Freddie Lewis to Blue Jays and Other Comments

Tom DubberkeCorrespondent IApril 16, 2010

TORONTO - APRIL 12:  The Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox stand during the national anthems prior to the White Sox facing the Toronto Blue Jays during their MLB game at the Rogers Centre April 12, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario.(Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Sometimes, I’m right on the money.  The Giants, with no real options, sent outfielder Freddie Lewis off to the Blue Jays for cash considerations or a player to be named later.

That was pretty much as good as it was going to get for the Giants, who have a glut of outfielders and Lewis out of options.

At least Lewis played so well in his “rehab” at AAA (a .409 batting average and a 1.308 OPS in seven games) that someone was willing to give them something, even if not much, for Lewis.

It’s a good move for the Blue Jays because Lewis is definitely a major league player.  He has a .775 career OPS (.805 against right-handed pitchers) and career .355 on-base percentage. 

He has an above-average career UZR as a left-fielder, but he’s definitely a Lou Brock kind of outfielder, i.e. a player who uses his speed to try to compensate for the fact that he does not get good jumps on the ball. or judge fly balls well.

Lewis is 29 this year, which is still a prime year for a player who runs as well as Lewis does.  He’s definitely a useful utility player to have around.

Francisco Liriano pitched seven shutout innings against the Red Sox today.  It was his best start since July 2006, when he had three comparable starts in that month alone.  Pretty much no matter how well Liriano pitches from this day forward, Twins fans will always rue what might have been.

Here’s a really good article from Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer about the Rocky Colavito-for-Harvey Kuenn trade which happened almost exactly 50 years ago. 

This was one of the more famous deals in baseball history, because the Indians traded Colavito, the reigning AL home run champ for Kuenn the reigning AL batting champ. 

Kuenn was a singles and doubles hitter, who played shortstop (mainly because he provided a lot of offense at the position, sort of like Derek Jeter, only with a little less power), while Colavito was a classic home-run hitting rightfielder who didn’t hit for a particularly high average and stuck out a fair amount.

I love Pluto’s article because it revives a now somewhat forgotten bit of baseball history.  However, there was one statement in the article that irritated me.

Pluto recounts how after hitting 41 HRs in 1958, Colavito led the AL with 42 HRs and 111 RBIs in 1959 and had to fight to get a $7,000 raise to $35,000 for 1960, because Indians GM Frank Lane threw in his face the facts that Colavito only hit .257 and struck out 86 times.

Pluto writes, “This was before players had agents, and negotiations such as this help explain why players eventually hired agents.”  It’s a pithy line, but what irritates me about it is that it doesn’t correctly explain the history.

Players only got to have agents represent them because they formed a union in the late 1960’s.  Before that, players were not even allowed to have any representation when they negotiated their contracts with management. 

Players at various times tried to have attorneys represent them, but the owners and their general managers flatly refused to negotiate with anyone but the player himself, and there was nothing the player could do about it, short of hold out.

Needless to say, one player acting alone, no matter how good, almost always had the accept the team’s final number because the team could find someone else to take his place.

Joe DiMaggio held out early in his major league career.  He wanted $40,000, and was almost certainly worth $40,000, but the Yankees only wanted to pay him $25,000.  At the end of the hold out, DiMaggio accepted the Yankees’ $25,000 final offer.

This was during the Great Depression, when $25,000 was an enormous amount of money to the average person, and the press rode DiMaggio mercilessly about his hold-out. 

However, the players were so underpaid in those days relative to the actual revenues they generated that many star players could make as much money barnstorming out West and in the South for six weeks immediately after the regular season ended as they made in six months playing for their major league teams.