When it comes to Nick Johnson, using the “if healthy” caveat makes anything that follows sound sort of silly, but manager Buck Showalter indicated yesterday that the perpetually injured first baseman is likely to make the Orioles out of spring training … if healthy.
“I think he brings some things that I’d really like to have our guys feed off of with some of the on-base percentage and deep counts,” Showalter told Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun.
Johnson is one of just 10 active hitters with at least 2,500 career plate appearances and an on-base percentage above .400, and the other nine guys on the list have all been superstars: Todd Helton, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Lance Berkman, Joey Votto, Jason Giambi, Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones.
Of course, the problem with Johnson is that he’s 33 years old and has a total of just 3,214 plate appearances. He also hasn’t been healthy since 2009, when he batted 574 times for the Nationals, walked more (99) than he struck out (84), and got on base at a .426 clip to rank second among NL hitters.
At this point I’d certainly bet against Johnson being healthy and staying healthy, but if he can somehow manage to avoid the disabled list I’d also bet on him posting an excellent on-base percentage. Getting hurt and getting on base are simply what he does.
Last week as the Manny Machado trade drama was playing out, I and a lot of other people suspected as early as Monday and into Tuesday morning that the Orioles already had a deal in place for Machado and that they were just keeping it under wraps in order to get through the All-Star break (a) without any awkwardness; and (b) with the Orioles still having an All-Star representative. It would be Wednesday morning before the Orioles would make it official.
Turns out we were wrong. Machado was actually traded before Monday morning. Basically anyway, with the Orioles going so far as to pull him out of last Sunday’s game early because of it. And, of course, they lied about it. From Bob Nightengale of USA Today who spoke with Machado following his debut weekend with the Dodgers:
It was a week ago Sunday when Machado homered for the 24th time this season, the Orioles playing the final game of the first half against the Texas Rangers, when he was removed after the fourth inning after a 26-minute rain delay.
The Orioles told reporters after the game it was simply for precaution, making sure Machado didn’t get hurt playing on a wet field.
They may have fibbed to everyone else, but they told Machado the truth.
“That’s when they had told me I had been traded,’’ Machado said. “They said they pretty much had a deal done. They just wanted to wait until after the break to get all of the medical stuff done.
That didn’t stop all of the usual rumor-mongering reporters from tweeting stuff about this or that team “being in the race” or “taking the lead” or three or four teams in the “debry” or “sweepstakes” as it entered “the home stretch.” A bunch of track announcers calling a race that wasn’t even being run.
In the final analysis this is all benign. Teams lie about stuff all the time and a day or two in either direction made no difference to anyone involved. Still, it says a lot about how the trade rumor business works.