Not Off To A Good Start Here…

Because I’m really not happy to hear this news…

LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers declined the 2009 option for backup catcher Gary Bennett, paying a $50,000 buyout instead of exercising a $900,000 option.

What? No, the hell with him. I’d basically forgotten he even existed. The chances of Gary Bennett getting $900,000 were so small that I’m surprised the Dodgers didn’t decline the option before the season even ended.

No, this is what I’m talking about:

The Dodgers declined the $9.25 million option for 2009 on pitcher Brad Penny and paid him a $2 million buyout, allowing the 30-year-old right-hander to become a free agent. After winning 16 games in both 2006 and 2007, Penny went 6-9 with a 6.27 ERA in 2008, spending three stints on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis and he missed the postseason.

pennysmall

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I’m not in favor of this move, since I already advocated picking up his option in my 2009 plan, but I still think this is a huge mistake. This is what I said in that post:

Let me first say, if it turns out that he’s more seriously injured than we know and he does need surgery, then forget it, buy him out. I’m going on the assumption that he’s not that seriously hurt, because as I detailed after his last appearance, dudes with bum shoulders don’t hit 96 on the gun. Nearly all of his problems seemed to be easily chalked up to rust, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to find out for sure that placing him on the DL was simply because they needed the roster spot and didn’t think Penny would have a chance to pitch enough to work his way back into shape during a playoff push. So why am I picking this up? Two reasons, the first of which being, he was excellent as a Dodger before 2008. His ERA+ was better than league average in every year since he arrived in LA, and 2007 was fantastic at 16-4 with a 159 ERA+. I have a hard time believing that he’s just “lost it” – again, barring a more serious injury we don’t know about. The second reason is, it’s cheap. Since the $8.75m option has a $2m buyout, we’re only talking about $6.75m here. Do you really think you could go out and find a pitcher with his track record for one year, $6.75m? Of course not. This is exactly the kind of gamble a large-market team like the Dodgers should be taking.

My post said $8.75m because that’s what Cot’s Baseball Contracts said; I’m not sure why there’s a discrepancy between that and the other story). But regardless of which salary number is correct, you’re just not going to be able to get a pitcher with his pedigree at that salary number. It’s really easy to forget with how bad Penny was for most of the year, but he got off to a very good start – 2.89 ERA in April. Then he got injured and admittedly tried to pitch through it, instead of telling the team. Imagine if he’d shut it down sooner – instead of having an ugly 6.27 ERA next to his name, maybe it’d only have been around 4.00 had he not been on the mound pushing through while injured. By comparision, look at Rafael Furcal. All we heard all summer was how great he was early in the season because he was still hitting about .366 when he went down. What if he’d tried to play through it and was down to .240 by the time he finally hung it up? I’m quite sure no one would be looking at Furcal the same way they are this offseason. To say that Penny can’t perform any more after several very good seasons is, in my opinion, a big mistake.

Also, it’s certainly not like the Dodgers couldn’t use the starting pitching depth. Right now, your starting rotation consists of Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, and Clayton Kershaw, and all three come with their own questions of age and workload. With Derek Lowe and Greg Maddux likely departing, Jason Schmidt an eternal unknown, and James McDonald an untested rookie, you don’t think you could use a guy who as recently as last year, I was looking into whether or not he was having the best non-Koufax LA Dodger starting pitching season ever? Because if you don’t think he’s going to be able to go elsewhere and get more years and bigger paychecks than one year and $7.25m (forget the $2m buyout, he gets it regardless), you’re absolutely wrong – assuming doctors clear his arm. Meanwhile, the Dodgers could be short on starters and paying much more than that for a lesser pitcher.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

MSTI’s First Half Review: Offense

Is it that time of the year already? Sure, it’s not really “halfway” through the year since the Blue have already played 95 games, but here we are at the All-Star break. This won’t be as extensive as last year’s season reviews, since there’s only three days to do it in, but it still will touch upon everyone who appeared in a game for the Dodgers this year. So today is offense, tomorrow pitching, and the next day will be front office/coaching staff/awards/overall grade. And on Thursday, a big MSTI announcement. How did we do this last year? That’s right:

First, some quick ground rules. Completely unscientific and arbitrary, this is how we’ve seen the results of the season. One important distinction, is that the letter grade is based upon what we reasonably could have expected of the player entering the year, not comparing him to other MLB players at his position. You’ll soon see why this is so important.

