Tag: David Eckstein

Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Players Who Could Fill in for Chase Utley

News of Chase Utley’s tendinitis in his right knee has spread around the baseball world over the past week. While Utley doesn’t look like he’ll need any serious treatment, he’s already received a cortisone shot in the knee, but it didn’t have any effect. He’s rested and stayed off the knee as much as possible, but that was to no avail. He’s even suggested that he could receive either a steroid injection or lubricant injection to speed up the process, but neither are certain as of yet.

Regardless of whether it’s been because of being hit by a pitch or simply overworking himself, Chase Utley has definitely felt the impact of an injury on playing time. Over the last few seasons, Utley has been riddled with injuries, from the broken hand to the torn thumb ligament last season, and now the tendinitis.

ESPN’s SportsCenter recently showed a statistic about second basemen that displayed the amount of additional wins a team has when a second baseman plays every day over his replacement. Chase Utley led this statistic with roughly 21 wins. Boston’s Dustin Pedroia came in second, but by a long shot, only providing roughly 14 wins.

Even though this statistic is both astounding and heartbreaking to Phillies fans, it’s not like they’ve seen replacements at second base in the past. If Utley won’t be ready for Opening Day or even beyond, someone will have to replace him temporarily.

Utley is doing all he can to avoid surgery to help his tendinitis, chondromalacia (cartilage deterioration), and bone inflammation.

But if surgery becomes inevitable in the future, which is still extremely rare, who would fill his shoes?

In no particular order, here are five players who are the most likely to fill in for Chase Utley if needed. 

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Small Frame, Big Game: Why Size Doesn’t Matter In The MLB

The bigger the better, right?


Baseball has always been a game where any talented individual could pick up a bat or glove and show off his skills – despite his size.

Bigger men generally have an advantage in the Major Leagues.  They can throw harder, run faster, and hit more powerful.  They are unique physical specimen, and people marvel at their strength.

Take Prince Fielder, for example.  People are awestruck not only by his size, but his tremendous amount of power.  He can hit a baseball just as far as any in the league, and probably farther.  His size definitely contributes to why he’s a good ball player.

But size really doesn’t matter.  Just look at the careers of these three men who have been gracing the diamond for the past several years, despite their lack of size.

David Eckstein is currently listed at 5’7″ and 175 pounds.  I’ve never stood next to the guy, but I have a feeling that those numbers are pretty generous.  Eckstein has been a thorn in the sides of pitchers ever since he came up in 2001, but it’s not because he can hit the long ball.

It’s because he’s a ball player.

Eckstein has just 35 home runs in his career (if Albert Pujols had that in a single season he would consider it a down year), and has never hit more than 26 doubles in a season.  What makes him so special then?

Here’s your answer: the guy never strikes out and is great at doing the little things in the game.

He’s struck out just 418 times in his career (Mark Reynolds would get that in two seasons), and can be counted on in any situation to lay down a bunt or make a tough defensive catch.

Despite not having a very strong arm, he releases the ball quickly and almost always gets the out.

An All-Star in 2005 and 2006, Eckstein also won the World Series MVP Award in 2006 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Big award for such a little guy.

Next, we’ll look at the 5’9”, 175 pound Brian Roberts. 

Roberts has been a constant on the Orioles since 2003, and owns a career .283/.355/.419 slash line.  He has proved that he can hit over his career.

He led the league in doubles in 2004 and 2009, hitting 50 and 56, respectively.  His best hitting season came in 2005 when he hit 18 home runs with 73 RBI’s and hit an above average .314.

Despite the nice productivity at the plate, its Roberts’ speed and hustle that makes him such a huge asset to the Orioles.  He stole a league leading 50 bases in 2007 and has 268 in his career.  Add in the fact that he’s only been caught 66 times, and you’ve got yourself a reliable base stealer.

Roberts sports a very respectable .987 fielding percentage, and has never made more than 11 errors in a full season (he made 16 errors in 63 games in 2001). 

He has scored over 90 runs in his career five times, and he was an All-Star in 2005 and 2007. 

Despite the great numbers, Roberts may not be the best small guy in the game today.

The Red Sox’ 5’9”, 180 pounds Dustin Pedroia really packs a punch despite his smaller frame.  His career slash line is .305/.369/.460, and has 54 home runs in his four full seasons in the league.

He led the league in runs in 2008 and 2009, with 118 and 115, respectively.  He also led the league in hits in 2008 with 213 and doubles with 54.

