The next branch is Luis Gomez, followed by Alfredo Griffin, co-American League rookie of the year in 1979.
Sorry. I just fell asleep. I'm kind of worn out. Give me a second. Okay. Here we go. What about Blue Jays' SS again?
Had it not been for Griffin's persistence and insistence, the Jays might have had to look elsewhere for their shortstop for this their 32nd season.
Ah! God. You scared me. I'm up. I'm up. Okay. Awesome. I am totally concentrating.
The Anaheim Angels were scuffling through the opening month of 2001 with a losing record. Benji Gil and Jose Nieves were splitting time at short, while a white-haired, mighty-mite, 26-year-old named David Eckstein was replacing injured Adam Kennedy at second.
A white-haired mighty-mite. I know it's like his whole deal, and it's what made him famous and rich, but would you like to be called a "white-haired mighty-mite" if you were 26 and a pro athlete?
With Kennedy due to be activated and a roster move coming, Griffin, the Angels' first base coach, headed into manager Mike Scioscia's office.
"Alfredo went to Mike, said they should keep me and play me at short," Eckstein said at the Bobby Mattick complex yesterday. "He'd never seen me play short. I heard later Alfredo told Mike 'Keep him, I'll teach him how to play.' "
Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, I have obtained the transcript of that conversation.
Mike Scioscia: Come in. (beat) Hey 'Fredo.
Alfredo Griffin: Hey Coach. Got a sec?
Scioscia: Sure. What's on your mind?
Griffin: Well, Kennedy's coming back, which means we have to make a roster move. I'm thinking we start Eckstein at short.
Griffin: You know. See if he can handle it.
Scioscia: David Eckstein?
Griffin: What do you think?
Scioscia: (punches Griffin in the face)
Scioscia: Are you fucking serious?
Griffin: Yeah! I think he can do it.
Scioscia: Fredo, my kid's little league coach came by yesterday and asked Eck if he wanted to try out for the team.
Griffin: Let me just make my case. I know he's small -- barely 5'7", maybe 165 pounds -- but he's scrappy. He's also gritty, gutsy, and he hustles. He's an albino, which is kind of cool, in like a human-interest, fan-outreach kind of way. He has a lot of grit and hustle. He can't throw very well, which is a bonus, and he doesn't hit much, which is good, because we want our baseball team to be bad. He always runs to first base when he hits the ball -- most guys just jog down, or like kind of saunter. Eck runs. He's small, too, I don't know if I mentioned that. Now, granted, his lungs are too small to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide, and he has to play barefoot because no one makes cleats for dolls. But he's gritty, coach. And scrappy. And I think we should give him a shot --
Scioscia: Fredo. Stop.
Griffin: What, coach?
Scioscia: You had me at "doll cleats."
Griffin saw in Eckstein something all the king's men and all the king's horses with the Boston Red Sox did not.
Why the "all the king's horses..." trope? Odd choice. Also, the thing that Griffin saw was: a player who over his entire career has an 89 OPS+. That's right: Eagle-Eye Griffin had the præternatural 6th sense necessary to spot, from a great distance, a player who is 11% worse offensively than the average major league baseball player.
The 5-foot-61/2 Eckstein played second in the Boston organization from 1997 until he was released at triple-A Pawtucket in 2000 to make room for the redoutable Lou Merloni.
Framingham Lou, Career OPS+: 87. And please don't use the ironic "redoubtable" to draw a contrast between anyone and David Eckstein. And if you have to use "redoubtable," please spell it correctly.
Angels GM Bill Stoneman claimed Eckstein for $20,000 US, sending him to triple-A Edmonton for 15 games.
Stoneman had never seen the infielder play, but he knew Eckstein arrived at the University of Florida Gators as a walk-on without a scholarship in 1994 and left as an All-American.
But did he punt? I don't care about anyone's college sports career unless he was a punter.
Griffin, an 18-year major leaguer, has told us before he has to walk away from Eckstein to stop from hitting him ground balls.
Then Griffin would look up 10 minutes later to see Eckstein taking grounders from another coach.
Fine. Great. Admirable. But he's a kiss-up.
"They made me everyday shortstop after we lost two of three at SkyDome and I only started once -- as a DH," Eckstein said of the series against the Blue Jays.
This quote adds: nothing, to this story.
When the Angels returned to the West Coast, Eckstein was named the starting shortstop.
