If I’m honest with myself, there are several reasons why former first overall pick Kris Benson’s retirement would be noteworthy. If I’m even more honest with myself there’s probably only one (maybe two): his wife.
As the first player taken in the 1996 draft, Benson appeared to be a promising selection for the Pittsburgh Pirates, accumulating an ERA under four and a WHIP under 1.35 in his first two full seasons in the league. Despite occasional flashes of his early success later in his career, Benson could never maintain those type of numbers after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in 2001. Two years after that he injured his right shoulder and struggled to stay healthy ever since.
I decided pretty much after this past season that I wasn’t going to pursue anything. I’ve been putting way too much into it and not getting enough out of it, as far as the rehab, working out, training, and then not getting the type of results I expect from myself.
I wanted to make this decision now, rather than go into another season on another minor-league deal. I didn’t want to go through the head games of, ‘Am I going to make the team?’ I don’t mind the pressure. I just don’t want to fall into another situation like I had the last couple years, where I busted my tail getting back and then got hurt again shortly after I made the team.
As I alluded to in the opening paragraph, Benson will probably best be remembered by baseball fans for his wife Anna, whom the pitcher met while she was dancing at the Mardi Gras, a strip club in Atlanta. Throughout his career, his wife would every now and again say something outlandish (about Muslims, 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina) as if to remind people that she was sassy, politically aware and temporarily deserving of attention because she posed for one of those poor man’s Maxim magazines.
Baseball blogger Murray Chass probably describes the Anna Benson phenomenon best after her husband was traded from the New York Mets to the Baltimore Orioles:
Kris Benson doesn’t have a good enough arm for the Mets to overlook his wife’s mouth. And by trading Anna Benson, the Mets may have achieved what Casey Stengel called addition by subtraction.
Chass writing about Benson tips even the most lax of tolerability scales.
And The Rest
Recently, there’s been a bunch of nomenclature battles over what baseball nerds want to be called. Some go by sabermetricians, others want to be called saberists, but I think that the ones who couldn’t care less what they’re called should go by FIPsters. They like stats, but with a cool, ironic detachment to them.
Tony Gwynn is feeling all sorts of better.
Brad Penny has signed a one year deal with the Detroit Tigers for a base salary of $3 million with $3 million more in incentives. Penny is a pitcher whose career has benefitted greatly from pitching in the National League. Calling Comerica Park home shouldn’t be too rough of an adjustment.
You know the New York Yankees have gotten desperate when their targets go from Cliff Lee to Zack Greinke to Joakim Soria, and now to free agent Justin Duchscherer.
Fred Lewis, who apparently felt he was too good to sit on the bench in Toronto, signed a one year $900,000 contract to sit on the bench for the Cincinnati Reds.
Adam Kennedy has agreed to a Minor League contract with the Seattle Mariners. Consider the franchise turned around.
Jason Bartlett avoids arbitration with the San Diego Padres by agreeing to a two year deal that will pay him $11 million.
Easy come, easy go. Max Ramirez came to the Red Sox via waivers a few days ago and then left via waivers yesterday after getting DFA’d to make room for Hideki Okajima. The Cubs picked up the backup catcher, or was it another backup?
Finally, even in death George Steinbrenner has a Mini-Me.