Pedroia is difficult to strike out, he’s never had more than 52 strikeouts in a season, and has more walks in his career (215) than strikeouts (184). 

The infielder is also a superb defender, making only 24 errors over his five year career.  His Gold Glove Award in 2008 recognized his defensive skill.

He’s won more awards than just that Gold Glove.  He was an All-Star in 2008, 2009, and 2010, he was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2007, the AL MVP in 2008, and the winner of the AL Silver Slugger Award for second basemen in 2008.

The man can flat out play, even though he’s a little on the small side.

Baseball really is a game for everyone, and anybody can succeed with a little bit of talent.  Eckstein, Roberts, and Pedroia have clearly been able to harness that talent and compete with the likes of big men Prince Fielder, Pablo Sandoval, and Adam Dunn for spots on Major League rosters.

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The Free Agent Team: A Team Assembled by Who’s Left on the Free Agent Market

There are still plenty of players left on the free agent market that could improve a major league club. What if it was decided there would be a new expansion team? The team would have to assemble itself by whoever is left, and this is what I believe this team would look like. A team filled with former all-stars, and overlooked players.

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New York Mets 2011 Season: Who’s on Second?

Amidst the pursuit for the next New York Mets manager, several on the field questions still plague the Mets in the coming months. Besides the evident issues facing the bullpen, the most pressing matter I see facing Alderson’s Mets is who will be manning the second base position next year.

I’ve gone through some possible options out there for the Mets next year, some internal and external, but none named Luis Castillo.

I got to tell you though; many of them are looking pretty promising. Let’s just hope these options look as good on the field as they do on paper.

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Every Four Years: San Diego Padres 2B David Eckstein’s Time To Win World Series

What do you think of when you read or hear “Every Four Years?” The Presidential elections?  The Olympics?  World Cup Soccer?

Nope, not if you are a fan of the San Diego Padres‘ infielder David Eckstein.

“Every Four Years” means David Eckstein wins a World Series.

In 2002, the biggest little man in major league baseball helped lead the then-Anaheim Angels to a World Series championship over the San Francisco Giants. The 5’7″, 175 lb. Eckstein led the majors with three grand slams that season.

In 2006, Eckstein was named World Series MVP for the champion St. Louis Cardinals.  Following a 1-for-11 start at the plate in the first two games of the World Series, Eckstein finished 8-for-22 with four RBI and scored three runs.

The World Series victory with the Cardinals placed Eckstein in elite company as one of few starting shortstops who have won a World Series in both the American and National Leagues.

Flash forward to 2010. It just so happens to be four years since Eckstein’s last World Series title, and the Padres are in the midst of an NL West pennant race.

As Dick Enberg put it in last Wednesday’s broadcast against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Adrian Gonzalez has been the Friars’ Most Valuable Player, but Eckstein has been the team’s most clutch player, while also mentoring younger players with his outstanding work ethic and hustle on each and every play.

Eckstein is the only infielder in major league baseball this year with at least 80 games played and no errors.   Despite missing 28 games because of a calf strain, Eckstein has played in 105 games this season and provided near-flawless defense.

In a recent poll of 313 major league players conducted by Sports Illustrated, Eckstein was chosen as the player who had gotten the most out of his talent. He got 25 percent of the votes, well ahead of the 13 percent earned by Boston‘s Dustin Pedroia.

In this new-age style of baseball, reliant on power numbers and jaw-dropping statistics, Eckstein has relied on another outlet to get the job done: his heart. 

Wherever David Eckstein has played, winning has followed. 

Entering the final week of the 2010 regular season a half-game behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West, Eckstein and the Padres are on a collision course for a pivotal three-game series in San Francisco this weekend. 

If Eckstein can help bring the city of San Diego its first professional championship, he might have to consider taking his “Every Four Years” regime from the playing field to politics.

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San Diego Spotlight: Miguel Tejada Reviving His Career with the Padres

Miguel Tejada is playing grown man baseball at a grown-up time for the San Diego Padres.

Tejada became the 129th player in MLB history to reach 300 homers Wednesday evening against the Los Angeles Dodgers. But that isn’t the only milestone the 36-year-old veteran is looking to accomplish this season. 

It has been seven years since Tejada has played in the postseason. Both he and the Padres are in search of their first World Series ring.

