Part of the appeal of baseball is that at the Major League level it all looks so natural and normal that it’s not too difficult for human beings like me and you to convince ourselves that we could do it. We could play baseball. However, if we were to face a single pitch at 95 miles per hour, we’d quickly realize the truth behind that delusion.
But players like Matt Stairs, who look identical to the guy who offers us advice at Home Depot when we’re picking out the proper lumber to use on our deck, or the guy we wait behind at our local donut shop as he carefully considers what his dozen should be comprised of, help us suspend reality for a little bit longer. That’s why we’re always pulling for Stairs, even this year when using the phrase “part-time player” to describe his contribution to the Washington Nationals this season would be best described as an exaggeration.
And so it was without much surprise that Stairs was released earlier this week by the team after it acquired Jonny Gomes from the Cincinnati Reds. The expected continued yesterday when the former Expos, Red Sox, A’s, Cubs, Brewers, Pirates, Royals, Rangers, Tigers, Blue Jays, Phillies, Padres and now Nationals player called it a career after 19 years in the Major Leagues.
Over that time span, Stairs got on base more than 35% of the time and had a better career slugging percentage than Roger Maris, Dave Winfield and Dale Murphy. His 265 career home runs means that he hit a dinger every 19.64 at bats, ranking him 103rd all time. However, his most impressive accomplishment is owning the MLB record for most pinch-hit homers with 23.
Of course, you can’t write about Matt Stairs without bringing up the opinion of Bill James. The baseball statistician and historian had the following to say about Stairs as he discussed players that might have made the Hall of Fame under different circumstances with Joe Posnanski.
Look at it. Somebody decided he was a second baseman, he tears through the minor leagues, gets to Montreal, the Expos take one look at him and say, ‘He’s no second baseman, get real.’ He bounces around, goes to Japan, doesn’t really get to play until he’s almost 30, then hits 38 homers, slips into a part-time role and hits 15-20 homers every year for 10 years in about 250 at-bats a season. You put him in the right park, right position early in his career he’s going to hit a LOT of bombs.
What can you say? It’s all there. Stairs did not get 500 at-bats until he was 30 — he had a .370 OBP that year, hit 26 homers, drove in 106. The next year, he had the 38-homer season. His average dropped the next season, and he never got 500 at-bats in a season after that.
While any Hall of Fame ambitions that Stairs has will most likely go unfulfilled, he can take solace in having his record 23 career pinch hit home runs inspire one of the funnier baseball related t-shirt slogans of all time, the infamous: “Use Stairs in case of emergency.”
And The Rest
Remember Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla’s horrible start to the season? In his last 25 games, he’s gone 34 for 96, with eleven home runs, five doubles and ten walks, raising his OPS from .568 to .709. Uggla’s 23 dingers on the season ranks him sixth in the National League.
When position players pitch.
Newly arrived St. Louis Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson was left in the game yesterday against the Milwaukee Brewers for seven innings in which he gave up ten runs on 118 pitches. Good thing the Cardinals have seven relief pitchers on their active roster.
New York Yankees starter Phil Hughes will stay in the rotation . . . for now.
Just in case you needed any help justifying the delusional belief that your team will still make the playoffs, there’s this.
Baltimore Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie has a real shot at losing twenty games this season.
When the most comparable player to your performance in a given season is Lyle Overbay, it’s no surprise your future on a big league team is at risk.
A bus carrying the members of a Philadelphia Phillies Minor League affiliate nearly plunged off a bridge.
An MRI confirms that Florida Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez has a sprained shoulder.
Scott Rolen will be out four to six weeks after shoulder surgery.
Ryan Braun handles getting thrown at up and in all in stride.
This is a little bit on the beautiful side:
This is a week or so old, but all new to me: