Over the weekend, I read some news that really made me
wonder what kind of a world we live in. I am speaking,
of course, of Pierce Marshall announcing he will appeal
the $450 million dollar decision in the Anna Nicole Smith
inheritance case last week.
Scratch that. I am speaking, of course, of the headline
news that was Shane Halter day in Detroit, where Halter
played nine positions in a major league game.
After the game, Tigers manager Phil Garner had some
insightful commentary about the strategy of moving Halter
every inning. “I don’t ever want to make a travesty of
the game under my watch,” Garner said. Call me grumpy,
but that’s exactly what happened on Sunday.
I don’t have to tell you that playing a guy at every position
is nothing more than a stunt–you’re not getting any
advantage letting Halter flash his batting-practice fastball
from the mound. The gyrations the rest of the team has
to go through to make this happen–Brad Ausmus at
second base?–are substantial.
The upside? Halter, who is not likely to make his way
into the record book in any meaningful category, gets a
little slice of history, and the Tigers get plenty of
headlines to cap another thoroughly mediocre season.
If I’m Bobby Higginson or Juan Gonzalez, I’m wondering
how I get out of this circus. Being that we’re talking
about the Tigers here, I’d be wondering that anyway, but
that’s another slice of pizza entirely.
What’s my problem with the whole thing? To tell you the
truth, I’m still not sure. I think it has something to
do with bald-faced insignificant record grabs, and the
effect they have on a baseball game. On Sunday, Phil
Garner and the rest of the Tigers decided that creating
Shane Halter’s little place in history was more important
than winning a baseball game. Sure, they didn’t have a
postseason spot to play for, but when teams with their
acts together are getting a look at their prospects and
preparing to make roster decisions next year, los Tigres
are consumed with the quest for insignifica, and they
get lots of positive attention for it.
Despite Halter’s gushing after the game, playing nine
positions in a major league game is not an achievement.
All it requires is a manager who is willing to lose
the game, and Frank Thomas or Rich Garces
could do it. Now, Brent Mayne
winning the game
for Colorado on the mound earlier this year–that was
cool. The team was out of pitchers, they needed an
improbable hero, and Mayne stepped up to the plate and
homered. He didn’t have his manager playing puppet
master behind the scenes, moving everyone out of position
in order to give Mayne his fifteen minutes.
Before this season, two guys had played nine positions
in a major league game. Now, we’re up to four. In an
insignificant way, this is just making a mockery of the
game, and what I’d really like to see is some team make
a mockery of the record. Next year, if the Astros have
a season like they had this year and are out of it, it’d
be great to see the entire team change positions every
inning for a game–Daryle Ward playing shortstop,
Jeff Bagwell backing him up in center field, and Scott
Elarton flashing his glove at the hot corner. Maybe
that’d dilute the record so thoroughly I don’t have to
read about the next scrub who convinces his manager to
play Chutes and Ladders with his starting nine again.
Sorry for the long-form rant. I guess part of me is
somewhat nostalgic for the era when letting Greg Harris
pitch from both sides in a game just for the hell of it
was considered more than a bit self-congratulatory.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now