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Posts Tagged ‘MLB’

Matt Stairs

Matt Stairs is a man of many uniforms.

Months ago, when this site was still active, a reader suggested a post on Matt Stairs.  Since the writers of the blog took an unannounced 10 month break, it is doubtful that reader is still active here on the site, but if you are, this one is for you.

Everything I have ever read or heard about Matt Stairs is awesome.  I know that’s a big statement, but I mean every word.  Stairs has taken about the least likely path to big league success and is practically the definition of a journeyman.  Odds are, if you are a baseball fan, Matt Stairs has probably played for your team or at least hurt the team you root for.  When you play for twelve Major League teams over the span of 19 seasons, that’s bound to happen.

Matthew Wade Stairs was born in New Brunswick, Canada in 1968.  There are currently only five active Major League players who were born in the 1960s:

  1. Tim Wakefield  1966
  2. Omar Vizquel  1967
  3. Matt Stairs  1968
  4. Arthur Rhodes  1969 (October)
  5. Mariano Rivera  1969 (November)

So, as it stands, our friend is the third oldest player in all of baseball and is the oldest player in the National League.

Stairs crew up playing baseball and hockey (obviously) as a kid in Canada.  He played the equivalent of Independent League ball in Canada when he was in his teens and signed as a free agent with the Montreal Expos (obviously) in 1989.  Stairs got only 38 at-bats over two seasons in Montreal before he left and played in Japan for a year.  He then signed as a free agent with the Red Sox.  It was with the Red Sox that he hit his first home run in 1995, a solo shot off of Tom “Flash” Gordon.  Stairs didn’t stick in Boston though either and became a free agent after the ’95 season.

Prior to the 1997 season, Stairs signed a deal to join the Oakland A’s.  In 1997, Stairs saw his first real playing time, hitting 10 homers in only 137 at-bats and posting an OPS+ of 127.  Stairs’ strong play in 1997 earned him 352 at-bats in 1998.  Matt did not disappoint as he slugged 27 homers and a career-high OPS+ of 153.  Stairs was a full-time player the next three seasons in Oakland as he crushed 85 HR, including a career-high 38 in 1999.  While Stairs never made an All-Star team, he did finish 17th in MVP voting for his 1999 campaign.

Following his five season run in Oakland, Stairs never spent more than 2.5 years in any one city, which he did in Kansas City.  Despite moving all over the country, Stairs continued to mash hitting over 100 HR and having an OPS+ of 117 from 2001-2006.

Stairs’ biggest moment on the national stage came in 2008 when he was with the Phillies.  The Phillies were up against the Dodgers in the NLCS.  Philadelphia held a 2-1 series lead over Los Angeles.  However, the Dodgers were leading in game four and were threatening to tie the series.  With the score tied at 5 in the 8th inning, Stairs came in as a pinch-hitter to face Jonathan Broxton.  Stairs sent Broxton’s 3-1 pitch into the seats to help give the Phillies a commanding 3-1 series lead.  Interestingly, the Dodgers and Phillies would meet again in the 2009 postseason.  Stairs again faced Broxton, and the big reliever walked Stairs on four straight pitches.

Stairs is currently a pinch-hitter for the Washington Nationals and is 0-11 in this young season.  I really hope this isn’t the end of the line for Stairs.  The 5’9”, 200lb slugger has been a fixture in big leagues for the last twenty seasons and it just doesn’t seem like it’s time to go just yet.

As I wrap up this post, enjoy some of these terrific figures:

  • 265 career HR (2nd most by a Canadian)
  • 23 pinch hit HR (MLB record)
  • OPS+ of 118 (4th highest by a Canadian)

Now a list of some of the pitchers Stairs has homered off of with the career homer leading the way:

1.  Tom Gordon

20. Hideo Nomo

100. Sidney Ponson

108. Dwight Gooden

155. Roy Oswalt

180. Roy Halladay

183. Johan Santana

200. Carl Pavano

265. Matt Cain

His 265 home runs came against 29 different teams.  Awesome.

