Mike Cameron

Mike Cameron well entrenched in the Hall of Very Good

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A Hall of Famer he obviously wasn’t, but Mike Cameron, who announced his retirement Sunday at age 39, might be the game’s most underrated player of the last 20 years.

Cameron nails just about all of the factors that makes a player underrated. He hit for low averages, he struck out a lot, he spent much of his career in pitcher’s parks, he changed teams frequently and he didn’t get the kind of defensive reputation early on that would have let him coast to Gold Glove awards like Torii Hunter and Ichiro Suzuki did.

But when Cameron was at his best, he was one of the top players in his league. Unfortunately, his two best seasons happened to come in Safeco Field in 2001 and in Petco Park in 2006. In 2001, he was the AL’s seventh-best player, according to Baseball-reference’s WAR. In 2006, he was the NL’s 13th best.

Cameron was more about consistency, though. From 1999-2009, he had OPS-pluses between 104-123 every year. He was a pretty exceptional defender right up until the end of that stretch, and he played in 140 games in nine of the 11 seasons.

Unfortunately, because of the kind of hitter he was, Cameron was typically typecast as a No. 6 batter. He never hit even .270 in a full season. The only time he ever led a league in anything was when he fanned 176 times for the Mariners in 2002. He drove in 110 runs in 2001, but his next highest total was 83. In 2004, he managed to drive in just 76 runs despite hitting 30 homers for the Mets.

So, no, Cameron wasn’t a superstar. He wasn’t necessarily the guy a team wanted up with the winning run on second in the bottom of the ninth (though he wasn’t exactly unclutch; he hit slightly better with runners on and with RISP than with the bases empty over the course of his career). He struggled mightily in his four postseasons, hitting .174/.309/.272 with one homer in 92 at-bats.

But as a third banana, he was quite an asset. WAR rates him the 24th best player of the aughts (2000-09), and I wouldn’t quibble with that. He comes up short just looking at his statistical line — he finished his career with a .249 average, 278 homers and 297 steals — but there were just so many pluses outside of that. He earned three Gold Gloves and deserved at least a couple of more, he was a terrific baserunner and he rarely grounded into double plays. There’s no doubt he won more games for his teams with those skills than he lost with the strikeouts.

Late Athletics broadcaster Bill King wins the Ford C. Frick Award

bill-king
CSN Bay Area
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OXON HILL, MD — Bill King has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

King, one of the iconic voices of Bay Area sports, was known for his handlebar mustache and his signature “Holy Toledo!” exclamation. King broadcast A’s games for 25 seasons, from 1981 through 2005. He likewise broadcast Oakland Raiders and Golden State Warriors games and got his start as an announcer for the Giants in the late 1950s after they moved to San Francisco.

King passed away in October 2005. With the Frick Award, however, he has now been immortalized among baseball broadcasters.

Rockies sign Ian Desmond for five years, $70 million

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 07:  Ian Desmond #20 of the Texas Rangers reacts after hitting a double against the Toronto Blue Jays in the seventh inning of game two of the American League Divison Series at Globe Life Park in Arlington on October 7, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Rockies have signed free agent outfielder/infielder Ian Desmond for five years and $70 million.

Desmond, 31, played his first season as a full-time outfielder with the Rangers in 2016. Before that he was the Nationals shortstop. He’ll almost certainly be an outfielder in Colorado, or else will play first base, as the Rockies have Trevor Story at short. Desmond hit .285/.335/.446 with 22 home runs, 86 RBI, 107 runs scored, and 21 stolen bases in 677 plate appearances, though he was much, much better in the first half than the second half.

The Rangers had placed a qualifying offer on him which he rejected, so the Rockies will have to give up their first round pick in the 2017 draft, which is 11th overall. That’s the highest pick a team can surrender under the qualifying offer system, as the first ten picks in the draft are protected.