Acquired the day before the July 31st trade deadline, the Padres’ acquisition of Tejada didn’t resonate throughout the MLB headlines for long.  Yet, it is tough to argue in favor of any other deadline pickup having more of an impact.

Tejada has eight homers in 194 at-bats for the Padres after hitting just seven in 401 at-bats for Baltimore earlier this season. He is also batting .273 with 28 RBI in just 49 games.

The Padres initially acquired Tejada for his veteran bat and presence. While he has surprised Padres management with his glove, he hasn’t surprised himself.

“We discussed the options [when Tejada was acquired]: left field, third base, second,” manager Bud Black told the San Diego Union-Tribune.  “Then we put him at shortstop and we watched just to see what we had.”

What the Padres saw was a 14-year veteran, six-time All-Star, and 2002 MVP with serviceable range that has committed just two errors in 49 games.

“I feel like I can get to any ball that anybody hits.” Tejada told the Union-Tribune. “I really had it in my mind I could still play short, my natural position. I was training in the off season to keep my legs really strong, to keep in good shape just in case somebody needs me to play short.”

Eligible for free agency at season’s end, Tejada would prefer to stay put. Given the uncertain future of Everth Cabrera and the free agency of David Eckstein and Jerry Hairston Jr., the Padres may be in need of multiple middle infielders next season.

“He’s been valuable,” Bud Black said of Tejada. “I think (keeping him) is definitely worth discussion as we move into the winter.”

“I would love to stay here,” Tejada said. “I love to play with the young guys. I love this team. Right now, I’m enjoying the moment. I enjoy the situation right now and I try to take it one day at a time.”

Tejada has a negative image in the court of public opinion due to previous alleged steroid allegations and pleading guilty to one count of perjury on Feb. 11, 2009 for lying to Congress.

Those will be interesting facts in building a Cooperstown Hall of Fame case for Tejada someday.

By the time he’s eligible, he’ll likely rank second or third all-time for homers by a shortstop and somewhere between fifth and seventh in RBI. He also won an MVP award and amassed a very impressive consecutive games streak—162 games in six straight seasons from 2001-2006.

It’s safe to say a World Series ring in 2010 would bolster his Cooperstown resume. 

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MLB Waiver Wire: 10 Best Waiver Transactions Since 1990

While the July 31st trade deadline gets all the hype, the wheeling and dealing is far from over, as each season there are a number of moves made through waivers after the deadline.

Just last season, big names like Jason Giambi, Jim Thome, and Alex Rios all found new homes well into August, and with the buzz surrounding Adam Dunn among others, this season could again see difference making players moved after the deadline.

Looking back over the last 20 years, I have assembled what I feel are the ten best waiver deals. Some teams acquired a big player to push them over the top in the pennant race, while others stole a prospect from a contender who turned into a star. Either way, these are the ten best of the last 20 years.

Looking ahead, the Blue Jays claimed Jose Bautista off waivers in a deal with the Pirates back in 2008, and that move could very well find its way onto this list if he continues to lauch home runs.

Anyway, here are my top ten waiver moves. Feel free to chime in with any I may have missed.

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Los Angeles Angels Need To Hire Darin Erstad As A Coach

Intense. Driven. Competitor. Tough. Gritty. Clutch. Leader. Intelligent. World Champion.

These are all words that immediately come to mind when Angels fans think of Darin Erstad, but seem far removed from the vocabulary one would use to describe the current Angels club.

This young Angels team seems long on talent and short on competitive will.

Are the 2010 Angels less talented than the 2002 roster that won it all, or did Erstad and company simply want it more?

Angels fans have been hearing about the “upside” of their young talent for years. As many of these prospects have now made it to the majors and are rapidly approaching the age of 28, many have stopped thinking about upside and are now simply asking the question, “What is up?”

When is Howie Kendrick, 27, going to turn from a very average second baseman into the batting champion he was touted as being?

Will Kevin Jepsen, 26, ever mature into a dominant reliever, or is he the West Coast washout equivalent of Joba Chamberlain?

When is Erick Aybar, 26, going to develop into the leadoff hitter that everyone thought he would be?

Will Jeff Mathis, 27, ever be able to play well for longer than two weeks at a time?

When will this team start doing the little things championship teams need to do to win?

I don’t think there is anyone in the Angels lineup this season that would allow themselves to be hit by pitches 27 times like the 5-foot, 7-inch David Eckstein did in 2002. In fact, their entire team has been hit a grand total of 35 times.