Less than 10 IP or 100 at-bats gets you an “incomplete”. Stats are presented (BA/OBP/SLG).

We’ll knock that down to 50 at-bats for the half-season review, but everything else remains the same.

Catcher
Russell Martin (.294/.394/.436 10hr 45rbi) (A+)
Without question, the best offensive player so far. There were actually some inane stories out there that I won’t even subject you to linking to saying that he’s been off his game this year, but that’s mostly thanks to his very slow start to the season, hitting .197 as late as April 20th. But you know what? Martin’s actually having the best offensive year of his career overall. His 118 OPS+ is up 5 from last year, and while his slugging % is down slightly (.029 less than last year), it’s more than made up by his exemplary .394 OBP, which is actually better than Alex Rodriguez, Josh Hamilton, and Hanley Ramirez. Plus, he plays third base! What can I say? This guy’s the heart and soul of the team. He’s the best player, and he never complains. Love this guy. Love him.

Gary Bennett (.190/.261/.381 1hr 4rbi) (incomplete)
What a weird, weird season for the initial 2008 recipient of the Mike Lieberthal Memorial “Guy Who Rots on the Bench Behind Russell Martin” Award. Bennett only really got notice in two of my posts all season, and they couldn’t be more divergent – first, he got some recognition for a good game in Milwaukee on May 15, and then just five days later we cheered his being placed on the DL, saying,

“Left foot plantar fasciitis.” Let me say, the quotes could not be thicker around that. We’ve had no word of any injury problems surrounding Bennett, but tons of stories about his throwing problems, and suddenly his foot hurts? Hey, call it a bad foot, the flu, or the heebie-jeebies; whatever it takes to get this guy’s head right and get those lollipop throws off the field. Seriously, he even made Rotoworld today, which is rare for a mediocre backup catcher, and at no point is the foot mentioned.

Thanks for showing up, Gary. Lousy hitter who can’t throw – fantastic. If you wanted to hit the slots in Vegas the rest of the summer, that’d be A-ok by me.

Danny Ardoin (.211/.250/.263 0hr 2rbi) (incomplete)
Another member of the Loyal Order of Backup Catchers, Ardoin’s been.. well, he’s an improvement on Bennett, anyway. He’s not much of a hitter either, but everything I’ve read about him says that the pitchers like throwing to him way better than Bennett. As far as I’m concerned, the team is screwed if Martin’s hurt anyway, so it doesn’t really matter all that much which one backs him up, but I’d really like it if it would be Ardoin rather than Bennett, whenever he’s healthy. Amazingly enough, Ardoin’s already doubled Mike Lieberthal’s RBI total from last season.

First Base
James Loney (.291/.351/.446 7hr 50rbi) (C+)
Loney gets a C+ not because he’s been that lousy, but simply because we had such high expectations for him. After last year’s offensive explosion in the second half, who among us wasn’t drooling at the prospect of him playing 1B for the entire season? But after the first two months, he was only hitting in the .270s with 5 homers. Of course, he dominated in June (.362/.425/.500), only to fall back in July, hitting just .224 so far. He’s been.. okay. Not bad, not great. I still think he’s got it in him to pick it up.

Second Base
Jeff Kent (.253/.304/.407 9hr 40rbi) (C-)
This, I must say, was a tough one. On one hand, he was really bad for a good portion of the season – I assume you haven’t forgotten the whole chase to be the worst cleanup hitter of the last 50 years, but on the other hand, Kent’s 40 years old, and how much can you ever depend on a guy that age, anyway? At least he’s been able to stay relatively healthy, and his bat has turned it around a bit lately.

On the plus side, no one’s accusing Kent of being involved in any clubhouse fiascos so far, so at least he’s got that going for him. 

Third Base
Blake DeWitt (.263/.330/.372 5hr 34rbi) (A)
Just like Kent, this is a tough grade to assign. I know it seems like a long time ago now, but do you remember how desperate this team was at the hot corner at the end of March? Nomar was hurt, LaRoche was hurt, Abreu was hurt, and the trade options were either unavailable or unappealing. So we turn over the job to the guy who was guaranteed to put up Hu-like offensive numbers. Except that.. he was good. Really good, slugging .517 in May. He was a lock for Rookie of the Year and surprise of the year. Go Blake!

