What were they thinking? , or, Business as Usual in Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have released 1B/DH Randall Simon.

Now, this confuses me. That is to say, I’m not really confused about why a team might release a guy who’s managed only a .188/.266/.266 line for the year. What confuses me is why you’d release him a mere 20 days after you signed him? You might remember that I picked on the Pirates for releasing him a month ago when they had nothing to play for and no reason not to keep the guy around. But this is far less explicable.

What could the Devil Rays have seen in Simon’s 20 at-bats for them over the past 20 days that his whole career couldn’t have prepared them for? Did he sleep with someone’s wife? Does hs have particularly stinky socks? Did he steal Rocco Baldelli’s glove and try to sell it to a collector? Did that walking Sausage invasion of Florida that the D-Rays were worried about fizzle out? Does Tampa Bay have enough prospects that they needed every space on their 40-man rost . . . oh, that sentence is just too silly to finish typing.

Regardless, it appears that Simon’s career may have come to an end. So the next time we all gather, let’s raise a glass to the wildest-swinging hitter I’ve ever seen.

Original comments…

Jim: Sausage invasion? He sure wasn’t helping the Devil Rays defend Florida against the hurricane invasion!

Dan: Oh, this reminds me.. So as to avoid all the inevitable Ivan the Terrible references to that new hurricane, I want to refer to that storm as Hurricane Pudge. Who’s with me?

Levi: I’m so there. Great idea.

Swingin’ Simon

While the Cardinals were busy losing, again and again and again, to the Pittsburgh Pirates this week, I was thinking about Pirates first baseman Randall Simon.

Who doesn’t love Randall Simon? Well, a certain sausage in Milwaukee might not. And those of us who prefer our hitters to be patient and hit for power, especially if they’re manning first base, well, we might have our quibbles with him once in a while, too.

But is there any baseball fan who doesn’t love watching him hit? There are hundreds of impatient hitters. Rey Ordonez approaches his at-bats as if he’s Cinderella at thirty seconds to midnight. Corey Patterson, until recent weeks, swung at bad pitches as if he were the pitcher’s therapist and wanted him to feel good about himself. But no one I’ve ever seen combines a burning desire to hit every single pitch with an incomprehensible ability to hit just about every single pitch.

Sure, a lot of the balls he hits get fouled off. Or popped up. And he’s never hit for real power. But that takes nothing away from my marveling at his sheer ability to introduce bat to ball. Shoetops, helmet-high, inside, outside, in the dirt. It’s never mattered much to Simon. He’s a superhero of hacking.

And he’s chubby. Even rotund.

Though Simon’s career on-base percentage of .328 is abysmal, his .297 batting average has enabled him to keep a major league job for seven years. But I worry that the end is near: It’s only 100 at-bats, but Simon’s line this year is .210/.292/.280 is bad. He’s not striking out much more than usual, with 10, but he’s also not hitting for any power at all, with only 4 doubles and 1 home run. If he doesn’t come back strong in the second half, even the lowly Pirates (see the first sentence of this post) might let him go.

Who knows what the problem is? Maybe his bat speed is slowing just enough, though you would expect that to be reflected in increased strikeouts. Maybe he’s been unlucky.

But I have a new pet theory. Remember in the spring of 1998, when New Sammy burst on the scene, no longer flailing at curveballs in the dirt? Maybe Simon’s the Bizarro Sammy: he’s more than doubled his walk rate, from a career rate of one walk per 23.5 at-bats to this year’s rate of one every 11 at-bats. Maybe that’s the problem: he’s being too selective. That goes counter to everything I understand about hitting, but we’re talking about Randall Simon. Anything’s possible.

So my advice is to hack away, Randall. I think you shouldn’t take another pitch this season. Not a one.

If my advice works, Pirates fans can thank me later by beating the Cardinals’ rivals down the stretch.

Original comments…

Steve: You’re a regular Charlie Lau or whatever the hell that guy’s name is.

Toby: Ahh yes, thank you, Levi, for highlighting another in a long string of Pirate first baseman who really suck. I can trace it all the way back to the early 80s and Jason Thompson, who replaced “Pops” Stargell. Yes, I know Willie wasn’t really a first baseman–he played there late in his career, but still, he was the last good first baseman they had.

I liked Sid Bream when he played there, but then he went to Atlanta and then in that game 7 in 1992, he slid home with the winning run… So, now I pretty much hate him.

Man, I’ve been on vacation all week and must have built up some real anger. Sorry about that.