Having a hard time seeing Juan Pierre here? Don't worry. So are the Phillies.
You ever watch Role Models? You know, that halfway-decent Paul Rudd flick (that’s constantly mistaken for a Judd Apatow joint, when it is pointedly not Judd Apatow joint material) with the Stifler guy? About the two screw ups whose punishment for trashing a statue outside a school calls for the mentorship of a couple of troubled boys from hell?
Remember what Augie (dorky kid in glasses, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who played McLovin in Superbad) says to Danny (played by Rudd) in the restaurant when asked what he wants to drink?
“I like the idea of Coke much better than I actually like Coke.”
(Thank you, commenter Michael.)
Simple humor. Easy laugh.
Except for, he’s totally right. In fact, there’s a lot in life that makes us confuse the idea of something and that something in actuality. People do it all the time with relationships. Scared, stubborn or comfortable, they ride out bad things far longer than they should, chasing the ghost of what their “thing” used to be, and clearly isn’t anymore.
That’s kind of what the Phillies did with Juan Pierre, signed to a minor league deal earlier today.
Believe me, I LOVE Juan Pierre, the Idea. He seems the ideal upgrade from Wilson Valdez, dealt to the Reds yesterday straight-up for Jeremy Horst. He seems the perfect addition of speed. He, a near-lifetime NL guy—he played with the White Sox in 2010 and 2011, his only AL stop in 12 years, seems to get the mutant brand of baseball the Phillies (like all NL teams) play. And given how he enjoyed a renaissance during the Dodgers—his .757 OPS in 2009 was the second best of his career—50 games without Manny Ramirez, you figure he’s a pretty good “team” guy that the Phillies, frankly, could use right about now.
Do you think Juan Pierre will come as advertised in Philadelphia?
You figure, lop together career averages of a .296 BA, .707 OPS and, more than EVERY other selling point, 50 stolen bases, and you’re set. Right?
Then you realize. You’re talking about the Idea, and not Juan Pierre.
For one, he’s not the utility infielder Valdez was. Checked his Baseball-Reference.com page up and down, and I’m pretty sure Roy Oswalt has spent more time in left field than Pierre has in the dirt.
Which reminds me:
Pierre’s speed doesn’t exactly come as advertised. His stolen base count peaked in 2007, when he slid into 64 freebies. But he’s taken fewer bases every (40 in 2008) year (30 in 2009) since (27 in 2011). And for those of you stoked about the 68 he grabbed in 2010, instead consider that last parenthetical note evidence of his coming down to earth.
If that doesn’t do it enough for you, you can peep his FanGraphs speed rating, which has aligned pretty closely with what you’d expect of aging, 32-year-old legs. A career-high 7.9 in 2009, followed by 6.9 and 5.2 thereafter.
And if not for quicks, why make the move?
And if not for that impending move, why deal Valdez?
That’s the assumption, right? That Pierre’s every-so-often speed in the lineup would more than compensate for the sprinkled-in at-bats you’d inevitably give Valdez. So why not make unmistakably interconnected deals one and two?
Do you think the Phillies should have traded Wilson Valdez?
Why not? Because your infield is in shambles. Ryan Howard won’t start the season, and who knows what he’ll be able to contribute and when? Jim Thome was signed, you figured, to tap in. Except for now the organization thinks the better idea is a better-suited-for-third-base Ty Wigginton, who, you figured, would make the perfect contingency plan for Placido Polanco. (At least much better than the slower-than-cement Michael Martinez.)
And in case Jimmy Rolllins’ hamstring explodes, a pretty foreseeable scenario on recently made content 33-year-old legs.
That’s why not.
But now? I don’t know.
The team is already stacked at outfield, with promising players, but ones who need repetition. Or, in the case of Raul Ibanez, playing time to justify their ludicrous contracts. Or, in the case of Hunter Pence, proven players who you can't succeed without. (Also in the case of Pence, justification for clearing out the last crumbs of talent from your farm system, Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton.) Or, in the case of John Mayberry Jr. and Domonic Brown, finality on whether or not they’ll realize their potential.
In a non-salary cap sport, you take waivers. It’s smart business.
But bringing in a guy like Juan Pierre feels like the organization is saying something. What?
And it feels like they’re clinging to the Juan Pierre, the Idea, instead of Juan Pierre, the Player.