One of the ultimate underdogs, Aaron Miles put together a nine-year career in the big leagues after debuting at age 26. Now he’s opted to calling it a day, according to his Triple-A team, retiring at age 35.
After receiving 12 at-bats with the White Sox at the end of 2003, Miles was traded to the Rockies for Juan Uribe over the winter. It proved to be his big break. He became the Rockies’ primary second baseman and finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting after hitting .293/.329/.368 with six homers and 47 RBI in 2004.
Miles spent two years with the Rockies and then three with the Cardinals, where his versatility made him a favorite of manager Tony La Russa. He turned in his best season in 2008, hitting .317/.355/.398 in 379 at-bats. All of those rate stats were career highs.
Unfortunately, that big year with the Cards made him too expensive to keep. The Cubs went on to sign him to a two-year, $4.9 million deal that proved to be a complete waste of money. He hit .185 in 157 at-bats in 2009 and was then sent packing, eventually to return to St. Louis.
Miles’ last hurrah came last year. An underdog to make the Dodgers out of spring training, he ended up getting 454 at-bats and hitting a respectable .275/.314/.346 with 45 RBI. Nevertheless, he wasn’t offered any big-league deals over the winter. He went on to re-sign with the Dodgers in May to play in Triple-A. His retirement comes after he hit .235 in 18 games for Albuquerque.
Standing just 5-foot-8 and listed at 160 pounds, Miles never really looked the part of a major leaguer. He wasn’t even really taken seriously as a utilityman initially because it didn’t look like he had the arm to play shortstop or third base. Miles, though, ended up playing in 932 games. He even started at shortstop 97 times. He also was the preeminent mop-up man among position players over the last decade. Five times he pitched for the Cardinals, allowing two runs in five innings.
All in all, it was quite a career for a little guy without any real power (19 career homers) or speed (30 stolen bases). He made about $9 million in his nine years, and he probably has a future in coaching if he wants one.
In the 10th inning of Game 4 of the NLCS last year, infielder Manny Machado — then with the Dodgers — stepped on the foot of Brewers first baseman Jesús Aguilar. Aguilar, understandably, wasn’t happy about that and both teams’ benches spilled onto the field. It was a continuation of a tumultuous series for Machado, who was also vilified for not hustling and sliding hard into Orlando Arcia twice. The Machado-Aguilar dust-up served as a referendum on Machado’s character until he finally signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres.
Recently, Machado criticized the analysts on MLB Network for holding double standards. Dan Plesac and Eric Byrnes argued with Greg Amsinger about the Jake Marisnick collision at home plate with catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Amsinger felt Marisnick was in the wrong; Plesac and Byrnes defended Marisnick. On Instagram, Machado said if he had been the one who bulldozed Lucroy, Plesac and Byrnes wouldn’t have defended him, in part because he is Latino. Diamondbacks outfielder Adam Jones said earlier this year that Machado would “one hundred percent” be treated differently if he were white.
With that context in mind, something interesting happened in the fourth inning of Thursday afternoon’s game between the Dodgers and Phillies. Leading off the top of the fourth inning against Aaron Nola, Max Muncy grounded out to shortstop Jean Segura. As Muncy crossed the first base bag, he stepped on first baseman Rhys Hoskins‘ ankle. On the next play, Matt Beaty beat out an infield single hit to third baseman Maikel Franco, shifted up the middle. As Beaty crossed the first base bag ahead of the throw, he tripped over Hoskins’ ankle. MLB.com hasn’t posted video of the incidents yet, but here’s a look at both plays from @jomboy_ on Twitter:
We rarely see runners tripping over the feet of first basemen, but here we have it happening on back-to-back plays. Hoskins’ footwork around the bag was textbook given the situations. The commentators on the exclusive YouTube broadcast gave the runners the benefit of the doubt. Other than that, there has surprisingly been little discussion of these plays. A July 18 game isn’t exactly Game 4 of the NLCS, but look at how much conversation the Marisnick-Lucroy play generated and that was less than two weeks ago. These plays deserve a “Was it dirty?” conversation.
One wonders what the conversation would have looked like if it had been black or Latino runners stepping on Hoskins’ ankle on back-to-back plays. Would they have gotten the immediate benefit of the doubt like Muncy and Beaty? Would malicious intent have been ascribed to them instead? That, really, is Machado’s point about the double-standard applied to non-white players. It doesn’t excuse any of his obviously terrible behavior, but if we’re going to criticize players for bad behavior, we should do so evenly and fairly. Muncy and Beaty deserve criticism for their poor, sloppy, dangerous base running. Frankly, Major League Baseball should consider fines and/or suspensions. Machado was fined for stepping on Aguilar.