The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Friday, February 17, 2006


Pitchers and Catchers: Dawn of the Undead

Having raised more than one toast to the arrival of Pitchers and Catchers earlier this week, I'm lucky it didn't all come up on me at midnight last night, when I did a spit-take after reading that the Yankees had signed Scott Erickson to a minor-league deal. Suffice it to say that I was not amused at the specter of a 38-year-old, injury-addled has-been who hasn't been anywhere near useful since 1999. "I thought we killed this piece of shit off last summer in L.A.," I wrote in an email to a few friends. "What is he, some kind of zombie? I guess Donovan Osborne, Darrell May and Tim Redding had better ditches to curl up and die in, and Hideo Nomo wasn't biting either."

Erickson spent the first half of last season with the Dodgers, posting a 6.02 ERA in 55.1 innings, allowing 12 homers while walking 25 and striking out 15, and reportedly stirring shit in the Dodger clubhouse. Even given the injuries that the team was suffering, that Erickson was even on the roster was a horrible miscalculation on the part of GM Paul DePodesta. That Jim Tracy tapped him to start eight games was equally indefensible. That he lasted with the team until the trading deadline was tantamount to a war crime. What, the Red Sox wouldn't take him straight up for Manny Ramirez?

My email continued: "It would take a nuclear holocaust, a flash flood of biblical proportions, and a plague of 50-foot-tall flesh-eating red ants for Erickson to merit 'meaningful innings' in the major leagues, and if he's still living at that point, I'd rather be dead."

Erickson is hardly the only washed-up pitcher who's washed up on the shores of a major-league team in recent weeks. The Mets, who began the offseason with a good amount of depth in their rotation before squandering Kris Benson and Jae Seo in trades, have turned to Jose Lima, who posted a 5-16 record with a 6.99 ERA in 169.2 innings in Kansas City. As Baseball Prospectus' long-suffering Royal rooter Rany Jazayerli summarized:
The owner of both the American and National League records for highest ERA in a season of 30+ starts is now a member of the New York Mets, who are apparently unaware of the information contained in the preceding clause. No team stands to gain as much from a case of addition-by-subtraction as the Royals will by changing their clocks away from Lima Time.
Yeesh. Lima's no stranger to high ERAs; he's finished a season above 5.50 five times in eleven-plus seasons, and his career mark of 5.21 is 15 percent below the park-adjusted league average. And to think it was less than 18 months ago that Lima capped a storybook season by shutting down the mighty St. Louis Cardinals for the Dodger' sole postseason victory since 1988, one of the most electrifying performances in franchise history.

Obviously feeling the void left by Erickson, the new-look Dodgers tapped one of the Yanks' favorite whipping boys, Aaron Sele. Last year in Seattle, Sele went 6-12 with a 5.66 ERA in 116 innings, an amazing accomplishment considering he had the Giant Fork of Done-ness sticking out of his ass. Sure, it's only a minor-league deal like those of Erickson and Lima, and the range of reasons teams bring these guys to camp runs from personal favors to veteran herbs and spices to simply having a few extra arms to send on the bus to Clearwater while the A-listers shag fly balls at the home complex. But Lord knows that none of these systems is so threadbare that they don't have a few Triple-A types who would benefit from a bit more work instead of standing by while these zombie retreads dish out 425 feet worth of Cream of Slider soup.

So, having covered the Yanks, Dodgers, and Mets, who are some of the other similarly undead pitchers who will be serving up meatballs in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues over the next few weeks? Inquiring minds want to know.

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