Finally, a few smart baseball minds have suggested that if Stairs had been a regular his entire career he would have been a star and MAYBE a Hall of Fame type player.  Check it out.

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Deion Sanders the Baseball Player

Modesty?

This post is about Deion Sanders the baseball player.  He is not to be confused with his alter-ego football player.  Deion the football player was electric.  He went from sideline to sideline with relative ease, picking off passes and running back kicks.  However, Neon Deion received a lot of pub for playing two pro sports.  And while that is totally impressive, he was nothing more than a mediocre ball player.

Sanders was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 30th round of the 1988 draft.  He played in the minors for the Yankees while playing pro football with the Atlanta Falcons and really living up to his “Prime Time” nickname.  Honestly, I think Deion was probably rushed to the big leagues in 1989 when he made his debut with the Yankees.  This is back when the Yankees were a total train wreck, and the electric Sanders could create a little buzz around the team.

In his two years in pinstripes, Sanders hit a paltry .178 with 5 homers and 9 steals in 180 at-bats.  Following the 1990 season, the Yankees released Deion, making him a free agent.  The Yanks were concerned that by splitting his time on baseball and football, he was not progressing as a player.  Fair enough.  The Atlanta Braves took a chance on him and signed him prior to the 1991 campaign.

Prime Time took his 4.1 40-yard-dash time to the Braves and had his best years as a ball player.  In 1991 he sucked, posting an OPS+ of only 68.  However, in 1992 he enjoyed his best season as a pro.  He appeared in only 97 games for the NL champion Braves, but still found time to lead the National League in triples with 14 (Huge).  Sanders also swiped 26 bases and hit over .300 for the only time in his career.

In the 1992 NLCS the Braves were in the midst of a big series (obviously) and Deion decided to play football the same week.  Nice.  For this, he was criticized by professional idiot, Tim McCarver.  Tim thought it was a strange decision (I happen to agree) for Deion to leave his baseball team during the playoffs to play in the NFL.  Deion took exception to this and reacted in the following manner:

Classy.  Deion never recaptured the magic on the diamond that he had in 1992.  Maybe karma caught up with him.  He bounced around a bit, playing with the Reds and the Giants before finally bowing out for good after the 2001 season (his first appearance since 1997).

Here are the career totals:

  • .263 batting average
  • .319 OBP
  • 80 OPS+
  • 39 HR
  • 186 SB

For the most part though, Deion is remembered for his attitude.  An attitude that for some reason flew in the NFL but not in MLB.  He was a pretty effective 4th outfielder during his prime, but that was about it.  His speed could change a game, even in baseball.

This is most people’s problem with Deion.  He really seemed to be in business for himself at all times.  He was a tremendous athlete, a mediocre baseball player, and Hall of Fame football player, and a petulant child.

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Sid Bream

PURE JOY.

Sid Bream is partially responsible for my obsession with Major League Baseball.  If you are a BIG baseball fan, you can probably guess the moment where I became hooked.  However, out of fairness to Bream and is mediocre legacy, I think I owe it to him to recap his entire career.

Bream was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2nd round of the 1981 draft.  Bream did not come to the big leagues straight from high school having played his college ball at Liberty University.  If you are not aware, Liberty University is for the batshit crazy and was founded by the late Jerry Falwell.  That is the same Jerry Falwell responsible for these very memorable quotes:

  • “AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals”
  • “The ACLU is to Christians what the American Nazi party is to Jews”

You know what?  This isn’t a Falwell post, it’s a Sid Bream post and I won’t hold his choice of college against him.  Back to Bream…

Bream ripped through the minors very quickly and debuted for the Dodgers in 1983.  He played first base almost exclusively and that was his role as a pinch-hitter for the Dodgers.  In September of 1985 he was shipped to the Pirates in a the deal that sent the LEGENDARY Bill Madlock to the Dodgers.

