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Retro Profile: Casey Candaele

by thejamootz

Vital Statistics

Full Name: Casey Todd Candaele
Born: 1-12-61 (Lompoc, California)
Height: 5'9" Weight: 165 lbs
College: University of Arizona
Bats: Both Throws: Right
Position: 2B, SS, 3B, OF

Baseball Statistics

MLB.com
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball-Reference
Baseball Cube (minors)

Background

Casey Candaele wasn't supposed to have a major league career, much less a career that spanned nine seasons and more than 750 games in the big leagues.  Signed in 1982 by the Expos as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Arizona, the undersized utilityman headed to West Palm Beach in the spring of 1983 to start his professional baseball odyssey.  Casey was impressive in West Palm, hitting .305 with 26 doubles, 22 steals, 77 runs scored, and posting an on-base percentage north of .370.  That performance in the Florida State League earned Casey a promotion to Double-A, where it looked for a while like he had settled into an organizational soldier role, hitting .270 over two seasons with unspectacular power and on-base skills.

The spring of 1985 saw Casey promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis, where he struggled with the bat.  A .259 batting average, mediocre on-base skills, and virtually no power whatsoever (13 doubles and no home runs in 127 games) left serious doubt as to whether Candaele could ever reach The Show.

Whatever it was that happened in Indianapolis in 1986, it changed the course of Candaele's career.  For the first time in three seasons, Casey's batting average topped .300, but perhaps more importantly he began to drive the ball.  Candaele went from 18 extra-base hits in 1985 to 40 extra-base hits in 1986.  That success, combined with execrable performances from Montreal second basemen Vance Law and Al Newman, earned Casey a cup of coffee north of the border.

Despite a poor performance in his 1986 trial, Candaele broke camp the next spring as a big leaguer.  By mid-April of 1987, Casey was a fixture as the Expos' leadoff hitter.  A successful season for both Candaele and the Expos led to Casey finishing fourth in the balloting for National League Rookie of the Year.

1988 was a nightmare for Candaele.  He suddenly stopped hitting, ending the season with a horrific .170/.228/.238 line in the big leagues.  It was the end of the line for Casey in Montreal.  Less than a year after he was the regular leadoff hitter on a team featuring legendary leadoff man Tim Raines, Candaele was shipped to Houston in exchange for a catcher (Mark Bailey) who would never even appear in a game with the Expos.  Casey spent much of the next two seasons in Tucson, slugging a pathetic .268 and posting a total of 10 extra-base hits in the hitting-happy Pacific Coast League.

Candaele again found himself in the right place at the right time in 1990.  The Astros needed a utility player and turned to Casey.  They were rewarded with his career season.  In 130 games, Candaele hit .286, on-based .364, played six positions, and even pinch-hit 33 times.  After a reasonably successful 1991 season as Houston's starting second baseman, Casey's bat again fell silent.  Candaele had miserable seasons in 1992 and 1993, and it appeared his major league career was over.

Casey bounced around Triple-A for the better part of three seasons, but finally began to hit again in 1996.  When the Indians traded Carlos Baerga to the Mets in July of that year, they needed a fill-in second baseman for a few days and Candaele was their man.  Casey played well enough in his three starts that he earned a job on the major league bench for the rest of the season, and even appeared in two playoff games.

After 26 major league at-bats in 1997, Candaele's major league career was over.  Casey spent the next several seasons ping-ponging around the minors, from New Orleans to Calgary to Nashua.  After a (mostly tongue-in-cheek) campaign for Candaele to make the 2000 Olympic baseball team failed, he retired.  He is now the head baseball coach at San Luis Obispo High School, less than an hour away from his hometown of Lompoc, California.

Transactions

8-15-82: Signed with the Montreal Expos as an undrafted free agent;
Started 1983 in West Palm (A+)
Started 1984 in Jacksonville (AA)
Started 1985 in Indianapolis (AAA)
6-5-86: Recalled by Montreal (MLB Debut)
7-86: Optioned to Indianapolis (AAA)
Started 1987 in Montreal
5-88: Optioned to Indianapolis (AAA)
7-3-88: Traded to the Houston Astros for C Mark Bailey; Assigned to Tucson (AAA)
Started 1990 in Houston
10-93: Became minor-league free agent
11-93: Signed a minor-league contract with the Cincinnati Reds
Started 1994 in Indianapolis (AAA)
10-94: Became minor-league free agent
2-95: Signed a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers
Started 1995 in Albuquerque (AAA)
4-26-95: Released from Albuquerque (AAA)
5-5-95: Signed a minor-league contract with the Cleveland Indians; Assigned to Buffalo (AAA)
7-96: Recalled by Cleveland
5-97: Released by Cleveland

  1. Played with New Orleans (AAA)
  2. Played with Calgary (AAA)
Offense

Casey was not a particularly patient hitter, did not hit for power, and went through several years-long stretches in which he looked like Johnnie LeMaster's long-lost brother at the plate.  His lack of power was so legendary that his Montreal teammates held a contest in which they had to guess the date of his first home run.  That round-tripper landed in the first row of seats just inside Olympic Stadium's right field foul pole, marking the shortest home run (330 feet) in the history of the ballpark.  It would be nearly four years before Candaele's next major league home run.  Candaele was a switch-hitter who was much better against right-handed pitching than against southpaws.

Defense

Casey was never a gold-glove caliber fielder, but was valuable as a player who could play passably at seven different positions.  His natural position was second base, but Candaele also appeared regularly at shortstop, left field, center field, and third base.

Baserunning

Candaele was a better than average baserunner and fast enough to start 117 major league games as a leadoff hitter, but he was never able to become a reliable base-stealing threat in the big leagues.  He was caught stealing in 15 of his first 25 stolen base attempts with the Expos.

Other things of note

-Candaele was the first known major league player whose mother was also a professional baseball player.  His mother Hellen Callaghan Candaele and aunt Marge Callaghan played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

-Candaele was known as a something of a clubhouse comedian during his career.  In 1991, he impersonated Jeff Bagwell during a postgame interview and talked about how great he was, until the real Bagwell stepped in and did the interview.

-He is known as the inventor of "naked batting practice", which is exactly what it sounds like.

-Candaele was a master at "airplane skiing", which involved riding an airplane tray down the aisle of the team's charter plane.