I am open to Barry Bonds as the Marlins hitting coach. It could be a fantastic situation and he could have success. Teaching and doing are two different things but I don’t feel like betting against a guy who is the best person on the planet at something transitioning into teaching that something is a great bet.
All of that said, part of me is skeptical. Not that Bonds can’t be a good hitting coach but that he might not be totally invested in being a hitting coach. I say that based on the initial comments Bonds had following his hiring. It seemed like something he hadn’t considered too terribly much until Jeff Loria called him and, hey, sure, I suppose I’ll give coaching a try!
The other day he sat down for an interview with MLB.com’s Barry Bloom and not much that he said changed my impression of that. He seemed flattered by Jeff Loria reaching out to him and, in fact, him coaching was clearly Jeff Loria’s idea (note: how many Jeff Loria baseball ideas have panned out?). He is worried about the travel and the hotels and stuff. He is quite clear that he doesn’t want to be away from San Francisco but, hey, this is where the job is, so he’s taking it. His overall stance seems to be “Who knows? Maybe I CAN do this?”
Which, to be clear, is generally a very healthy way to approach new opportunities. Trying new things and having an open mind about them — and an open mind to the possibility that you may not do well or may not like it — is a good way to live a good life. To be pleased by even modest success and to not be too disappointed by failure. It allows you to move out of your comfort zone more easily than you might if you’re the sort who HAS to be perfect at everything. And, whatever you think of Barry Bonds, his post-retirement life seems to fit that healthy mode overall.
But this is baseball and baseball tends not to reward dilettantes. Guys who are stinkin’ rich from their playing careers yet continue on and succeed as coaches all seem like the very, very driven types. Like they have a passion for coaching in particular or baseball and the baseball life overall. That quality was certainly present in Bonds as a player but it doesn’t seem to be here for Bonds as a new coach. If Loria didn’t call him he wouldn’t have been beating down anyone else’s door trying to get into coaching. In a lot of ways this sounds like a whim.
Which isn’t to say that Bonds won’t be great at this and won’t love it. He absolutely could. If he is and does, however, it sounds like it will be just as much as a surprise to him as it will be to everyone else.
Jon Heyman reports that Jordany Valdespin has signed with the Tigers.
Valdespin spent the past two seasons in the Marlins organization, primarily in the minors. He hit .293/.348/.387 in half a season at Triple-A New Orleans last year. He played part time for the Mets in 2012 and 2013, showing flashes of talent here and there but mostly showing that he was a petulant me-first player as well.
In 2013 he angered the Pirates by showboating after hitting a home run with his team down 7-1. Later that year he threw a temper tantrum after learning he was being demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas. After going down to Vegas he helped start a benches-clearing brawl. Long before all of that he was said to be unpopular with his Mets teammates for his alleged bad attitude and lackadaisical play. After all of that he was suspended for 50 games for his involvement in Biogenesis stuff. Some of that could be overlooked if he was raking, but he never raked.
His career highlight so far, however, came in spring training 2013 when he squared to bunt, missed the pitch and was hit right in the beans with a 94 m.p.h. fastball from Justin Verlander. New teammate Justin Verlander. I bet they’ll have a lot to talk about.
Anyway, that’s a lot of words for a guy who is outfield depth at best but most likely Toledo-bound. He’s always been kind of interesting at least, so there’s that.
Mike Leake was just formally announced as the newest member of the St. Louis Cardinals. At his press conference they showed his jersey: number 8. Which is really, really unusual for a pitcher.
Indeed, pitchers hardly ever wear single-digit numbers. At any given time there are a couple around. Marcus Stroman is the only one I could think of off the top of my head. He wears number 6. I asked Twitter for others and was reminded that Adam Ottavino wears 0. Kyle Drabek did before 2015 but he switched when he joined the White Sox. That may be the entire list.
Ten years ago Stefan Fastis of the Wall Street Journal wrote a story about single-digit pitchers. In it he explained the historical basis for the practice. The first team to go with numbers and stick with them was the Yankees, and they assigned numbers by batting order position. The number three hitter was #3 Babe Ruth, the cleanup hitter was #4 Lou Gehrig, etc. Catchers — like Bill Dickey — wore 8. A pitcher batted ninth but the backup catcher would get 9 and backup fielders the lower double digit numbers. Eventually, someplace in the teens, you’d get to the pitchers. That system eventually broke down, but the tradition remained.
Fastis’ story also revealed, however, that in modern times pitchers rarely wearing single digits is simply a matter of tradition and superstition and irrational aesthetic preference. There he talked to an equipment manager and a historian about it and it was revealed that it just seems weird to people for a pitcher to have a single digit. The story also contains a very Reggie Jackson quote about just how WRONG it was for a pitcher to wear a single digit. Like so many things in baseball, it’s just a matter of calcified orthodoxy. Like “playing the game the right way.”
Which makes Leake’s choice even more fun. I mean, Leake plays for the St. Louis Cardinals. A club which, justified or not, is often accused of absolutely abhorring the notion of people not playing the game the right way. Here’s hoping he sticks to his number 8 and isn’t told that he needs to do things . . . by the numbers.