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July 31, 2012
How to Root for Your Team's Recently Acquired Rent-a-Player
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Josh Worn is a professional complainer who has masked his true talent for years with occupations such as fish monger, electronics salesman, and truck driver. He now vents his frustrations about the Detroit Tigers on a regular basis at the blog Walkoff Woodward. A former bad athlete, Josh can be followed at @WalkoffWoodward on twitter or contacted at email@example.com, if you have a need for someone to write sentences and then turn them around, and around, and around, and around before submitting them for publishing.
It’s finally here! The day of the trade deadline!
If you’re like me, you’re rejoicing in the streets, praising the baseball gods that your computer’s RSS feed will no longer be overloaded with ridiculous trade proposals and pithy rumormongering. And hey, even if you’re not like me, that’s okay. Go, rejoice, have an ice cream sundae or some other delightful snack. You deserve it because you’re awesome and because your favorite team has a new member of the active roster that you can familiarize yourself with on your iPad or smartphone or other wifi-enabled gadget.
You know as much as I do that the trade deadline is not all about player X landing with team Y because former team Z felt he was a clubhouse cancer (although that’s certainly a part of it—see below for more details!). No, the trade deadline has a whole slew of wonderfully insipid storylines attached to it. How about the “my-team-needs-a-bloody-second-baseman-and-even-Omar-Infante-is-better-than-what-we’ve-witnessed-all-year” deal that your favorite baseball team just signed off on? (Wait, no, that was my favorite team!) Or, how about you try on the “my-team-was-just-involved-in-a-10-player-deal-with-another-team-and-I-have-no-idea-who-any-of-these-new-players-are” for size? (Neither one of those teams is my favorite team, though I am impressed by the talents of Jose Bautista. Man, that Jose Bautista. He’s so talented.)
Anyway, what we are asking today is a simple question.
How do you accept these remedial baseball players who (with all due respect to them) mostly aren’t all that exciting, aren’t prospects you’ve invested much time in following, and are probably journeyman filler types, and are only in your hometown dugout because the original plan for that roster spot either failed spectacularly or didn’t exist in the first place?
In order to discover the appropriate measures needed to gauge how to root for specific individuals, we need to outsource. We need to enter into the minds of the people who will watch recently traded players for the rest of the season, if not to earn a better understanding of how to root for them, then simply to be entertained. Also, I may have made all of these scenarios up.
There are three ways you can root for a recently acquired players: rash drunken humor, considerate analysis, and overwhelming despair.
Chicago, Illinois – U.S. Cellular Fielder – Kevin Youkilis
Player Profile: Former Boston whipping boy who is slightly mean looking but has an awesome nickname that no one uses anymore.
Contract Status: 2013 $13MM Team Option with $1MM Buyout
Commentary/Analysis: No one is sure what happened in Boston. Maybe Kevin Youkilis ate too much fried chicken (or not enough of it). Maybe he didn’t drink enough of Bobby Valentine’s fire-engine-red Kool-Aid. I don’t know and you don’t know, but we do know that he certainly fell out of favor with the team and the front office. His TAv in Boston this year was a pedestrian .248, compared to a career average of over .300. If you toss that in the pot and stir it around with this kid named Will Middlebrooks, who was really good to start the year, Youkilis being shipped to Chicago made complete and total sense! Is there a sarcasm font? Someone needs to invent a universal sarcasm font.
Intense Bald Fan: Wooooooo! Yoooooooouuuukkkkk! You’re so awesome! Boston was so crazy to get rid of you! Plus you look like the bouncer at the bar I go to on Fridays! Woooooooooo! Yeah! [pumps fists, crushes bud light can against his forehead, roars]
Somewhat Nerdy Fan: Not to mention that all he needed was teammates and fans to appreciate his talent. He is quite the run producer and he is always on base. Such a wonderful pickup, and we didn’t even give up that much for him. Kenny Williams is such a smart man.
Concerned Elderly Fan: But he is aging somewhat and has an injury history. I’ll withhold judgment until this team reaches the playoffs. If they don’t make it, it’s all for nothing, they don’t have anything decent in the minor leagues, and they’ve just wasted money.
[thick punching sound as Intense Bald Fan knocks out Concerned Elderly Fan with one smooth haymaker]
Houston, Texas/Toronto, Canada – Minute Maid Park/Rogers Centre – Many, Many, Players
Player Profile: Ten players were involved in this deal, but the most significant names in the deal are those of the GMs who made it.
Contract Status: Does it actually matter in this case?
Commentary/Analysis: So here we have the largest trade since 2008, and none of the players is worth mentioning. Okay, maybe that’s a little unfair. J.A. Happ has shown flashes of being a third starter (again, at times), and Brandon Lyon, David Carpenter, and Francisco Cordero are all legitimate relief pitchers, but you never know when a relief pitcher will implode, so tread slowly and keep a hand on the yellow caution tape. Ben Francisco, is a bat, that’s uh, well, he has a bat—oh, and a glove!—and the four minor leaguers and a player to be named later are all, well, pending criticism.
Houston Fan: Seriously, you jerk, you just stole my lines. [shoves commentator a bit more roughly than he should have] I guess now all I have left to talk about is Asher Wojciechowski. Seriously though, just went on MLB.com and personalized a Wojciechowski jersey! Rock on!
Toronto Fan: I think people are forgetting that the Jays just got three quality arms. AA is a genius! A genius I tell you! J.A. Happ is a 6’6 lefty with a 8.5 SO/9 this year. It’s not like he’s Derek Lowe!
MLB Fan: Non-rhetorical question: Is this the least exciting deal ever or am I not wearing pants?
[They all look down. He is decidedly not wearing pants and therefore must be a blogger]
Chicago, Illinois – U.S. Cellular Field – Brett Myers
Player Profile: Former starter turned closer who makes a lot of money and adds proven closer mentality to playoff-hopeful team without proven closer.
