David Eckstein isn’t even playing, but he still leads the league in “grit and desire”

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David Eckstein visited his brother, Washington pitching coach Rick Eckstein, before yesterday’s Nationals-Angels game and told Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times that he’s not officially retired despite turning down multiple offers from teams this offseason.

In fact, Eckstein revealed that he turned down an offer from an undisclosed team last month, although presumably it was for a minor-league contract.

According to Eckstein he decided not to play, instead spending the past few months working for his wife, actress Ashley Drane, but is fine physically and has not ruled out a return at age 36.

DiGiovanna noted that Eckstein “shrugged his shoulders” when asked if he would play again and then wrote the usual Eckstein cliches:

Much of David Eckstein’s value goes well beyond statistics–his grit and desire, his knowledge of and instincts for the game, his clubhouse leadership, his willingness to sacrifice himself for the good of the team by advancing runners with ground-ball outs.

Grit and desire! Clubhouse leadership! Willingness to sacrifice himself for the good of the team!

Funny how the actual MLB teams don’t seem to have quite the same appreciation for that “value” as reporters do. Eckstein made just $850,000 in 2009 and $1 million last season, hitting .263 with a .652 OPS in 252 total games for the Padres. DiGiovanna says “it appeared several teams focused on Eckstein’s statistics, which are not overwhelming.” Imagine that.

Must-Click Link: “Skunk in the Outfield”

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Sam Miller of ESPN has an amazingly fantastic story today. It’s about a high school tournament baseball game in Rhode Island in 2006. It’s not your typical game story or oral history or look-to-the-past-to-see-the-future kind of thing. The only nod to such conventionality is mention of the fact that former Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland played in the game. That’s mostly a footnote.

No, the article is about a trick play — “skunk in the outfield” — concocted by one of the coaches. About how it played out and what went into it before, during and after it happened. Along the way Miller talks about the nature of trick plays and offers a good three dozen amazing insights into the psychology of young baseball players and the strategy of baseball as it unfolds in real time.

Each of these observations could anchor its own story but here they form a grand mosaic. And that’s only mild hyperbole, if in fact it’s hyperbole at all. Indeed, most treatments of such a play would be some video clip with a “wow, look what happened here!” sort of couching. Miller gives a more than ten-year-old trick play an epic treatment that is every bit as enlightening as it is entertaining.

Set some time aside to read this today.

Rubby De La Rosa to undergo a second Tommy John Surgery

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This is unfortunate: Diamondbacks reliever Rubby De La Rosa will undergo Tommy John surgery. This will be the second Tommy John procedure of his career, the first coming back in 2011.

De La Rosa has had elbow  issues for his entire career. Last year his UCL was barking again and he underwent stem cell therapy to try to avoid a second surgery, but it obviously hasn’t worked out. He’s pitched in only nine games this year, allowing four earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings, striking out 12.

I first saw De La Rosa in spring training in 2011. I thought his stuff was pretty phenomenal and figured he’d be a good one. Great stuff is often a function of heavy strain on an elbow, however, and pitchers breaking is, unfortunately, the rule in baseball far more than the exception.

He’ll miss a year at least. We likely won’t see him until spring of 2019, most likely on a minor league deal.