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By Jon Weisman
I didn’t know Juan Pierre, but he always seemed like a wonderful guy, regardless of the debate that surrounded him. He was a symbol of the divide between Old School and New School thoughts about value in baseball: lots of hits but low OBP, lots of steals but a mediocre success rate, lots of joy in the clubhouse but questions about how much that translated into wins.
His third year as a Dodger, in 2009, was his most interesting one. Beginning the season on the bench behind the burgeoning talents of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier and the massive presence of Manny Ramirez, he surged back into relevance once Ramirez was suspended, with a .365 OBP, and by the time the summer dust had settled, numerous people argued he was the team’s most valuable player, keeping them alive for what ended up being a run to the National League Championship Series.
A look back at that year through Fangraphs shows that even playing 41 more games than Ramirez, Pierre trailed him and five other Dodger position players in Wins Above Replacement for the season, retroactive evidence for those of us who felt thankful for the way Pierre had stepped up but didn’t quite see him as the MVP. But saying that he was overvalued doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t have been valued at all. Those are two different concepts, that I like to think we have a better understanding of today.
Pierre had four seasons in his career of more than 200 hits, and at one point was a legitimate candidate to get 3,000, at a not-so-long-ago time when 3,000 hits was a Hall of Fame guarantee. As it is, he retires today with 2,217 hits — no small feat — and 614 career steals, which is 18th in MLB history. He also leaves with a reputation as one of the nicest guys in the game … and with his sense of humor intact.
I do have one regret I finished with 18 homeruns really wanted to get 20 so if any team wants to sign me for 3yrs that should be enough time
— Juan Pierre (@JPBeastMode) February 28, 2015
Not too shabby. Best wishes to him.
Elsewhere in Dodgeropolis., here’s what’s happening …
- With all the attention to the Dodgers’ acquisitions of players with injury histories, Pedro Moura of the Register explores how the Dodgers are part of a larger effort not only to find players who are undervalued because of their medical records, but to help reduce injuries in the future.
- In contrast, Adrian Gonzalez has never been on the disabled list. As Dylan Hernandez of the Times writes, Gonzalez has been working hard to keep it that way.
- Kenley Jansen was fitted with a protective boot Friday that will allow him next week “to begin placing weight on the foot and gradually ramp up athletic activity,” writes Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu, sidelined for a couple days with back issues, played catch today with no ill effects, reports Gurnick.
- Along the lines of the point I was making Monday not to panic about injuries, Mike Petriello points out at Dodgers Digest that more important than how few trips that pitchers make to the disabled list is this: “how many innings we expect the rotation to throw, and how do we divide that pie among the most talented pitchers that we can.”
- Official MLB sage John Thorn offers some history that you might not know about the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate.
- Here’s a link to a 1927 comedy recording with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Yes, comedy recording. “Lou, I don’t want to be hard on you. You’re a good kid and I like you. But you were so dumb, you thought the St. Louis Cardinals were appointed by the church.”
- The first black player in the NBA, Earl Lloyd, passed away Thursday at age 86. From Barry Stavro’s obituary in the Times:
Lloyd’s first NBA game drew little attention in the press, unlike Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. In 1950, baseball was the most popular sport in America, while the NBA was a struggling league with 11 teams, including forgotten franchises such as the Indianapolis Olympians and the Tri-Cities Blackhawks. Salaries were modest and NBA players needed off-season jobs to pay their bills.
As the only black player on his team, Lloyd faced racial challenges on and off the court. He was spat on by fans in Fort Wayne, Ind., after a Capitols’ win. “When you went to Fort Wayne to play,” Lloyd told Sports Illustrated, “you had to do some emotional yoga to get ready because you knew what was coming.”
At Sports on Earth, Tim Healey shares seven facts about Lloyd you might not know — very worthwhile.
- We lost another great today in Leonard Nimoy. J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News passed along this image of Nimoy in a Brooklyn baseball uniform, from 1951 no less.
— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 27, 2015