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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.
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