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.

And That Happened: Sunday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Orioles 10, Marlins 4Mark Trumbo had three hits including a solo home run, scored three runs and knocked in two. Jace Peterson knocked in four, including two with a two-run homer as the Orioles snapped a nine-game losing streak. It was the O’s first win at home in over a month as well. Dylan Bundy got his fifth win. The Orioles have only 20 total wins, giving him [mashes hands on old-timey adding machine) 25% of all of his team’s wins. That may seem like a big percentage but in 1972 Steve Carlton won 27 games for a 59-win Phillies team. That’s the gold standard for such things and ain’t no one touching that mark ever again.

Blue Jays 8, Nationals 6Randal Grichuk hit two solo homers and drew a bases loaded walk and Teoscar Hernandez and Yangervis Solarte hit back to back bombs in the eighth inning to break a 6-6 tie and give the Jays the win and the series sweep. Michael Taylor stole four bases for Washington. That’s kinda cool. Sadly, “kinda cool” doesn’t get you anything in the standings. Washington has lost five of six.

Indians 4, Twins 1: Shane Bieber allowed ten hits over five and two thirds but somehow only gave up one run and somehow got his first big league win. Not bad for a guy who was in Columbus the day before. I mean, I was in Columbus the day before and all I accomplished on Saturday was cleaning some bathrooms and making a Costco run. Which, hey, is pretty good, but it’s not like winning a game in the show. Yan Gomes hit a three run-double to break a 1-1 tie and that was that.

Braves 4, Padres 1: Julio Teheran tossed six no-hit innings and struck out 11. If he wasn’t just coming off the disabled list — and if it hadn’t taken him 95 pitches t get through those six innings — I suppose he would’ve had a chance to go longer. Of course if ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a happy Christmas. Tyler Flowers hit a two-run homer. He wouldn’t have even been in the game if it was not for Kurt Suzuki getting clocked in the noggin, so let’s just call all of that a bag of mixed nuts.

Reds 8, Pirates 6: Billy Hamilton went 3-for-4, stole two bases, scored three times and did this:

Eugenio Suarez homered, Joey Votto went 2-for-4 with two RBI and Scott Schebler homered and knocked in three.

Rays 3, Yankees 1: The Rays avoided a sweep in the four-game series by deploying Johnny Wholestaff effectively and shutting the Yankees’ offense down. Wilmer Font led the bullpen brigade, allowing one run in four and two-thirds, Matt Duffy drove in two and Carlos Gomez had an RBI double. All that came in the third inning. Other than that CC Sabathia was fantastic, pitching into the eighth and striking out ten. Unfortunately for him, all innings count.

Tigers 3, White Sox 1: Nicholas Castellanos hit a two-run homer and Blaine Hardy and the Tigers’ pen limited the White Sox to a Matt Davison homer and nothing else doing. Five wins in a row for the Tigers who, between a massive rebuild and a season-ending injury to Miguel Cabrera, are supposed to be terrible but somehow . . . aren’t. Playing nine games so far against Chicago has been helpful for that. Detroit is 8-1 vs. the Chisox.

Phillies 10, Brewers 9: Maikel Franco has been riding a lot of pine lately, but he started this one and homered and drove in four. Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera also homered as the Phillies took two of three. Eric Thames hit two homers in a losing cause for the Brewers, whose late rally fell short. In other news, Brewers reliever Adrian Houser barfed behind the mound while warming up in the eighth inning. While for you, me and most people, barfing is a get-out-of-work-free card, Hauser stayed in the game and faced two batters before barfing a second time. Then he STILL stayed in the game, faced three more hitters and finished the inning, having given up one run on an RBI double to Scott Kingery.

Gabe Kapler after the game:

“I have a lot of respect for anybody who would step behind the mound and throw up and step back on the mound and pitch”

It’s Kapler’s team but I, personally, think that people who are literally vomiting while on the mound shouldn’t be in the game and that a guy who barfs twice while giving up a run in a game you end up losing by a run might’ve been better served not in the game. But hey, what do I know?

Astros 7, Royals 4: Houston just refuses to lose. Carlos Correa hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth and then got RBI singles from Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez that same inning to keep the momentum rolling. That’s the Astros’ 11th win in a row. Ten of those wins came on their 10-game road trip and now they get a nine-game homestand against the lowly Rays, Royals, and Blue Jays. Methinks this is the portion of the year that’ll appear in the year-in-review video that comes out next November under a heading like “The Turning Point” or some such.

Rangers 13, Rockies 12: Texas rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth, winning on a Jose Trevino two-run single. It was only Trevino’s third big league game and it came on Father’s Day, just a few days after he became a dad. Most of us go our whole lives wondering what is good in life and whether it will ever get better. Trevino may very well have had the best week of his life and he may very well know it, all at the tender age of 25. For the Rockies, it was yet another blown lead — their 21st loss after leading, which leads the bigs — this by their high-priced closer Wade Davis.

Athletics 6, Angels 5: Jonathan Lucroy hit a walkoff, bases-loaded RBI single in the 11th inning to give the A’s the win. It was a comeback win for Oakland, thanks to Mark Canha game-tying single with two outs in the ninth. He hit a two-run homer earlier. Mike Trout reached base five times for the Angels in a losing cause, but what else is new?

Red Sox 9, Mariners 3Rafael DeversJackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogaerts all homered and the Sox scored five in the third to put this one away early. Eduardo Rodriguez allowed two over six to pick up his ninth win on the year. The Red Sox are 13-1 in Rodriguez’s starts this season.

Giants 4, Dodgers 1: San Francisco salvages the series and avoids the sweep thanks to two-run homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt and one run over six from Chris Stratton, who normally gets roughed up pretty badly by Los Angeles. The Giants end a long, not-so-great road trip. They’ve had a lot of road trips so far this season and they’ve all been pretty not-so-great in fact. Now they get 20 of their next 26 at home and, following the All-Star break, begin just across the bridge in Oakland, which may as well be a home game. A nice respite for them, but they probably still wonder who the hell made this schedule.

Mets 5, Diamondbacks 3Brandon Nimmo and Asdrubal Cabrera homered to rally the Mets for four-runs in he ninth inning and bring them back from a 3-1 deficit for the win. You don’t see this kind of moxy from New York very often. The Mets split the four-game series in Arizona and won consecutive games for the first time since May 20-21.

Cardinals 5, Cubs 0: Jack Flaherty and four relievers combined for a four-hit shutout which helped the Cardinals avoid being swept at home by the arch rival Cubs. I wish I had an arch rival. I think it’d make life more interesting. Heck, I’d settle for a moderate nemesis.