So we won’t have David Eckstein to kick around anymore, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Or to shove into lockers. Or give wedgies. Or duct tape to the flagpole. Or push into the girls’ locker room. Reports came out over the weekend that Eckstein was retiring from baseball, although his agent has since told Ken Rosenthal that “If the right opportunity arises, he will play.” Which, you know, won’t happen. Baseball, most of whose teams had seen fit not to hire Eckstein to play for them for the last two years, seems perfectly happy to move on without him.
Eckstein, when he finally hustles into retirement, will go down as one of the most divisive players in modern MLB history. Indeed, he was beloved by some and reviled by others, not because of his play (which, by the way, was fine), but because of what he represented. Indeed, how you remember David Eckstein probably says a lot more about you than it does about David Eckstein. So let’s explore the options. Which Eckstein are you?
Answer the following questions without looking up the answers on Baseball Reference or Fangraphs. To see the correct answer, highlight the blank space below each set of choices. Add up your score at the end to see which Eckstein you are:
1) We all know Eckstein was short for a baseball player. How tall is David Eckstein?
d) 6’2” standing on a mound of grit and his enormous heart
If you picked C, the correct answer, give yourself 3 points. Eckstein is 5’6” tall, which is still shorter than me. If you picked A, give yourself 1 point. If you picked B, give yourself 2 points. If you picked D, give yourself 4 points.
2) David Eckstein averaged ___ aggregate Wins Above Replacement per season in his career.
a) 1.0-1.5 WAR
b) 1.6-2.0 WAR
c) 2.1-2.5 WAR
d) WAR is something dreamed up by nerds with too much time on their hands in their mom’s basement who have never even been to a game, let alone played. Who cares what his WAR was; Eckstein was the kind of man you’d want to go to war with.
Eckstein averaged 2.1 WAR per season over 10 years. Not too shabby. So, if you picked C, give yourself 3 points. If you picked A give yourself 1 point. If you picked B, give yourself 2 points. If you picked D, give yourself 4 points.
3) Did David Eckstein deserve his World Series MVP in 2006?
c) What, were we supposed to give it to Scott Rolen? He only had 2 RBI the whole Series. 2!
The answer is probably “No,” but it’s hard to tell. Rolen hit better and scored more runs. Jeff Weaver pitched a great one in the deciding game, and Chris Carpenter and Anthony Reyes each had strong 8-inning performances. Just give yourself 2 points no matter what unless you picked C, in which case give yourself 4 points.
4) How many games did David Eckstein start at designated hitter in his career?
a) It can’t be more than 10, right?
b) No manager would be dumb enough to DH Eckstein 20 times in his career, right?
c) 30? Now that would be hilarious.
d) Never. Eckstein would never consent to DHing when he could go out on the field and get his uniform dirty.
Eckstein started 30 games at DH in his career for some reason. I don’t get it either. If you picked C, give yourself 3 points. If you picked A or B, give yourself 1 point. Again, if you picked D, give yourself 4 points.
5) David Eckstein led his league in two offensive categories during his career, what were they?
a) Stolen bases and caught stealing
b) Hit by pitch and sacrifices
c) Doubles and runs scored
d) Determination and “want-to”
Eckstein led the AL in both hit by pitch and sacrifice hits in each of his first two seasons. Then stopped. Probably got less gritty. Anyway, give yourself 3 points if you answered B. Give yourself 1 point if you answered A or B. Give yourself 4 points if you answered D.
6) David Eckstein’s #1 comp through age 33 using Bill James’ similarity scores is who?
a) Phil Rizzuto
b) Rey Ordonez
c) Mark McLemore
d) Jesus Christ
Eckstein’s #1 comp through age 33 is Phil Rizzuto, which really boggles the mind until your realize that Rizzuto missed three full years for World War II and played until his was 38. If you answered A, give yourself 3 points. Give yourself 2 points if you answered C, and 1 point if you answered B. Give yourself 4 points if you answered D.
7) In addition to his World Series MVP, David Eckstein also won an award named after which Hall of Famer?
a) Hank Aaron
b) Babe Ruth
c) Joe Sewell
d) Roberto Clemente
The answer, believe it or not, is the Babe Ruth Award, which is given to the World Series MVP every year by the BBWAA. So, it’s kind of a trick question. But I’m also kind of a dick, so deal with it. If you picked B, give yourself 2 points. If you picked A, give yourself 3 points, and if you picked C, give yourself 1 point. If you picked D, give yourself 4 points.
8) In his ten year career, David Eckstein was a __-time All Star.
Eckstein played in two All Star Games, starting in one of them. Good lord. Anyway, give yourself 3 points if you picked C, 1 point if you picked A, and 2 points if you picked B. Give yourself 4 points if you picked D.
9) Which Red Sox GM waived David Eckstein in 2000, allowing the Angels to pick him up?
a) Dan Duquette
b) Dan Duquette
c) Dan Duquette
d) Theo Epstein, “The Boy Wonder” and “Mr. Saber”
Dan Duquette waived David Eckstein after he struggled a little at Pawtucket in 2000. The Angels picked him up and made him their starting shortstop in 2001, where he put up a .355 OBP and stole 29 bases at a great clip in 153 games. The 2001 Red Sox played Jose Offerman at 2B in 2001, and Rey Sanchez in 2002. If you answered A, B, or C, give yourself 2 points. Give yourself 4 points if you answered D.
10) What was Eckstein’s minor league OBP at the time?
d) I don’t know, but his batting average was .292.
Eckstein’s minor league OBP when he was waived was actually .412, which is phenomenal of course. He was walking in 11.7% of his plate appearances. While that wouldn’t have been sustainable in the Majors, his natural patience was almost certainly beaten out of him by the walk-averse Angels, and he walked in just 6.6% of his MLB plate appearances. He did supplement that for a time with a great knack for getting hit by pitches. If you answered C, give yourself 3 points. Give yourself 1 point if you answered A, and 2 points if you answered B. Give yourself 4 points if you answered D.
OK, now add up your score. Here’s what it means:
10-18 – You criminally underestimate David Eckstein, thinking he’s Luis Rivas, but with a better agent. Dude, get over yourself. You’re way too blinded by your anger about “mainstream media” and their perceptions of players, and you’re just reacting to them. OK, so he wasn’t Chase Utley, but Eckstein was a damn good player for a long time.
19-24 – You still have some anti-Eckstein bias, and you see him as an in-his-prime Spike Owen, who hung on to good squads while contributing relatively little. You acknowledge there’s a difference between how Eckstein played and how he was perceived, and you acknowledge he wasn’t terrible. But you’re still bothered by how he’s been played up, and you make a lot of jokes about scrappiness. (note, this is where I generally am).
25-30 - You are a David Eckstein expert. Perhaps even Eckstein himself, or a close family member. Orou appreciate Eckstein for actually being a pretty good player over the course of his career, good on the bases and on defense, and adequate offensively for his position, one who was almost never a drag on his team. Good for you and your perspective.
30+ - You are a member of the BBWAA who has a Hall of Fame vote. Congratulations, you get to select David Eckstein for the first time in 3 more years. Start your clocks now.