Happy Anniversary to “Operation Shutdown”

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Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of one of the more unusual endings to a major league career. And easily one of the greatest spring training moments of all time. On March 18, 2002, Pirates outfielder Derek Bell announced the commencement of Operation Shutdown.

What was Operation Shutdown? It was Bell’s declaration that, despite playing only 46 games the previous season and despite hitting only .173/.287/.288, he was not expecting to compete for the Pirates’ right field job:

“Nobody told me I was in competition. If there is competition, somebody better let me know. If there is competition, they better eliminate me out of the race and go ahead and do what they’re going to do with me. I ain’t never hit in spring training and I never will. If it ain’t settled with me out there, then they can trade me. I ain’t going out there to hurt myself in spring training battling for a job. If it is [a competition], then I’m going into ‘Operation Shutdown.’ Tell them exactly what I said. I haven’t competed for a job since 1991.”

Bell left spring training and was released by the Pirates less than two weeks later. The Pirates ended up paying him $4.5 million for the 2002 season, in which he lived on his 58-foot yacht. Which prompted a Pittsburgh columnist to quip that Bell had become “the ultimate Pirate” in that he “lives on a boat and steals money.”

The 2002 Pirates featured Craig Wilson in right field. Wilson hit a respectable .265/.355/.443 with 16 homers and the Pirates, while still mostly in the wilderness, won ten more games without Bell than they did with him the previous year. As for Bell? He never played baseball again. The last couple of times Bell made news it was for drug-related arrests. Which suggests some serious time in the wilderness for him too. 

But if he does nothing else with his life from here on out, he at least gave us Operation Shutdown.

Phillies, Jake Arrieta having a “dialogue”

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No, not like a Socratic dialogue, in which each side, in a mostly cooperative, but intellectually confrontational manner interrogate one another as a means of testing assertions and finding truths, though that would be an AMAZING thing for baseball players and teams to do. Rather, low-level talks about possible interest in Jake Arrieta, baseball free agent.

Arrieta is probably the top free agent still available, now that Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer have signed. Philly has money — it’s a big market — and could use a pitcher, but Jon Heyman, who, much like Plato did for Socrates, reported the dialogue, says they’re not looking to go long term with anyone.

It may make sense for Arrieta to take a so-called “pillow contract” and come back on the market in a year, but if he’s willing to accept a one-year deal, there are a lot of teams other than Philly who may offer one, and you’d have to figure Arrieta would prefer to pitch for a team more likely to contend.

Dialogues are cool, though. You should go have one over lunch.