Showcasing his best remaining MLB skill

Mark DeRosa was, once, a very good baseball player. Mark DeRosa contributed greatly to a 97 win team during his final season with the Chicago Cubs, in 2008. Then he was traded to the Cleveland Indians where he was decidedly less good and decidedly more hurt. Then has traded again, this time to the St. Louis Cardinals. They, too, were a good team, even though DeRosa was not especially good during his time in St. Louis.

Mark DeRosa then joined the 2010 San Francsico Giants where he barely played. But the team was good! The Giants won the World Series thanks in no way to Mark DeRosa, who got to do a bunch of hanging around but very little actual playing after early May. But he was there and then they won. One more injury-shortened year in San Fran before he joined the Washington Nationals on a cheap, one-year deal.

Once again, DeRosa barely played but the Nats were great, reaching the playoffs for the first time in “franchise” history.

The team release announcing the Blue Jays signing of Mark DeRosa to a one-year, $750000 MAJOR LEAGUE contract now makes so much sense. Mark DeRosa has a role in baseball at this point of his career – Mark DeRosa is the mascot to the stars.

Mark DeRosa is 37 and hasn’t registered more than 120 plate appearances in a single season since 2009. But teams with him around, man do they ever win. Mark DeRosa keeps the room light and does literally nothing else but that is okay. Who needs that 25th spot on the roster, anyway?

Let’s take a step back from the scorn machine for a second. It is easy to overload this utterly inconsequential deal with hate when it simply doesn’t deserve it. It does, however, link back to a thought I haven’t been able to shake for some time.

It is foolish for “luddites” or the wilfully ignorant to deride modern stats and analytics for one simple reason: the average fan doesn’t need to care about them but the front office of their favorite team certainly does. Every team in baseball crunches numbers and spends considerable sums of money looking for new or inventive ways to evaluate or identify talent. Which means the minute the Guy On The Barstool puts his GM for the Day cap on and calls for somebody’s head or job, advanced stats are in the conversation. All statistics are another way of measuring worth.

The same applies for leadership and intangibles. We can dismiss it and laugh it off and whine about the inability to capture and place value on these skills, but the front offices of Major League Baseball teams obviously value them. So “the thinking fan” must as well. If the front office thinks having “veteran presents” in the clubhouse, it’s because they believe it will help the team win more baseball games.

It might not make sense to piss away a roster spot when extracting value from every player on the 25 man but that which a player like Mark DeRosa offers is valuable to someone. The manager, the highest earner, whomever. If Mark DeRosa was the only mascot in the league, then we could wonder if Alex Anthopoulos is off his rocker. But he isn’t (and he isn’t.)

If DeRosa doesn’t do what he is supposed to do (make nice and bro down with the fellas during Spring Training), the Blue Jays can cut him loose and be no worse for wear. If injuries mount and DeRosa is pressed into duty, well, then something must be done. But for now, this is a benign move for a team which isn’t wanting for talent on the rest of the roster. Until, of course, they are.

Comments (36)

  1. “Mark DeRosa is the mascot to the stars” is the early frontrunner for line of the year.

  2. “If Mark DeRosa was the only mascot in the league, then we could wonder if Alex Anthopoulos is off his rocker. But he isn’t (and he isn’t.)”

    Well put.

  3. “Veteran presence” not presents, he isn’t Santa Claus, unless of course, he is.

  4. I don’t see what the big deal is. They’re taking a flyer on a guy who hit lefties well in the past and can play a bunch of positions. If he sucks out of the gate, he’ll be cut (although my faith in that actually happening dwindled in the wake of the Vizquel fiasco). There isn’t much point in attaching a narrative to it.

    • building a positive and brofest culture will do things to this dugout that we havn’t seen for a while.

    • If they wanted a guy who could hit lefties they surely could have done better than a guy who has a 651 and 667 OPS over the past 2 years against lefties.