Sid went on to claim the 1st base job in Pittsburgh for the next five seasons.  He had some decent years there, highlighted by the 1990 season.  That year, Sid had an OPS+ of 124 while slugging 15 homers and driving in nearly 70 runs.  That Pirates club lost to the Reds in the NLCS, but it was not Sid’s fault as he hit .500 with a homer in the series.

That offseason, the Pirates decided to give the first base job to a young Orlando Merced and let Bream sign with the Atlanta Braves.  The Pirates had no idea Bream would come back to break their hearts.  The Braves and Pirates both won their divisions and played one of the more memorable NLCS in recent memory.  The series reached a seventh game which concluded with one of the greatest moments in playoff history.  The radio broadcast of what happened next is below:

Bream, one of the slowest players in the league, scored the series clinching run as he beat the throw home from a young, Barry Bonds.  Bream had no business going 2nd to home on that play, but he made it anyway.  What a big dog.

Anyway, Bream’s career really peaked at that moment and he is forever a piece of baseball history because of that play.  Sid played two more years and a year in Houston before falling out of the big leagues for good at the age of 33 in 1994.

Bream now works as a motivational speaker (duh!) and a minor league hitting instructor.  He left baseball with a .264 batting average and 90 home runs.  Sid Bream, I salute you.

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Nate Robertson

Gum time? More like FAILURE time. Am I right?

Nate Robertson is many things.  He is left-handed.  He, along with millions of other Americans, wears glasses.  He is white.  He often sports irregular facial hair.  He has been described as a “nice guy” by some.  He was once (still is?) a home-owner in the fine city of Detroit.  He is a pitcher for the Florida Marlins.  Above all else, Nate Robertson is a failure as a baseball player.  Nate is most fondly remembered in Detroit for chewing TONS of big league chew to inspire Tiger rallies.  That’s his legacy in Detroit.

Robertson came up in the Marlins organization.  The Marlins were proud to make the bespectacled lefty a 5th round back in 1999.  The Marlins thought he was worth the pick after Robertson needed Tommy John surgery as a sophomore.  You have admire the Marlins for using a relatively high pick on a guy with a serious injury history.

Nate blew through the low minors with some really strong seasons.  In January of 2003, Robertson was shipped to the Detroit Tigers after making handful of relief appearances in the bigs with the Marlins.  Robertson made 8 starts on the historically bad 2003 Tigers, going 1-2 with an ERA of 5.44, two trends that would continue throughout his sorry career.

In 2004, Robertson was arguable the staff ace in Detroit (which isn’t saying a lot).  He managed to go 12-10 on a team that finished 18 games under .500.  Nate posted an ERA just a tick below 5.00 and finished 8th in the Rookie of the Year voting, tied with legends John Buck and Dave Bush.  Big.

In 2005, Robertson took a step back along with the rest of the Tigers.  Big Nate lost 16 games and won only 7, further establishing his reputation as a loser.  He coughed up 28 home runs in 196 innings of work while striking out 122 hitters.  I recall reading something in a newspaper around this time where Nate described himself as a “power-pitcher”.  I recall, then, rolling on the floor in laughter.  What a joke.

2006 was a banner year for the Tigers organization.  The won over 90 games for the first time in nearly 20 years and the team was led by clutch hitting and terrific pitching.  Several player had career years and all but one of their starting pitchers posted a winning record.  That one pitcher?  You guessed it, Nate Robertson.  On a Tigers team that finished 28 games over .500 and outscored their opponents by 150 runs, Nate Robertson lost 13 games.  Ouch!  While Robertson had an ERA below 4.00 for the first time that season, his legend as a loser continued to grow.  He followed up his regular season by getting the shit kicked out of him by the New York Yankees in the ALDS.

