Good face, bad player: Why track records matter

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It’s a bad sign when you’re hitting .247/.296/.300 for the fifth-worst OPS in the league and the local newspaper is running articles questioning your defense.

Such is the life of Emilio Bonifacio, who got some people way too excited
with a few great games to begin the season and has since predictably
lived up to his minor-league track record by being one of the worst
everyday players in baseball.

Back in mid-April, when Bonifacio was sporting a .500 batting average after a handful of games, Jon Heyman of SI.com wrote about
how “Florida stole an undervalued speed demon ready to contribute” when
they acquired him from Arizona. Here’s more from Heyman’s glowing
piece:

But the Marlins knew better. And now, a week into his Marlins
career, Bonifacio, who moves faster on the diamond than anyone in
baseball, has moved up in everyone else’s eyes. Those outside the
Marlins organization once again view the 23-year-old as an exciting
young player after watching him ignite the Marlins offense with a .500
batting average, exhibit the best baseball speed since Deion Sanders
and lead his club to a 5-1 start.

The Marlins’ scouts seem to know things others do not, so they
figured it might be worthwhile to give Bonifacio, primarily a second
baseman, a look at third base. So far the slap-hitting speed demon has
looked like a star at a position normally reserved for power hitters.
Bonifacio put together multiple-hit efforts in the Marlins’ first five
games of the season and produced enough theatrics to excite even the
minimal crowds they draw down here.

Keep in mind that those words were written about a player who had
produced a .703 OPS over 656 games in the minors and .629 OPS over 60
games the majors coming into this season. And while Heyman was one of
the more vocal Bonifacio bandwagon occupants, he certainly wasn’t alone.

There were all kinds of articles popping up about his supposed
“breakout” and there were all kinds of angry missives in my e-mailbox
about my “unfair” skepticism. Yet for all the talk of how “the Marlins’
scouts seem to know things others do not” and all the hyperbole about
Bonifacio possessing “the best baseball speed since Deion Sanders” at
the end of the day he’s performing exactly like his minor-league track
record predicted.

And since starting the season with 14 hits in 24 at-bats, Bonifacio
has batted .213 with a .272 on-base percentage, .238 slugging
percentage, zero homers, and a 41/14 K/BB ratio while being thrown out
on four of his nine steal attempts in 38 games. I’m sure that his
“theatrics” are still off the charts, though.

Athletics hire third base coach Matt Williams

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The Athletics have hired former MLB manager Matt Williams, the team announced Friday. Williams will take over third base coaching duties under manager Bob Melvin, filling the vacancy left by Nationals’ bench coach Chip Hale after the 2017 season.

Williams is no stranger to the Bay Area, but this will be his first time sporting the green and gold. He got his start in pro ball with the rival Giants in 1987, where he manned third base and collected four All-Star nominations before jumping ship to the American League in 1997. After a one-year stint in the Indians’ organization, he returned to the NL to finish off his 17-season career and eventually hung up his cleats with the Diamondbacks in 2003.

Post-retirement, Williams has crafted a resume that almost over-qualifies him for a coaching gig. He led the Nationals to a cumulative 179-145 record from 2014 to 2015 and earned props as NL Manager of the Year after bringing the team to a first-place finish in 2014. In 2016, he split the season as a first and third base coach in the D-backs’ organization, then accepted a studio analyst position with the Giants for the 2017 season. Although he has yet to suit up for the Athletics in any role, he’s not unfamiliar with skipper Bob Melvin. The two were teammates on the Giants’ 1987-88 roster and spent some time in Arizona together when Melvin took a coaching job there in the early 2000s.

While next year’s reunion will be fun to watch (unless, I suppose, you’re a Giants fan with a long memory), Williams may not have his sights set on a coaching role forever. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reported back in July, the 51-year-old knows what it feels like to win as a manager, and it’s a position he might be open to pursuing in the future.

“For me, my most comfortable space is in uniform,” he told Shea. “I’ve done the ownership thing and front-office stuff, and that’s fun. The most gratification I get is swinging a fungo and throwing batting practice and being on the field. It’s what you know and love. I look at myself as a teacher first and foremost. At the end of the day, I think that’s how I have my greatest influence.”