    • Let’s not make a post about anything ever again

  5. Looks like Oliver,Dickey, and Blanco have a fourth for their Euchre games now.

  6. sounds like DeRosa would be like the the average fan if given a chance to be on a MLB club, take the money, don’t complain, and just be happy to be there

  7. “The same applies for leadership and intangibles. We can dismiss it and laugh it off and whine about the inability to capture and place value on these skills, but the front offices of Major League Baseball teams obviously value them. So “the thinking fan” must as well. If the front office thinks having “veteran presents” in the clubhouse, it’s because they believe it will help the team win more baseball games.”

    That’s a poor way of looking at it. If every front office believes that evaluating hitters by RBI is useful, it doesn’t mean that there is some hidden value to RBI. It just means that front offices would be using a poor method of evaluating players.

    It’s no different with intangibles. Just because other clubs look at it doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to bring in players for their intangibles. DeRosa brings no value to the club, and as we learned last year veteran experience doesn’t add anything positive, tangible or otherwise to the club. It’s just a buzzword like scrappy or gritty that’s used to describe a player that has no value to a club in a positive way, because the only other way of looking at the player would be to say that they’re terrible.

    • We don’t disagree – DeRosa is not a good baseball player.

      But why do you think, in spite of piles of information available to all these teams, and a strong track record of USING IT, they still bring in guys like DeRosa? By accident?

      • I think they keep doing it because of the narrative of veteran experience/chemistry. You can choose your buzzword. People want to believe it will make a difference, and confirmation bias kicks in when you say things like 5/6 past playoff teams had DeRosa on it. Teams would have won with or without DeRosa, and a good case can be made they would have been better off with a player who could contribute in game. The bottom line is it hurts a team in game more than it will help.

        How many times did we have to watch the Jays keep Vizquel pinned to the bench last year because he couldn’t pinch hit/run? Playing a guy with no bat or glove is handicapping yourself to play short handed. In game you’re stuck with a 24 man roster because DeRosa is worthless. No amount of leadership makes up for that.

        • The bottom line is it hurts a team in game more than it will help.

          That isn’t the bottom line, that is what you believe. It is easy to believe it, which doesn’t make it so.

          As for Vizquel, that was a bad call by the Blue Jays. Not because they brought in a guy to fill that role but because they picked a guy incapable of filling that role. Some guys make good role players, others don’t. Bringing in a poor fit for mascot doesn’t uncut the “need” for a mascot, just getting the right guy for a given situation.

          I don’t disagree that getting the most out of all your roster spots seems ideal. I simply refuse to believe that all these smart people just turned off their brains and handed over 3/4 of a million bucks without thinking.

          • Why is Vizquel suddenly a bad choice? Just as with DeRosa, the media and baseball hailed Vizquel as one of the good guys. As a terrific mentor with experience. As a guy who would be an excellent mascot and provide help for Lawrie and Hech and all the youngsters.

            It’s revisionist history to suggest that Vizquel was a bad choice when he’s exactly the same as DeRosa.

            In fact, I looked for the GB link of when he signed. Here’s what Parkes said:

            http://blogs.thescore.com/mlb/2012/01/23/blue-jays-sign-omar-vizquel-to-play-baseball-definitely-not-just-as-an-expensive-infield-coach/

            “It’s true that Vizquel will be a good influence on a young team and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, but of all the teams in Major League Baseball, the Blue Jays, armed with the fungo batting skills of one Brian Butterfield, are likely the least neediest when it comes to infield instruction.”

            So even your former editor who wrote the post on the Vizquel signing agreed that Vizquel was a good guy in the clubhouse. So please don’t try and argue Vizquel wasn’t considered a good clubhouse guy, or isn’t a good clubhouse guy, because at the time of the signing, GB’s stance was that he was a good clubhouse fit. Just like with DeRosa.

    • “DeRosa brings no value to the club, and as we learned last year veteran experience doesn’t add anything positive, tangible or otherwise to the club.”

      Is that true? Are you a member of the 25 man roster for your Toronto Blue Jays? Either way, correlation =/= causation. The Blue Jays, like the rest of the AL East, was above .500 and just a few games from a playoff spot in late July last year before the 10th injury to a starter in Jose Bautista was sustained. If you were paying attention during August, the team was throwing out essentially a AAA team and Mathis, Rasmus and Escobar. They fell out of contention within 10 days.