The 2010-version of the Halos clearly lack focus and the hunger to win. So why not bring back the most focused, competitive and intense Angel of all time to help motivate them?

Erstad brought the football mentality he acquired while playing as a kicker for the University of Nebraska to the diamond every day. Even when he wasn’t hitting well, his very presence was invaluable to the Angels.

Erstad wasn’t interested in chatting it up with his opponent when they were standing on first base. He was too busy thinking up ways to destroy them.

How many times do the current Angels coaches have to watch Bobby Abreu stand on second base giggling with the shortstop—only to get picked off?

There is a fine line between being loose and just not caring, and the Angels have crossed it. Their coaching staff should be calling them out on it—veterans or not.

Today, Erstad is filling in as an assistant baseball coach for his alma mater, but it’s hard to believe he would turn down a chance to return to the majors—especially with the team where he had his finest years.

Although he never officially retired as a player from baseball, Erstad decided this winter he would rather spend time with his family than be relegated to a bench player role in the National League. He told the Orange Country Register he would have a tough time justifying being away from his family for eight days in a row for the sake of three at-bats per week.

Angels fans would not expect any less of a statement from a man of Erstad’s character. However, a man as competitive as Erstad can only stay static for so long before he needs another competitive challenge.

Challenging would be a great word to describe the job Erstad would have in front of him if he were offered a chance to help his old team as a coach.

Tweakers who have blown up their apartments cooking meth under their sink think the Angels have bad chemistry.

The Angels can have all the closed-door meetings they want for the rest of the summer, but clearly whatever is being said is falling on deaf ears. Manager Mike Scioscia’s riff might be wearing thin and new motivational voices may need to be heard.

In particular, Erstad would be an excellent candidate to replace Dino Ebel as the third base coach. Maybe Erstad, a former Gold Glove first baseman and great base runner in his own right, might be able to clue the young guys in on why it’s not a good idea to try to steal third with two outs or bunt with two strikes—looking at you, Erick Aybar.

One thing is certain. Erstad would be welcomed home with open arms by appreciative fans who remember how he sacrificed his body diving for balls and legging out singles on seemingly every play.

That mentality is contagious, and hopefully these Angels can catch it before they are permanently immune.

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Sniffles for Mat Latos: Padres Hurler Lands on DL After Snuffed Sneeze

Poor Mat Latos.  Right in the middle of a breakout season in his second year with the Padres, the baseball gods have dealt him a blow with a truly bizarre injury.

Latos landed on the DL Friday with a strained left side. He suffered the injury a week ago after a win over Colorado when he tried to hold in a sneeze while going down the dugout steps.

Welcome to the storied list of ridiculous baseball injuries.  You have plenty of company, Mr. Latos.

Latos’ snuffed sniffle has got to be up there with Mike Matheny and Clint Barmes cutting themselves with hunting knives or Joel Zumaya’s failure as a video game guitarist.

Of course, Sammy Sosa had similar problems with his schnoz when he went down with back spasms after an all-out achoo fit. 

Here is a list of some of the other more bizarre baseball injuries.

Of course, my fantasy team has been hit twice by the peculiar injury bug.  I wrote previously about Kendry Morales ’ fight with home base which cost him his leg and his season.

Lucky me, I also have Latos.

And folks wonder why people in baseball are so superstitious.  I mean do you remember Turk Wendell?  The eccentric reliever wore a necklace decorated with the sharp teeth of beasts he had hunted and killed, brushed his teeth between innings and regularly chewed black licorice while pitching.

Turk is certainly not the norm, but I’m sure every Major Leaguer has their fair share of superstitions. 

The superstitious nature is clearly more prevalent in baseball than in any other sport.  The anxiousness probably comes from the sheer length of the 162-game season.  When you’re playing damn near every day from March through October, something’s bound to happen. 

Still, landing on the DL because of a botched sneeze, you can’t make this kind of stuff up.

The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Padres’ 22-year-old hurler. 

Latos would be the front-runner for the Rookie of the Year if the NL wasn’t so stacked with young talent this season.  Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg, Mike Stanton and Jamie Garcia have certainly raised the bar for young talent in the NL.

But Latos is having just as big of an impact as any of those guys and –more importantly – he has led his team to the lead in the NL West – really out of nowhere.  I think it’s safe to say no one – even most Padres fans – saw their resurgence coming this season.