Contract Status: 2013 $10MM Vesting Option if he finishes 45 games (at 29 at time of trade), $3MM Buyout
Commentary Analysis: The White Sox were concerned about their not-so-veteran bullpen, so they sent a pair of minor-league pitchers to the Houston Astros for their closer, Brett Myers. However, the White Sox won’t push rookie closer Addison Reed out of the very difficult role in which he saved 15 out of 18 games and posted a 9.0 K/9, 1.24 WHIP, 3.01 FIP, and 3.61 FRA for a veteran arm who saved 19 out of 21 and posted a 5.9 K/9, 1.34 WHIP, 4.29 FIP, AND 5.29 FRA. Huh, maybe Kenny Williams does know what he’s doing. (Totally unsure if that requires a sarcasm font.)
Intense Bald Fan: Wait! We got Myers too! Suh-weeeet! He’s so hardcore not to mention he AND Youkilis look like they bounce at dat club! They don’t mess around! No they don’t mess around! Woo! Woo! Woo! World Series or bust! World Series or bust!
Somewhat Nerdy Fan: I’m somewhat concerned about Myers’ peripheral stats, but he also played in Houston, a team with a poor defense and a bad record. Perhaps a transition into a pennant race will be a good thing for Myers, and the team will have gained a valuable member of the bullpen whose presence deepens the staff.
Concerned Elderly Fan: [says nothings as he lies on the ground unconscious due to being punched out by Intense Bald Fan]
Detroit, Michigan - Comerica Park – Omar Infante
Player profile: Middle infielder who once played for your team when he wasn’t that great but was an All-Star after he left.
Contract Status: Owed $4M in 2013
Commentary/Analysis: You know, friends, the Tigers came into the year really counting on Ryan Raburn to be country strong. They paid millions to see him play every day at second base this year, and he just couldn’t do it. He couldn’t perform. Such a disappointment! So GM Dave Dombrowski was forced to make a move. Infante—I see ya, big boy—is the Tigers’ last hope to find stability at the position. Plus, he’s been in Detroit before. Sure, he was traded away, but these things happen.
Fan from Hamtramck: You, Adrian! Omar Infante is up!
Guy Named Adrian: Who?
Fan from Hamtramck: Infante! Omar! You know Omar!
Guy Named Adrian: He plays for Miami!
Fan from Hamtramck: No stupid, it’s the guy they just got to play second!
Guy Named Adrian: No it’s the guy they already had to play second! What is this, 2003?
Fan from Hamtramck: No, it’s 2012.
Guy Named Adrian: That was rhetorical, nimrod. I’m making a joke! A J-O-K-E.
Interrupting Fan: Excuse me, but while you two are indulging in horrible jokes, I’m sitting here looking at the .276 slugging percentage that Detroit second basemen have put up this season and comparing it to Infante’s 7.9 WARP over the last three years. I can’t help but love this deal. Sure, they gave up Jacob Turner, but that’s what prospects are for, right? Improving a team that is built to win now.
Second Interrupting Fan (these people are rude): But Infante was run out of town. My. Jim Leyland didn’t like him, and now that he’s back we’re going to see Infante’s bad side again! Why couldn’t we have just gotten Placido Polanco back?
[Petulant arguing ensues, and a crowd outside gathers, armed with pitchforks and fire and giant blue foam fingers]
Orange County, California – Angel Stadium – Zack Greinke
Player profile: Soon-to-be-very-rich-free-agent who once won a Cy Young. But that was years ago. But he’s still pretty, pretty good.
Contract Status: 2013 Free Agent
Commentary Analysis: Probably the biggest fish to be thrown from one boat to another, Greinke was dealt this past weekend for two great prospects and a better-than-average third. The Angels now have three starting pitchers who could all be called aces on most teams in the league. Hey, I know, let’s call them the Phillies of the West! Isn’t comparing teams for no reason fun?
Stereotypical Angels Fan: Holy crap! Trout? Pujols? Trumbo? Haren? Weaver? Wilson? Uh...Wells? Hunter? Uh…Morales…Uh…
Second Fan: Um, dude, you don’t have to name ever single player on the team.
Stereotypical Angels Fan: Dude! World Series, yo!
Second Fan: Well, sure, this is what happens when you have a team in a good situation both financially and talented. You play to win now, and you’re more willing to make a risky move for a short-term player
Completely Unreasonable Fan: Erick Aybar! They gave up Jean Segura because they have Erick! Aybar! How can they possibly think that this is a good idea? I mean, Segura could wipe the floor with Aybar right now! He could proba-
Second Fan: Okay, stop. I thought I joined this fan base to get away from the Hollywood glamour! Now all we got is Hollywood fans! I’m going back to the Padres!
So, what we’ve witnessed above are several scenarios that people can choose to apply when rooting for their rent-a-player. Some of them will work for you, some of them will not. The great thing about baseball is that one day you can try to root one way, and if that doesn’t work, the next day you can come back and try a different approach.
Obviously, there may be more moves throughout the day today, and there’s no telling who could pass through waivers after the deadline and be dealt. Remember what happened last August? I know I struggle at times to remember what happened last week, so I figured that was a justifiable question. Last August, Delmon Young, then of the Minnesota Twins, was passed through waivers and dealt to the Detroit Tigers for a minor leaguer. Detroit fans have been struggling to figure out ways to root for him ever since. See? This guide isn’t completely ridiculous!
If anything, you should at least consider applying the three ways to deal with your rental while he’s on your favorite team: rash, drunken humor, considerate analysis, and overwhelming despair.
And if none of those things works—and maybe none of them will—you’ll just appreciate it all the more when they leave.