Of course, great story aside, he’s cratered since then, with just 4 extra base hits in the last 6 weeks, which is Pierre-like levels of mediocrity. Ah hell, it doesn’t matter. He shouldn’t be starting every day anymore, but that’s a topic we’ve already covered. He gets an A simply because I shudder to think what would have happened if he hadn’t held things down for the first two months.

Andy LaRoche (.192/.294/.341 2hr 3rbi) (incomplete)
Seems like LaRoche is shaping up to be part of the next Dodgers holy war, following in the footsteps of Juan Pierre and Hee-Seop Choi. No, he hasn’t done much in the bigs. But the people who want to write him off are insane – he’s gotten just 44 at-bats this year. Look, he’s got nothing more to prove in the minors (career .895 OPS). The Dodgers need power. Blake DeWitt is slumping badly. So then why can’t LaRoche ever start more than two games in a row? Why has he been benched the day after hitting a home run both times? Some things, I’ll never understand.

Shortstop
Rafael Furcal (.366/.448/.597 5hr 16rbi) (R)
That’s right, I gave Furcal an “R”. Why? Because the best way I can sum up his 2008 is “ARRRRRRRGGGHH!!!!” From the best start of his career, to an injury that was to keep him out a few days, to surgery that will end with him missing 4 months. Despite everything that’s gone wrong with this season, it’s hard to point to anything that was more damaging than this. Furcal’s back woes not only cost the team its hottest hitter, but lead to the failings of Hu, the misery of Angel Berroa, and the so-far entertaining Nomar era. Think about it, the Dodgers are one game out. It’s not much of a stretch to say that if Furcal had stayed healthy, the Dodgers are in first place, is it?

Angel Berroa
(.192/.253/.219 0hr 0rbi) (F)
I have to say, of all the stats I looked up for this article, Berroa surprised me more than anybody. He really has zero RBI? Not even one? Despite starting 21 games? That would be incredible, if it weren’t so depressing. Look at it this way, Berroa’s had 72 at-bats without an RBI. That’s the most in MLB by a large margin, nearly double the 40 at-bats by Washington’s Roger Bernadina. Yikes! Actually, now that I think about it, maybe Berroa doesn’t deserve an F here. Maybe he should be getting a C. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t all know he was going to suck from day one. And to the surprise of no one except perhaps Ned Colletti, he has. He’s been exactly as bad as we thought, not that it was possible to be any worse, so in that sense he’s been the average Angel Berroa.

Nah, forget it. Big. Fat. F.

Chin-Lung Hu
(.159/.224/.206 0hr 7rbi) (D)
This really should be an F, because Hu’s utter failure to perform once Furcal went down has to rank as one of the bigger disappointments of the season. The only thing bumping him up to a D is the fact that his defense more than lived up to its sparking reputation. But I don’t think it was too much to expect that he had a shot to be a decent hitter, since after a breakthrough 2007 where he OPS’d .871 in the minors, he popped 2 dingers in 29 late-season at-bats in the bigs. And then.. fizzle. Now, he’s apparently had some vision issues since returning to AAA, so if that’s what caused this, I haven’t completely given up on him. It’s just that if he could have been even a mediocre hitter, we could have kept his slick glove in the lineup and avoided the entire Berroa fiasco.

Infield
Nomar Garciaparra (.250/.328/.400 2hr 12rbi) (!!!)
What a year for Nomahhh. Breaks his hand in spring training, comes back to play in all of 8 games (hitting .226) before hurting his calf and missing two more months.. only to return at shortstop. You can’t make this stuff up. In fact, I wish I had predicted this in the offseason, just so I could see what kind of responses I’d have gotten saying that I’d completely lost my mind. Remember last year when Nomar couldn’t be moved from 1B to 3B to make room for Loney because he was “too fragile”? Well, a year and several injuries later, now he’s playing shortstop. Unbelievable. He’s hit okay since coming back (.286/.333/.500 in 8 games), but there’s just no way this doesn’t end with him somehow spontaneously combusting turning a double play, right?

Luis Maza
(.228/.282/.278 1hr 4rbi) (C… ish)
Remember, we’re doing these grades based not on how they compare to the rest of the league, but based on how a player has performed based on reasonable expectations at the beginning of the season. This is why Hu gets a D, since he was below expectations, and why DeWitt gets an A, since he was so far above. The only time this method runs into a problem is in the case of Luis Maza, because for someone who runs a Dodgers blog and likes to think he knows entirely too much about the Dodger organization.. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I had never even heard of this guy coming into the season. So it’s hard to say I had any expectations of him. That said, he’s been pretty much what you’d think he’d be – a quad-A player who’s a mediocre hitter and a decent fielder, albeit with a particularly lousy arm.