After that 2006 season, the wheels really fell off the bus for Robertson.  Check out his collapse in the sewer of Major League Baseball:

ERA

  • 2007: 4.76
  • 2008: 6.35
  • 2009: 5.44

ERA+

  • 2007: 96
  • 2008: 71
  • 2009:  85

WHIP:

  • 2007: 1.475
  • 2008: 1.660
  • 2008: 1.752

Salary:

  • 2007: $3.2 M
  • 2008: $4.2 M
  • 2009: $7 M
  • 2010: $10 M

One could make the argument that by the time the 2009 season came to a close, that Nate Robertson was the most overpaid player in all of baseball.  He was so bad at that point that the Tigers paid almost of his salary to have to go and play for someone else!  Robertson was shipped back to the Marlins before the 2010 season for a bag of balls and a bucket of human shit.  Since then, he’s continued his sorry act with the Marlins.

I know I cam across kind of tough on Nate, but I watched the guy toil in Detroit for far too long.  He was really never that great and was mediocre in 2006.  That’s it.  While Nate is probably a perfectly nice dude and might even be cool to hang out with, he sure does suck as a baseball player.

My favorite thing about Nate Robertson?  His name inspired one of the great blog names of all time.

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Royce Clayton

Clayton goes the other way for a base-hit.

Royce Clayton is my favorite kind of mediocre athlete.  He was never great (he may have been good a couple of times) but he managed to hang around in the Major Leagues for 17 seasons.  That’s saying something.

Over his 17 year career, Clayton played for 11 different teams.  While both of those pieces of information are pretty impressive, even more impressive is where Clayton played on the diamond.  Usually when a guy sticks around for so long, he moves around the diamond a bit to prolong his career.  Not Royce Clayton.  In those 17 seasons, Clayton was on the field for over 17,000 innings.  Damn!  In all of that time, Clayton spent all but 7.1 innings at shortstop.  He was able to play solid enough defense at a premier position for 17 seasons.  Nice.

Clayton made his big league debut with the San Francisco Giants way back in 1991.  He was the Giants full-time shortstop from 1992-1995.  During that time he hit a paltry .249 with an OPS+ of only 75.  In the winter of 1995, he was the main piece in a trade that sent him to the St. Louis Cardinals.

In 1997, Clayton made his only All-Star Game.  He hit .266 that season with 9 homers and 30 steals.  The following season he was part of a trade deadline deal that sent him packing and he joined the Texas Rangers.  Clayton enjoyed some decent power numbers in Texas (who doesn’t?) as he slugged 14 homers in back-to-back seasons.

Like most guys that stick around for a long time (Vinny Testaverde), Clayton put up some decent career totals in a  few categories.  Check this:

  • 1,904 hits, 39th in baseball from 1991-2007
  • 231 steals, 38th in baseball

In fact, over that time period, only 19 players in all of baseball had at least 1,900 hits and 200 steals.  The list is filled with names like Barry Bonds, Kenny Lofton and Craig Biggio.  Obviously, I’m not saying that Royce Clayton was as good as Barry Bonds, I’m just showing that when you stick around long enough, you’re bound to put up some good-looking numbers.

Royce got exactly 6 at-bats for the Red Sox in 2007, but that was enough for him to earn his only World Series ring.  Atta boy, Royce.  Also, I thought this was funny.  It’s from the first sentence of his website:

“Royce Clayton is one of the premier baseball players of our time and a role model for athletes around the world.”

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Rob Deer

Rob only needed a third of a bat to hit home runs and strike out.

Just in case I haven’t mentioned this here before, I am huge Detroit Tigers fan.  My favorite Tigers team in my lifetime is the 2006 club that went to the World Series.  A close second is the 1991 team.  That team really didn’t threaten for a playoff spot, but they brought some serious thunder at the dish.  The club featured Cecil Fielder, Mickey Tettleton, and Travis Fryman among others.  However, one of my favorite players from that club and from any club really was Rob Deer.

Deer came up through the minors with the San Francisco Giants in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Deer played a bit with the Giants in 1984 and 1985 before he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers.  It was in Milwaukee that the Deer was fully able to display his free-swinging style.  In 1986, his first full season, Deer slugged 33 home runs and led the Brewers to a mediocre record of 77-84.

