Off days stink because they force writers to fill space with silly stuff like this article making an argument for Chase Utley as “the best second baseman in baseball. Ever.” The evidence cited: his OPS is higher than Jackie Robinson’s! He’s on pace to have more hits than Joe Morgan! He’s got more home runs than Eddie Collins! He plays better defense than Rogers Hornsby!
All of which is beside the point. I mean, it’s not hard to take four great second baseman, cite those stats which are among the least impressive of their case for immortality, and then note that Utley bests them in that department. Try this out for size: I’m the greatest man in world history because I can run faster than
Steven Hawking, sing better than Albert Einstein, shoot better than
Ghandi, and shave closer than Lincoln. Anyone see any problems there?
The fact is that Joe Morgan wasn’t just a guy who got base hits. He walked a lot and had superior power, defense and base running ability. As the author of the linked article admits, Collins played in the deadball era, so his home run totals are pretty irrelevant. Robinson certainly had a good OPS, but his all-around ability — he played many positions — base running and, oh yeah, BALLS OF STEEL are a bigger part of his story. Citing Hornsby’s defense? C’mon, he’s known as a subpar defender. He’s at the top of most people’s lists because he hit .400. And oh yeah: all of those guys did what they did for way longer than Utley has done what he has done.
Utley is an outstanding player. He’s certainly the best second baseman in the game today. If he keeps up the current pace for a few more years, he’s going to be Cooperstown bound. But after what, in reality, is only five strong seasons, he’s got a long way to go before he can reasonably be compared to Hornsby, Robinson, Morgan, and Collins.
And Grich and Sandberg and Alomar and Whitaker and Kent and Gehringer and . . .
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.