Hey, I like Casey Blake. Despite the regrettable circumstances of his arrival, his lousy 2010, and the fact that his inability to stay healthy in 2011 was predictable from about a million miles away, Blake’s been a solid enough player and by all accounts an even better person and teammate. All of the nice things you’ve heard about Jim Thome‘s off-the-field demeanor lately? I’ve never met Casey Blake, but every last word I’ve heard about him suggests that they all apply to him as well.
Believe it or not, Blake is, by most measures, one of the three best Dodger third basemen in the last century. Think about that for a second, but it’s true. Among those with as many plate appearances as he has, with at least 50% of them coming at third, Blake has the third highest OPS+. (It was pointed out to me that Jim Gilliam provided plenty of value as a third baseman as well, though he does not appear on this list because less than half his time came at the hot corner.)
Change that to WAR in order to get defense in, and that drops him to fourth, though you could argue that Cookie Lavagetto barely beats him out yet had the benefit of twice as many plate appearances to do it.
And while I don’t have a table for it, his VORB – that’s Value Over Replacement Beard – is off the charts.
(Here’s where we’ll get the arguments that Blake’s historical ranking somehow justifies the Carlos Santana trade. No, it doesn’t; that trade was good for only two months of Blake’s time, not his full Dodger career, and it’ll never be okay that Cleveland got more from the Dodgers for Blake than they did from Milwaukee for C.C. Sabathia at the same time. Besides, considering that Blake’s 2010-11 span has been awful and he’s still ranking where he does, it should be clear that third base has not exactly been a position with a glorious history for the Dodgers.)
Anyway, the point of all this is not to reflect upon Blake’s position in Dodger history, such as it were, but to suggest that perhaps it’s time to shut it down, for the benefit of all involved. Blake has missed substantial amounts of time this season, from starting the year on the DL with a back injury to missing over a month with a left elbow infection to his current malady, a pinched nerve in his neck.
As Dylan Hernandez writes, the neck injury has Blake thinking about his long-term health:
Casey Blake hit off a tee Sunday, the start of his latest comeback from a pinched nerve in his neck that has bothered him for a significant part of the season.
But Blake, who has missed the Dodgers’ last four games, is proceeding with caution.
“Obviously, this neck thing is pretty serious,” he said. “I want to be able to move my neck when I’m 50.”
As recently as last month, the 38-year-old third baseman said he wasn’t entertaining the idea of retirement. But he said this weekend that his condition was making him reconsider.
“Sure,” he said. “Obviously, I don’t want to go out like this. Hopefully, with rest in the off-season this thing goes away and I can get ready to play another season. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.”
He said he is unsure whether he would continue playing if it meant jeopardizing his long-term health.
Blake, who has made three trips to the disabled list and is batting .250 in 58 games, said his goals for the remainder of the season have also changed.
Earlier in the year, he talked about wanting to play well enough to essentially force the Dodgers to exercise the $6-million team option in his contract for next season. He said this week that his priorities have now shifted.
“I’m not even worried about that right now,” Blake said. “The main focus is just getting healthy and doing what’s best for my neck and my future.”
He said doctors have warned him that his condition could worsen if he continues to play.
“The more I play, the more chance I have to really put more pressure on that nerve,” Blake said. “If you put enough pressure on it, you bang it enough, you can cause some damage.”
While you certainly feel for Blake as a player, because no one wants to see their career possibly end like this, you do have to wonder what exactly the point is for the Dodgers. I hardly need to remind you how short the bench has been over the last few days, particularly with Rod Barajas banged up, the bullpen exhausted, and Eugenio Velez continuing to be Eugenio Velez. Remember, James Loney had to throw a bullpen session yesterday and Aaron Miles was prepared to be the backup catcher, simply because there were no appropriate bodies to do the job. Considering that Barajas couldn’t catch and Velez can’t play, the Dodgers have been essentially going with a 22.5-man roster in part because Blake is taking up a roster spot yet can’t contribute.
Even if he can, how does that help the Dodgers? Blake’s clearly not going to be with the team in 2012, so the focus should be on finding out right now if you have anything in the system who can help. (I know, I know - there probably isn’t, but what’s to lose? The team is already in last place.) Disable Blake, and call up Russ Mitchell. DFA Velez, and call up Ivan DeJesus. DFA Dioner Navarro – or donate him to science, I don’t care – and call up A.J. Ellis. Play Justin Sellers every day at short (which, to their credit, they generally are) until Dee Gordon returns.
If Blake’s ready to make a few appearances before the end of the season, that’s fine, because rosters expand a week from Thursday, and since he last played on August 17, he’d be eligible to return the very next day. Letting him take up a roster spot isn’t helping the team now, and it’s not helping him by pushing him to rush back and risk further injury.
It’s time to move on.
Speaking of minor leaguers we’ll likely see soon, Christopher Jackson’s latest – this time for MiLB.com – is a feature on catcher Tim Federowicz which is a must-click if only for the photo of the mustache that I pray Federowicz brought with him from Boston.
To his credit, Federowicz seems to understand that the trade which brought him to the Dodgers wasn’t necessarily welcomed by a lot of fans:
The stated intent by Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was to acquire a catching prospect, something Los Angeles lacked in its farm system. Federowicz said he understands the frustration of Dodgers fans.
“Yeah, they gave up Trayvon — he’s a great player and now he’s in the big leagues, doing his thing up there,” Federowicz said. “That’s tough to lose.
“I guess there is a little bit of pressure to show fans what I’ve got. But I think it’ll eventually work out the way the Dodgers want it to.”
My guess is that Fedorowicz is probably not going to be ready to start 2012 in the majors, and since he’s not eligible for the Rule 5 draft, he most likely will not be called up in September, since that would require him to be added to the 40-man roster. But could we see an Ellis/Federowicz tandem by this time next year? It certainly couldn’t be worse than Barajas/Navarro.