Mark Sweeney
(.094/.181/.125 0hr 3rbi) (?)
Sweeney gets a question mark for a grade. That’s partially because he doesn’t even deserve to attain a letter, but mostly to represent the question of, Why is Mark Sweeney on This Team? He serves no function. He’s a pinch-hitter who can’t hit. He can’t hit lefties. He can’t hit righties. He can’t hit at home. He can’t hit on the road. He can’t hit during the day. He can’t hit at night. We do not like him here or there, we do not like him anywhere.  His OPS is negative 18, which I believe means he’s lapsed into some sort of an unknown dimension. He’s 38 years old, and he’s got 6 hits in 72 at-bats! It’s the end of the line, and it’s just stubbornness on the part of the Dodgers front office that they allow him to keep making outs (he’s supposedly coming off the DL on Friday). I would love to know what kind of pictures Sweeney must have of Colletti with a lampshade on his head in order to keep his job.

Time to go, Mark. Time to go.

Terry Tiffee
(.250/.400/.250 0hr 0rbi) (incomplete)
Tiffee only went 1-4 in his short time up, but I’ve been backing him for over two months. Now back at Vegas, he’s kept up his amazing season, currently rocking a .396/.434/.598 line. Sure, say it’s a fluke, say whatever you like. Maybe you’re right. But there is simply no argument you can use to convince me that he shouldn’t be taking Mark Sweeney’s place. None. Tiffee is more useful than Sweeney in every conceivable way – hitting, fielding, versatility, you name it. (And I did, right here.) I suppose I’m venturing more into Colletti territory than Tiffee, but really, all Tiffee’s done is hit all year long. What else does he have to do?

Tony Abreu (n/a) (incomplete)
Knock, knock.”
“Hello?”
“Is this Mr. Abreu?”
“Yes, who are you?”
“I’m opportunity. And I’m knocking.”
“Hmm.. thanks, but no thanks. Bye!”

Outfield
Matt Kemp (.278/.331/.437 9hr 49rbi 20sb) (B)
We’ve exhausted a lot of pixels on Kemp around here lately, so I won’t revisit it all again. But suffice it to say, there’s been nothing boring about Kemp’s season. To wild trade rumors to arguments about what type of player he is and will be, Kemp’s been front and center. As you probably know, considering his age and inexperience, I’m pretty satisfied with what he’s done, especially his improvement in the outfield. The strikeouts have to be cut, of course, but remember that he’s only 23. Guys like Matt Holliday and Ryan Howard hadn’t even made their debuts by 23, instead being allowed to develop in the minors. Considering Kemp’s already been (roughly) an average MLBer at that age, let’s cut the kid a little slack, okay?

Andre Ethier (.286/.350/.464 11hr 41rbi) (A-)
Don’t look now, but Ethier is leading the entire team in homers and slugging %. That’s pretty impressive for a guy who’s been continually jerked around in terms of playing time when both Jones and Pierre were available. He gets a bit of a demerit for that .195 June, but he’s come roaring back in July with a 1.061 OPS. So of course, we can look forward to him seeing some bench in two weeks when Pierre returns. Because that’s what a team who can’t hit should do – bench their biggest power hitter. Amazing.

Juan Pierre (.277/.327/.318 0hr 24rbi 35sb) (D)
This isn’t the place to rehash the whole Pierre argument yet again, but it’s pretty simple, as far as I’m concerned. He’s having the worst season of his career by every single offensive stat (save steals), which is saying a lot when it’s the fourth straight season he’s declined since his career year of 2004. Regardless of how you feel about him, he’s not even living up to his own mediocre standards. That’s not good, and I can’t imagine it’ll be any better if his knee is any less than 100% when he comes back. Yet Joe Torre is infatuated with him, but I guess that’s something more to discuss in Torre’s review. Of 19 MLB leftfielders with enough at-bats to qualify, Pierre is dead last in OPS, coming in nearly 340 points lower than leader Matt Holliday’s. That’s not just bad, that’s really bad.

By the way, in that “career year”, his OPS+ was 107 (it’s down to 69 this year). Andre Ethier’s this season is 110. Just sayin’.

