FIRE JOE MORGAN: Five Players You Don't Want on Your Team


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Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Five Players You Don't Want on Your Team

Tim Kurkjian, you'd been so harmless and so meek for so long, I'd almost forgotten about you. But then you had to go and do this. What's your excuse, Kurkjian? You're not a me-first former player. You're not 100 years old, as far as I can tell. You're not Jim Rome. Why did you --

Baseball is a game of intangibles.

Oh boy. Let's get started.

It is a game that requires doing "the little things," which can mean something as big as barreling over a catcher or as subtle as a whisper in the ear of a teammate after a good or bad at-bat.

Apparently, doing the little things is extremely sexual. Who can forget when Babe Ruth won the 1923 World Series by walking up to teammate Wally Pipp after a strikeout and sultrily whispering "That was a shit at-bat" into his left ear? I never will, that's for sure. The Giants were shocked when the commissioner awarded the Yankees the Series after that dramatic whisper. (By the way, in the 1922 World Series, the Babe went 2-17 with 1 R and 1 RBI, probably because he was a gigantic choker with no Clutch Ability.)

There are players all over the game with these qualities, such as Derek Jeter --

You don't say. Tell me more about this person, who has certainly accomplished many daring exploits on the baseball diamond of which I've never heard tell.

-- who is that guy in the pickup basketball game who you look at and say, "We're going to win, he's on our team."

Until you realize he doesn't play defense.

Intangible players come in all shapes, sizes and job descriptions. Here are five of many in the major leagues.

But mostly they're Erstad-shaped, Erstad-sized and used to be college football players, like that hard-nosed, no-nonsense roughneck Erstad. Here are five guys who wish they were Erstad.

Sandy Alomar Jr., Dodgers

He just turned 40, but you would never know it by the position he plays (catcher), the shape he's in (he lost 20 pounds in the offseason) and the way he can still play.

He's done pretty well in the 54 at bats he's had this year, but I sure could tell he was 39 last year when he OPSed .634 (with half his games in Texas, no less). Sure, he's a backup catcher, and they're not supposed to hit, but that's exactly the point: this dude hasn't played anything close to a full season since 1998 (and even then it was only 117 games). But I guess I'm being an idiot: he's on this list for his whispering.

"He comes to the ballpark like a 20-year-old every day ready to play knowing he's probably not going to play," said Dodgers third base coach Rich Donnelly.

Because he's not good enough. He's bad. He's a 40-year-old who is bad at baseball.

"And with less than two outs and a runner at third, I wouldn't mind having him up there. But mostly, he's a great teacher."

The award for Backhanded Compliment of the Year goes to Dodgers third base coach Rich Donnelly.

Darin Erstad, Angels

His skills have eroded somewhat,

(OBPing .273, BA of .220)

his body has lost some of its life at age 32,

(SLGing .319 (!), OPS of .591)

but he remains the fiber that keeps the Angels together.

Fiber that, as of today, has the 2nd worst OPS of any position player in baseball -- or would have, if he qualified, but this tough sonofabitch has missed a bunch of games with an ankle injury (he's missed significant time in three of the past four years). That's right: he has a worse OPS than Juan Pierre.

That is clear in all he does, from dutifully switching positions -- center field to first base to center field; not an easy transition -- to steamrolling Braves catcher Johnny Estrada at home plate two years ago ... all in the name of the only thing that matters to him: winning.

Darin Erstad OPSes, last six years:


Seems like if winning mattered that much to him, he's spend a little more time in the batting cage. It's funny. Erstad's last good season was 2000. He signed a huge contract extension in 2002: four years, $32 million. Basically, since then all he's done is hit like Neifi Perez and miss a bunch of games due to injury (two things that could be related). If he's a different guy in a different city, perhaps a different skin color, how reviled does Darin Erstad become? Doesn't he essentially become a bum who got a fat contract and starts phoning it in? Instead, we get another article praising his intangibles to the high heavens. Memo to aspiring young baseball players: learn to punt a football. You'll be bulletproof to the media for the rest of your life.

That toughness comes in part from growing up in the cold and desolation of North Dakota, and in part from his football days in high school and at the University of Nebraska.

Yes, he did play football. Very good, Tim.

It also comes from his selfless approach. When once compared to Kirk Gibson in style and background, Erstad would hear nothing of it, saying that Gibson was an All-America wide receiver and "I was a punter."

Maybe. But the Angels never punt with Erstad in charge.

Good Christ, man. This worship must stop. I can't emphasize this enough: we're talking about one of, if not the worst player in baseball.

Julio Franco, Mets

He will be going back to the playoffs again this year, and that is no coincidence. Franco has become a team leader in so many ways, none more important than the way he takes care of himself, be it bringing his own healthy food to the ballpark or waking up at 3 a.m. to drink a protein shake or getting his sleep -- even if it's a nap on the couch in the clubhouse before the game.

That is hilarious. Kurkjian is basically saying that Julio Franco is so old, he has to take naps in the clubhouse because he can't stay awake for a whole day. INTANGIBLE.

Mike Matheny, Giants

To understand who Matheny is, all you have to do is watch him in the bullpen before the start of a game: He is on his knees --

Um, Tim? Again, sort of sexual.

-- all alone, practicing blocking imaginary pitches in the dirt. Most catchers never practice that; Matheny still does it at age 35.

Might I suggest that like Mr. Erstad, Mr. Matheny might benefit from some extra time in a batting facility? (His OPS is .613. This is a recording.)

No one blocks a ball better than he does, no one calls a better game than he does and no one goes to the mound and calms down -- or jacks up -- a pitcher better than Matheny.

No one? How about, um, Jason Varitek? Or Yadier Molina? Or Pudge? Or how about that guy who's a farmer in Kansas but really, really good at calming pitchers down? Oh, right. He can't hit. Just like Mike Matheny.

Mark DeRosa, Rangers

Texas manager Buck Showalter calls DeRosa "an irregular regular," meaning a guy who plays every day but rarely at the same position.

Because he's not good enough.

One day it's second base, the next day right field, the next day third base, and never with a complaint.

Scene: Mark DeRosa's brain. The year is 2005.

Part of Mark DeRosa's brain: Come on, another position change? One day it's second base, the next day right field, now it's third? Why, I oughta go into Buck's office and throw his talking fish on the floor!

Other part of Mark DeRosa's brain: Hold on, other part of the brain. We're making $500,000 this year. Last year we made $725,000. All for playing a damn kids' game. This is, as they say in Brainland, a no-"us"-er. We're not going to complain.

Part of Mark DeRosa's brain: You're right, dude. Let's go back to looking at this crazy porn Teixeira gave us!

And end scene.

Showalter loves DeRosa because he's so smart -- he went to the University of Pennsylvania -- and because of his competitive nature, including his football background. DeRosa played quarterback at Penn after an amazingly successful high school football career in New Jersey.

Just like Erstad!!!

That's what we call "a winner," and you can never have enough winners on a major league team.

In Tim Kurkjian Bizarro World, winners lose to you!

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posted by Junior  # 6:08 PM
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