      You know what Vizquel brought last year that hopefully DeRosa will bring this year? Experience. Knowledge from playing the game inside and out for 15+ years. Someone you can ask questions about, learn from, help you when you’re feeling down. A clubhouse mentor, if you will. Yes, Vizquel did not always do the smartest things (like get caught stealing to end a game), but that doesn’t mean you should poo-poo a nickle in DeRosa. He will provide infield depth, leadership qualities within the clubhouse (hopefully helping Gibby wrangle it a wildly varying team) and at the very best provide platoon some DH spots against lefty pitching. For $750K and a club option, that’s a very smart decision.

      • Agreed. Chemistry and those ‘unmeasurables’ do impact how a baseball team plays. You don’t always need it but if it helps, why wouldn’t you try to achieve it. Anyone who has played any decent level of sports probably has experienced when one season your team which wasnt the most talented, but came together and played well above it’s potential because of guys selling out for their teammates and having the desire to not let anyone on your team down. You may not have on the ship, but experienced a good playoff run or something. I hate when people write this stuff off, because it does play a part, real or just mental.

      • Vizquel was terrible on the field and he criticized the clubhouse atmosphere and manager in the media. Literally everything he did in Toronto in 2012 was a negative. Why does everyone seem hellbent on repeating that? Why don’t people realize that many veterans bring massive asshole qualities along with their experience (Darren Oliver being a prime example of that)?

        • ” Why don’t people realize that many veterans bring massive asshole qualities along with their experience (Darren Oliver being a prime example of that)?”

          “Darren Oliver being a prime example of that”

          Oh, so you’re trolling. Never mind.

          • How am I trolling? Darren Oliver is an asshole, but he can play so it doesn’t matter. Hell, his talent and production arewhy you’re dismissing my claim as it is.

            • How or why is he an asshole? Because he tried to leverage a bigger payday? His teammates love him, probably more so for trying to get a little extra.

              • Yes, the attempt at asking for a raise he was never going to get was just some unnecessary dick-swinging move. And it’s not as if Oliver is a bad teammate, but he strikes me as a guy who minds his own business rather than helping young guys out, and casual fans love to believe that every veteran is integral to the development of every young player ever.

                • Meanwhile, not so casual fans love to believe they have any idea what type of teammate a guy is and how he conducts his business behind closed doors.

      • “Is that true? Are you a member of the 25 man roster for your Toronto Blue Jays?”

        You’re arguing that DeRosa does have value to the club from a performance standpoint?

        ” Either way, correlation =/= causation.”

        That would be an argument against signing DeRosa, because the fact that his teams have done well have nothing to do with him.

        “The Blue Jays, like the rest of the AL East, was above .500 and just a few games from a playoff spot in late July last year before the 10th injury to a starter in Jose Bautista was sustained. If you were paying attention during August, the team was throwing out essentially a AAA team and Mathis, Rasmus and Escobar. They fell out of contention within 10 days.”

        Doesn’t that support what I argued? That talent is more important than chemistry? We had Mathis who is a great clubhouse guy playing for Arencibia, and look how well that worked out. Ditto Vizquel, who then called out the team. And, as an aside, didn’t even do any “veteran leadership” nonsense, as he admitted to being a bystander and not doing enough to help out.

        “You know what Vizquel brought last year that hopefully DeRosa will bring this year? Experience. Knowledge from playing the game inside and out for 15+ years. Someone you can ask questions about, learn from, help you when you’re feeling down.”

        Vizquel admitted to not doing that at all after he called out the club for the aggressive and mistake prone base running. A leader or someone with experience might have pulled someone aside. We know that didn’t happen, or if it did, it had no effect/impact.

        “Yes, Vizquel did not always do the smartest things (like get caught stealing to end a game), but that doesn’t mean you should poo-poo a nickle in DeRosa. He will provide infield depth, leadership qualities within the clubhouse (hopefully helping Gibby wrangle it a wildly varying team) and at the very best provide platoon some DH spots against lefty pitching. For $750K and a club option, that’s a very smart decision.”