Andruw Jones (.167/.261/.253 2hr 9rbi) (you don’t even deserve a letter, Andruw)
What. A. Disaster. Hey, we’re not always right at MSTI either, because we both supported this deal when it was signed. But geez. I can’t even get on Colletti for this one, because really, who the hell saw this happening? If you didn’t see this link the other day, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark says Jones is on pace for the Worst Offensive Season in Baseball History.

You know what, I can’t even talk about him. You don’t need stats on this one. You have eyes. You’ve watched the Dodgers. He’s awful, and no one seems to know why. What a mess.

Delwyn Young (.255/.327/.343 1hr 5rbi) (C-)
Have to admit, I’m a little torn on Delwyn. We’ve been big fans of his for a while, because on a team that’s struggling so badly offensively, a guy who’s done nothing but kill the ball at every stop would seem like a useful player to have. I mean, it was just last season that he broke a 41-year-old PCL record for doubles. That said, he hasn’t really done all that much with the big club this season. Oddly enough, his stats are the exact opposite of what I had thought; I was all set to say “but he doesn’t get to play that much with the OF logjam, and its hard for a kid to be a pinch-hitter”. Except that as it turns out, he’s hitting .342 off the bench vs. only .203 as a starter.

Jason Repko (.000/.000/.000 0hr 0rbi) (incomplete)
Oh, Jason. Poor Jason. Just can’t catch a break. You come up and go 0-5 with 4 K’s in your first game, and then get all of two more at-bats before getting sent down, probably for good. Damn shame, really.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

Who Knew the Subconcious Resided in the Foot?

The hits keep on coming – Gary Bennett gets placed on the DL, per the official blog, and Dodger Thoughts has the reason: “Left foot plantar fasciitis.” Let me say, the quotes could not be thicker around that. We’ve had no word of any injury problems surrounding Bennett, but tons of stories about his throwing problems, and suddenly his foot hurts? Hey, call it a bad foot, the flu, or the heebie-jeebies; whatever it takes to get this guy’s head right and get those lollipop throws off the field. Seriously, he even made Rotoworld today, which is rare for a mediocre backup catcher, and at no point is the foot mentioned:

Gary Bennett admitted that a “mental block” has zapped his confidence in his ability to throw the ball back to the pitcher.
Bennett has been making high, slow tosses back to the pitcher all season. He’s been seeing a sports psychologist since early spring training, and has been working on throwing the ball back to the mound during bullpen sessions. He says it doesn’t affect the way he throws to the bases, despite making two bad throws to first in his start on Friday.

Coming up to take his place is 33-year-old Danny Ardoin, who’s not much of a hitter (.604 OPS in 372 at-bats over parts of 4 seasons with Minnesota, Texas, Baltimore, and Colorado), but is supposedly a pretty good defender. He’s at least put up an .815 OPS with Las Vegas so far, so his bat might not be a total black hole. Ardoin’s already a part of Dodger lore: he indirectly launched Blake DeWitt’s career by launching the throw that took out Andy LaRoche’s thumb in spring training.

Speaking of Rotoworld, a golf clap for this bit of humor regarding Andruw Jones’ knee:

An MRI revealed fluid and torn cartilage in Andrew Jones’ right knee.
After Monday’s game, Joe Torre said that Jones would be out until at least Friday due to the injury. Jones painted a more dire picture: “I’m going to give it two days, and if it doesn’t get better… we’ll go ahead and scope it,” said Jones. Arthroscopic surgery would keep Jones out of the lineup until July, making “arthroscopic surgery” a potential MVP candidate for the Dodgers. “Hopefully, I can just get treatment on it, and then probably get (the surgery) done during the offseason,” Jones said.

Finally, a fond farewell to Mike Piazza, who called it quits today. Piazza was always my favorite player growing up (not hard to see why: best player on my favorite team with the same first name and Italian last name that started with a P who came from absolutely nowhere). I had a “Mike Piazza 31″ hat I purchased on a trip to Dodger Stadium in 1995 that I wore nearly everyday for three years until it just about fell apart – and probably the most heartbreaking moment I had up until that point in my life was the day he was dealt to Florida in 1998, for really no good reason at all. Even though his best season (1997) was in Dodger blue, I’m pretty sure he’s going into the Hall as a Met, unfortunately. As far as baseball goes, it’s a tragedy he was ever allowed to leave LA. Good luck, Mike.

