So What Does Aaron Miles Have on Don Mattingly?

A quick thought for you on this holiday morning, and while it’s not one that’s particularly new – we’ve been complaining about this both here on the blog and on Twitter for some time now – it is one that gets more relevant as the days go on.

What, exactly, is Don Mattingly’s fascination with Aaron Miles, who is atop the lineup yet again for today’s game in Chicago? That’s the third time in the last seven games that Miles is leading off, and it will be his tenth start of the year. Miles, as just about everyone on the planet could have predicted, has been awful, hitting .214/.233/.278 for a 31 OPS+.

The issue here is that there’s two issues here, because ignoring the batting order for a moment, there is no godly reason to have Miles in the lineup at all. Yes, I understand that Rafael Furcal is on the disabled list and that Juan Uribe has missed a few days with a tight left thigh, thus requiring more time from the backups than we’d like. But why Miles, who is atrocious with no prayer of improvement, over Ivan DeJesus, who I’m not even a huge fan of but who satisfies the simple requirement of “not being Aaron Miles”? As Jon Weisman writes at Dodger Thoughts today, DeJesus has received just five plate appearances without a start since getting called up on April 12, while Miles has seen six starts in that time. Is DeJesus any sort of guarantee to perform? Of course not. But it wasn’t that long ago that he was a highly thought of prospect, and there’s at least potential for a spark there. You can’t say that about Miles.

Even beyond the impact it has on the field, the decision to continually play Miles over DeJesus goes directly against what Mattingly said on April 6, when DeJesus was initially sent down to make room for Casey Blake:

“He had a great spring. But the way we’re set up, his at-bats are not enough to dwarf his development,” manager Don Mattingly said of the decision to send De Jesus down. “I’m sure he’s disappointed — and I know he wants to be in the big leagues — but his best interest is for him to still be playing every day.”

“We know he’s going to handle the bat,” manager Don Mattingly said of De Jesus after announcing he’d been optioned. “Defensively, he just needs to keep working and keep putting polish on his game at second base. I look at Ivan as a kid that can play every day, and the way we’re set up, he’s not going to get the at-bats that’s really fair to him or to his development, or what we’re trying to do. To sit here and get two at-bats a week is not going to do him any good, and it’s not going to do us any good. He’s young, he can play. To me he’s an everyday guy.”

Yet that’s exactly what they’re doing, by sitting him in favor of an option that’s in no way obviously better. This is exactly the issue that worried me just after DeJesus was called up to fill Furcal’s spot:

I know I haven’t exactly been the biggest supporter of Ivan DeJesus, but can we please get him more time at second base instead of Aaron Miles? Maybe DeJesus is a big league player, and maybe he’s not, but at least there’s hope there. Miles (0-2 tonight, hitting .214) is just execrable, and that’s not likely to change. DeJesus at least got his first big league hit tonight, and there’s no reason to not be playing him.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we’re seeing. Yet compounding the playing time issue is that Mattingly insists on batting him leadoff, an insult aggravated more by the fact that the superior Jamey Carroll and his .372 OBP (working towards his fourth straight year of .355 or better) continues to hit 8th. Because when you want guys on base for Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp to drive in, why wouldn’t you put your worst hitter (okay, James Loney is still challenging for that crown) ahead of them?

Back when the Dodgers signed Miles in February, I noted that among players who have received as many plate appearances as he’s had since 2003, only three players in baseball have generated less value for their teams. In another two weeks or so he’ll have enough PA to knock Juan Encarnacion off the list and become the third least valuable player in that time. Ladies and gentlemen, your leadoff hitter.

We knew signing Miles was a terrible idea when it happened, and what we’ve seen of him so far hasn’t done anything to change that impression. So please, Don, spare us from having to see him play so much – and if you absolutely can’t resist that temptation, then at least hit him as low in the lineup as you can.

******

It’s still incredibly unlikely that this happens and even if it did, it would take months, years or more. Still, I wrote about a scenario in which Brewers owner and LA native Mark Attanasio could end up with control of the Dodgers the other day, and today I see this tidbit in Buster Olney’s piece:

Heard this: In the highest offices of a handful of other teams, the heavy speculation is that Brewers owner Mark Attanasio would be the most likely candidate to move from one team to the Dodgers — if Major League Baseball fends off the expected legal challenges of Frank McCourt, and if MLB decides to have an established owner take over the Dodgers — and if Attanasio actually were to take the opportunity, if presented. But it will take months for all of this to play out.

Don’t hold your breath, or get your hopes up. Just be happy that there’s people in the know who think that there’s even a sliver of a chance there.

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