        Vizquel playing poorly was the least of the issues, although as I stated it prevented a player who could make an impact on the team.

        DeRosa provides no infield depth, because he can’t play the infield well. In case you’re unaware, DeRosa has played 9 (very poor) innings at SS in 2012, and before that hadn’t played since 2008. He’s historically been quite poor at 3B defensively, and played 37 half decent innings last year. As far as 2B goes, he’s played 5 2/3 innings there over the past 2 years.

        He’s typically been a below average defender in his prime, and at this age he’s not a good defender there either. Saying he’s depth in the infield is like saying that Yuni Betancourt is a SS. Technically you’d be right, but the reality is DeRosa to the infield is something that should only happen in blowout games or in emergency situations. He shouldn’t be counted on as “infield depth”.

        He also doesn’t provide any advantage as a platoon hitter against lefties. He has a 650 and a 660 OPS vs LHP the past 2 years.

        The bottom line is you better pray that these intangibles are valuable enough to make up for the fact that he can’t field, can’t run, and hits like John McDonald. Not exactly redeeming qualities when you bring nothing production wise to the table.

      • Um, Darren Oliver was a veteran presence (or presents, if you prefer) in the bullpen.

        Guys went to him for advice, both because he’s good and because he’s been around the league since 1955. The players talked about his influence. It actually existed.

        To dismiss the idea of “experience” when it is relevant in just about every other facet of life is pretty ridiculous.

  8. At less than 1 PA/game, he can’t hurt you too much. But Omar got 163 PAs last year, and when was the last time the Jays went a whole season without pressing the reserves into a full-time role at some point? It’s not like there’s an Adeiny Hechevarria waiting around in AAA for a starting gig anymore.

  9. Something to consider: the Omar Vizquel Fan Frustration Experience last year was exacerbated by the fact that the Blue Jays chose to play with an 8-man bullpen for a large portion of the season, and often carried banged-up guys on their already short 3-man bench. Vizquel got 163 PAs largely because of that special 2012 combination of an injury-ravaged roster and the joys of Farrellball.

    The bench this year will consist of a backup catcher, a very competent outfielder who can play all three OF positions and should get most of the right-handed bench at-bats ahead of DeRosa, and a switch-hitter who can play all over the infield. They can easily give their starters regular time off without having to give DeRosa a single at-bat. He’ll get some, sure, but he won’t get the same kind of “oh-shit-we-literally-don’t-have-any-other-options” starts that Vizquel got last year.

    • I think you’re bang on.

      If he pulls a 2012 Eric Chavez when given some time, then that would be cool too.

  10. Well done Drew for avoiding knee jerkishness. Veteran presence is massively overstated by the mouth-breathers, but that’s not to say it has no value. It just can’t be quantified.

    Think about it – a company with a jerk as a boss where all the workers hate each others guts can be a huge success. Nobody doubts that. At the same time a genuinely positive working environment is better for everyone.

    Then again, you don’t employ people who can’t do a job just because you like them, either.

    • That example would fly if DeRosa was the boss. He’s not.

      A more appropriate analogy would be an IT firm hires a guy who only knows how to program in COBOL to do C++, but he makes really good coffee.

  11. someone to pee for Melky?

  12. I take the point on “it can’t be stupid if 20 GMs do it/ believe it” but where does that argument end?

    For decades GMs thought batting champs were worth structuring your team around. OBP was irrelevant. They were wrong and maybe AA and co are wrong about character guys. It’s not huge but I’d definitely rather have another Lind platoon partner than MDR.

    The key role players aren’t mascots- they are the stars like Joey Bats.

    • The key role players aren’t mascots- they are the stars like Joey Bats.

      No shit. You are creating a false dichotomy quite nicely.

      The argument ends when it isn’t just “dumb” GMs doing it. When it is entire front offices who have shown, at every other turn, they know what they’re doing. Not AA but other, more accomplished GMs.

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