The boxscores from the games in Toronto show Gil had three clanks leading to an unearned run.
I don't understand this. Does that mean Gil had three hits? That he was 0-3? How did the unearned run factor in, from Gil's point of view? This is insanely confusing. My brain cannot process that sentence. I am going to stop, take a quick nap, and let my son take over for a few lines.
Despite his size, Eckstein is still a large enough target for pitchers.
grrph. ahm. sp.
He broke Frank Robinson's rookie record being hit by 21 pitches in 2001. He had 27 the next season and has been double figure in bruises each of his seven seasons.
Even his nickname with the Angels was short -- Eck -- as it rhymed with 5-foot-5 Freddie Patek, the shorty who played short for the Kansas City Royals in the 1970s.
Hey -- I have a headline for a potential article written about that fact: "Short Shortstop Has Short Nickname, Like Other Short Shortstop." That sounds interesting! Thank you for including that in your article. Fascinating stuff.
(That was McCarver. He's learning quickly. Let me just put him down for a nap and then I'll take over again.)
(Also, let me add something to what my son wrote earlier: the best you can do to prove that Eckstein is like good at baseball is to point out how often he is hit by pitches? That's weak, even by pro-Eckstein article standards.)
"He has been through it all before," manager John Gibbons said. "He won a World Series with the Angels and St. Louis. There is something to be said for winners.
Sometimes that thing is: "That guy was on a team that won something."
"He's small. He's a throwback player. He'll get on base for us and make all the routine plays."
Throwback player? Well, he's white, so: Check.
"He'll get on base for us?" Check. 35.1% of the time he plays, which is not bad for SS. Of course, he has missed 84 games to injuries in the last two years, and he's no miniaturized spring chicken. He turns 33 next year, which is 57 in albino meerkat years, so expect his numbers to decline a little from their 11%-below-league-average status.
The routine plays ... ah yes. The Rogers Centre turf will be quicker than either Angels or Busch Stadium.
"If it's quicker, I'll play a little deeper, you never know until you get on the field itself," said Eckstein, who hasn't been in Toronto since 2005.
You, my friend, give electrifying interviews. Also, please don't play any deeper. It will be sad when you can't get the ball across the infield without doing one of those Eric Byrnes "run towards the target, release the ball, and Superman-it forward into the turf" things every time a 2-hopper comes your way.
Scouts don't expect Eckstein to have a problem getting on base -- he hit .309 with a .356 on-base percentage in 2007. They do wonder how he will handle the turf.
Of course, he only had 434 AB because he missed 45 games. So he only walked 24 times or something. Whatever. Eck can weasel his way on base okay for a SS, I'll give him that. The turf, however, is going to eat him alive. After which, the turf will be still be hungry.
(I just ran that joke by McCarver, and he said he thought it was 'kind of lame." I'll leave it in.)
Gibbons has said a couple of times this spring "Eckstein is our shortstop," and will not have John MacDonald as a defensive replacement/caddy when the Jays are up a run in the late innings. It is a situation worth watching.
...If you like watching incredibly boring things.
"The thing about Eckstein," Gibbons said the day the little big man showed, "is that he will never, ever look back and say 'I didn't give it my all.' "
You hate to give out year-end awards in February, but this is a frontrunner for Most Backhanded Compliment of the Year.
Signed as a free agent, Eckstein, who won every Most Underrated or Who Gets the Most of Their Ability poll we've seen, said he had other options.He wins those stupid polls because you and your cloying, hacky brethren keep writing this same article over and over. I will also -- again -- point out that if a guy keeps winning awards for how Underrated he is, he is ipso facto no longer underrated. And as for Who Gets the Most of [sic] Their [sic] Ability, the answer is probably Alex Rodriguez. Or Pujols, maybe, or Miguel Cabrera, or maybe Jimmy Rollins, or something. They have more ability, and they get more out of it.
04.05 05.05 06.05 07.05 08.05 09.05 10.05 11.05 12.05 01.06 02.06 03.06 04.06 05.06 06.06 07.06 08.06 09.06 10.06 11.06 12.06 01.07 02.07 03.07 04.07 05.07 06.07 07.07 08.07 09.07 10.07 11.07 12.07 01.08 02.08 03.08 04.08 05.08 06.08 07.08 08.08 09.08 10.08 11.08