The Pads success has definitely not been a product of their bats.  They rank 14th in BA (.250), OBP (.319), SLG (.372) and HR (67), 12th in runs (376) and 13th in RBI (357).

Guess that’s what happens when your GM throws out a lineup that features Adrian Gonzalez and next to nothing else.  David Eckstein, yes that David Eckstein, is the only other Pad regular to be sniffing .300 at .279. 

It’s also what has made the Padres’ run to the top of the NL West so incredible.

Their pitching ranks first in ERA (3.25), second in wins (51) and fourth in strikeouts (698).

A lot of that success is thanks to Latos.

The 6-foot-6 righty is 10-4 this season with a 2.45 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 99 strikeouts.  He’s tossed 12 quality starts out of his 17 this season.  He’s second in WHIP, tied for third in wins, and ranks seventh in ERA amongst NL pitchers.

Once again he could have been a candidate for the Cy Young Award if the NL didn’t have guys like Ubaldo Jimenez, Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, Josh Johnson and Tim Lincecum.  But such is life during the year of the pitcher.

So what do you think, can the Padres maintain their two-game lead over the Rockies in the NL West without their top young pitcher?

The Pads haven’t had to go outside of their starting five rotation much this season.  Only Tim Stauffer and Chris Young have made starts outside of the starting five of Clayton Richard, Jon Garland, Wade LeBlanc, Kevin Correia and Latos.

My guess is Latos’ injury shouldn’t be too bad of a blow considering he’s eligible to return on July 24. 

Actually, it might be a blessing in disguise that Latos gets some more rest for the stretch run.  He’s still got a young arm and the Pads need him to be a sharp as possible if they’re going to hold off the Rockies and Dodgers with little offensive support.

Still, it hurts as a fantasy owner and as a fan to see one of your favorite players lose time in a season to this kind of nonsense.

As far as fantasy replacement options, I dug Cleveland’s Fausto Carmona out of the trash heap.  He’s got 14 quality starts, eight wins, a 3.64 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP.

The Mets’ Jonathan Niese, the Tribe’s Mitch Talbot or the Rockies’ Jason Hammel also could be good short term options.



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Clutch Hitting and Strong Pitching Are Keys To First-Place Padres’ Success

After last night’s rally and dramatic bottom of the ninth victory, the Padres (17-10) assured themselves of having another successful homestand.  Winners of six of their last eight games and 11-4 at home, the Padres continue to roll.

On the offensive side, the Padres are showing an ability to hit with runners in scoring position—they are second in the National League with a .293 team average.  After collecting their third walk-off win of the season, they are also proving that they have the ability to come through when the game is on the line.

Showing that he is a go-to-guy in the clutch, with two outs, Chase Headley, lined a 1-0 count single to the right-center gap, scoring Lance Zawadski from second base.  This was Headley’s second walk-off hit of the season; the other walk-off hit for the Padres was a home run by David Eckstein.

Aside from the timely hitting, strong pitching has also been a major reason for their early season success—with a 2.81 team ERA that ranks second in the NL. 

Last night’s starting pitcher, Wade LeBlanc, called up to replace the injured Chris Young in the rotation, allowed two earned runs over six innings, received a no-decision. 

In three other starts this season LeBlanc (2-0, 1.16) has only one earned run and has shown a lot of promise.  LeBlanc was the pitcher of record in two of the Padres’ Major League leading six shutouts.

Opening day starter and free-agent acquisition, Jon Garland (3-2, 2.06) has been a steady contributor.

Veteran Kevin Correia (4-2, 3.97) leads the team in wins and strikeouts with 30.

Second-year starter Clayton Richard (1-2, 3.00) is beginning to hit his stride. 

The only sore spot in the rotation has been 22-year-old Mat Latos (1-3, 5.47), who has given up a team-high seven home runs.  All-star Heath Bell (2-0, 1.64) anchors a strong bullpen with seven saves in eight chances. 

It is still too early to tell if the first-place Padres have what it takes to take the division. But the middle of May just might give a clue as whether or not the Padres are true contenders. 

After a three game series against the NL’s worst team, Houston Astros, they are scheduled to face NL West rivals Dodgers and Giants from May 11-20 with five games at home and five games on the road.

If they manage to come out with a winning record against the second-place Giants and are able to take advantage of the struggling Dodgers, who were early season favorites to win the division, then the Padres will most likely still be atop the division. 

And that may just be time to start taking the overachieving Padres seriously. 

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