In that first full season, Deer struck out 179 times while hitting only .232.  However, he managed to draw 72 walks and post a decent on-base percentage.  This season would basically set the tone for the rest of his career.  Check out these HR/K totals year-by-year:

  • 1986: 33 HR / 179 K
  • 1987: 28 / 186*
  • 1988: 23 / 153*
  • 1989: 26 / 158
  • 1990: 27 / 147
  • 1991: 25 / 175*
  • 1992: 32 / 131
  • 1993: 21 / 169*

As you can see, Mr. Deer led the league in Ks four times during his career and made a habit of hanging out with the league leaders.  What is even more impressive is how few hits he had.  For his career, Deer crushed 230 home runs and totaled only 853 hits.  If you crunch the numbers, you will see that 27% of hits his went for home runs.  I don’t know how to check this, but you’d be hard pressed to find many players with that high of a HR percentage.

So, Deer was basically an all-or-nothing sort of batter.  And he took that ethos to the MAX.  A Rob Deer at-bat usually ended with a home run, a walk, or a strike out.  Big.

My favorite Rob Deer season happened in that infamous 1991 season.  Deer put up his usual home run and strikeout totals, but with a new added wrinkle.  Deer never really hit for average (.220 for his career), but in 1991 he took it to another level.  Deer got into 134 games that season (one game shy of a career high) and managed to bat just .179.

.179.

Unreal.  How in the world does a guy hit only .179 and still get 534 plate appearances?  Below you will find the list of players with an average of .180 or lower in 500 or more plate appearances:

  • Rob Deer

Yep.  That’s it.  No one else really comes close.  Usually if a guy hits for that poor of an average he his yanked from the lineup before he reaches the 500 plate appearance mark.  Apparently this thought did not really occur to Hall of Fame manager, Sparky Anderson.

Deer currently serves as a hitting instructor (seriously?) in the Padres organization.  He also begs people to purchase the Viz-U Bat.

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Gary Gaetti

Ohhhhh Boy!!!

Like a couple of my other posts, this one was suggested to me by a student.  When this student suggested doing a piece on Gary Gaetti my first reaction was to say, no way.  I remember Gaetti being a power-hitting third baseman who could pick it at the hot corner.  However, when this student cited Gaetti’s hilarious early-eighties mustache, I had to look a bit deeper.  So, upon further review, Gary Gaetti is officially mediocre.

Gaetti was drafted out of college in 1979 and was a first round pick by the Minnesota Twins.  He made his debut in 1981 and played his first full season in 1982.  Right away, Gaetti set the style of play we would see for his entire career.  The power numbers were there and they were impressive.  The 23-year-old rookie blasted 25 homers and even legged-out four triples for good measure.  He also homered in his career at-bat.  Amazingly, of all the players to homer in their first at-bat, Gaetti has the most for his career.   However, everything else was sad.  He hit only .230 with an on-base percentage of only .280.  He struck out 107 times and walked just 37 times.  When you add all of this up, you have a slugger with an OPS+ of 93.

Gaetti would go on to top the 20 home run mark eight times, including three 30+ HR seasons.  His best power season came in 1995 at the age of 36, when Gaetti smacked 35 home runs for the Kansas City Royals.  He had his best three-year run from 1986-1988 while playing on some very good Minnesota clubs.  He had OPS+ totals of well over 100 in each of these seasons while providing plenty of power and Gold Glove defense.

When it was all said and done, Gaetti put up the following totals:

  • Played in parts of 20 MLB seasons.
  • He played for six teams, including 10 years in Minnesota.
  • OPS+ of 97, the same as Ronnie Belliard and Juan Encarnacion.  Hmm.
  • 2 All Star Games
  • 1987 ALCS MVP
  • 4 Gold Gloves
  • 360 home runs
  • 2,280 hits.

I like that he hung around for way too long.  I like that he had some of his finer seasons in his mid-30s.  I like that awful mustache and I like that one of his nicknames was “The Rat”.

Since wrapping up his playing days, Gaetti has served as a Major League and Minor League hitting coach.

Check out this awesome fan site for Gaetti.  Good stuff.

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