Friday, January 06, 2006

One Little Indian

It was a cold September night, ninth inning in the first of the last three games with the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians needed a baserunner for a chance to reach the playoffs. Though they still had their fate in their hands, the tribe had collapsed, losing 8 of 11 down the stretch.

Rafael Belliard had just reached base with a single and the Indians desperately needed to advance him, but when manager Eric Wedge looked down his bench, who did he have to pinch hit? Jason Dubois, a sluggish, 6-foot 4 26-year-old underachiever who had never batted more than .240 in his brief major league career. USA Today Sports Weekly listed his OBP at the time at barely over the Mendoza Line.

No surprise when DuBois quickly grounded out, but shocking that the front office just eight weeks earlier failed to grasp that though the Tribe was supposedly in a rebuilding year, the team was in contention and in need of veteran help off the bench.

Too late now, but the Indians finally are beginning to boost their spare-parts department by signing free agent journeyman 1B Eduardo Perez. Perez is strictly a platoon player, and will be limited to facing lefties, but his 11 homers in 138 ABs for Florida last year show he'll be valuable in special situations.

The signing also means, of course, that incumbant 1B Ben Broussard, whom some analysts at one time had projected to be ahead of Travis Hafner, is forever devalued to starter against righties only. Now 29, Broussard once and for all can be labeled for what he is and what he will remain: a prouctive major leaguer but of marginal worth for fantasy team owners.