Edit: also, the picture at Sons of Steve Garvey’s Piazza post reminds me that as always, I am an idiot. That 1996 All-Star Game in which he launched two dingers and won the MVP? I was at that game, at the old Vet in Philadelphia. I have no idea how my dad lucked into those tickets, but as if being at an All-Star Game wasn’t exciting enough, seeing your favorite player park two and win the MVP was pretty much the best thing ever.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

Somehow, This Post Has Ryan Dempster in it Twice

Here at MSTI, we tend to focus on a lot of the same issues and players. Recently it’s been the astounding performance of Blake DeWitt, what to do at 3B, our continued disappointment with Juan Pierre playing over Andre Ethier, and the amazing disaster that is Andruw Jones. But after watching today’s game, I think it’s time to take a moment and recognize some guys who get little to no positive fanfare around here.

First, Gary Bennett! Gary had two hits all season coming into this game. Two. For a robust line of .133/.188/.133. That’s actually somehow even worse than I thought it would be before I looked it up – no wonder Joe Torre refuses to rest Russell Martin (who, by the way, is still on pace to play 162 games.) So what does he do today? Only 2-4 with a homer off Ben Sheets and FOUR RBI. Check it out, he even got some recognition on ESPN’s MLB homepage and on FSN Wisconsin’s game coverage. (That’s right, I’m showing them both. I’m pulling out all the stops for this; who the hell knows if I’ll ever get to praise Gary Bennett again?!)

Next: Joe Beimel! No, he didn’t even get into today’s game. But this arrived on my doorstep today, so here it is. Look at his first answer from the Pop Culture Grid in this week’s Sports Illustrated – just showing that he’s aware of what all the ladies know:

Finally: Andruw Jones. We’ve been dumping on him a lot lately (see the latest cause in the upper right) and with good reason. In fact, when I couldn’t find a picture of him hitting his homer today, I realized I could barely even find a good picture of him in a Dodger uniform doing anything positive, so he goes without. But after getting 2 hits yesterday, he led off the 7th inning against Ben Sheets – who’d been dominating to that point – with a homer to put the first run on the board. Sure, he went 0-3 in his other at-bats. And yeah, the wheels clearly were coming off for Sheets in that inning, giving up homers to Bennett and Jeff Kent as well. But maybe, just maybe, he can take something good away from that going into Anaheim. I’ve come very close to giving up on him ever getting untracked at all, but if he can, this offense could actually be scary. Let’s hope today helps with that. Good shot, Andruw.

Now let’s just hope Blake DeWitt’s back is alright – and that we never have to see Luis Maza and his Pierre-like arm at shortstop ever, ever again.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

Gary Bennett, Come On Down

DODGERS SIGN BENNETT TO ONE-YEAR DEAL

Veteran Catcher to backup Russell Martin in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Dodgers announced today that they have signed free agent catcher Gary Bennett to a one-year contract, according to Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti.t1_collision.jpg“Gary provides us with a veteran catcher who can spell Russell from time to time,” said Colletti. “ He has been a member of some very good teams and the fact that he has spent his entire Major League career in the National League is also something we found to be beneficial.”Bennett, 35, spent the last two seasons as the primary backup catcher to Yadier Molina in St. Louis and hit .252 with two homers and 17 RBI in 2007. Over his 12-year career, Bennett has 21 home runs, 188 RBI, 73 doubles and a .242 career average. The Illinois native was drafted in 1990 by Philadelphia and has spent his entire career in the National League, playing for the Phillies, Mets, Rockies, Padres, Brewers, Nationals and Cardinals.

Last year, Bennett hit .314 following the All-Star break, including .400 (8-for-20) in the month of September and closed the season on a 7-for-11 tear (.636). The veteran also batted .313 with runners on base, .333 with runners in scoring position and two out and .383 from the seventh inning on.

In 2002, Bennett turned in his best season, batting .265 with four homers and 26 RBI while playing in 90 games. The next year, he established career highs with 96 games played, 307 at-bats and 42 RBI. The six-foot, right-handed backstop matched his career high with four home runs during the 2006 campaign.

Bennett has appeared in two playoff series, seeing action in the 2006 National League Division and League Championship Series, during the Cardinals’ march to a World Series title that season.

Well. He’s not much of a hitter. And I’d really have preferred Mike Lieberthal back. However, he’s Russell Martin’s backup – so whether that’s Bennett, Lieberthal, or 65 year old Johnny Bench, if he’s playing more than once a week we’re screwed either way.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg