 at the end of the first month. Every other year Kruk was with the Phils he got off to fast starts, so none of those seasons would match. The only issue is Fregosi didn’t become the team’s manager until 1991. So the explanation must lie in one of two areas: either Fregosi was a coach on the staff in 1990 (doubtful), or this incident took place during spring training, giving Kruk time to right the ship for the start of the real season (likely). But with a story that funny, who really cares what the facts are??