Charles Esper, the left handed pitcher of last season's Baltimore team, will not go to Milwaukee after all. President Von der Ahe, of the St. Louis Club, asserted recently that he had never waived his claim to Esper's services and Manager Hanlon has released him to St. Louis. Hanlon had already received the Milwaukee Club's check, but that deal is now off.
-New York Clipper, March 13, 1897
Within the context of the 1897 season, this was a pretty good move by Von der Ahe and one of the few good personnel moves that he made that year. Duke Esper was pretty much an average pitcher, with a career record of 101-100 and a career ERA+ of 96.
On the 1897 Browns, getting a pitcher like Esper was like finding gold. While he only got into eight games for the club and had a record of 1-6, he was one of only three pitchers on the team that year to post positive WAR. Read that sentence again and let that soak in.
The pitching staff of the 1897 Browns, collectively, put up -6.7 WAR. The two pitchers that threw the most innings, Red Donahue and Bill Hart, put up -0.3 and -2.6 WAR respectively. I said this the other day and I'm sure I'm going to say it again but that pitching staff was a dumpster fire.