Former Mets General Manager Steve Phillips once said on ESPN's Baseball Tonight, "There is a saying among general managers. Prospects will get you fired."
Nothing could illustrate that statement more than the L.A. Angels' version of Ryan Leaf— third baseman Brandon Wood.
Alex Rodriguez, Roy Halladay and Carl Crawford.
Just three names that were bandied about as potential trade bait for Brandon Wood (and a few of his fellow underachieving Halo prospect brethren) over the past several years. Names that could have helped the Angels to their second world championship in their 50-year history, at a time when the team was in a far better position to win.
Fans called into Angel Talk and wrote letters to their newspapers begging management to make a move for a big right-handed bat. Ever since the Angels let Troy Glaus go in 2005, power had been the missing ingredient in their lineup.
The pleas fell on deaf ears as management insisted that Brandon Wood was the next Michael Jack Schmidt, Howie Kendrick was a future batting champion and Jeff Mathis was the next Johnny Bench.
Perhaps that is why manager Mike Scioscia is feeling pressure to give Wood a chance that few players ever get—to struggle at the major league level for an indefinite amount of time totally on the basis of speculation and perceived potential.
The speculation was spurred on by a couple of big power years at AA Arkansas and AAA Salt Lake. What the scouts failed to note was that nobody at the AA or AAA levels has a Barry Zito curve, Mariano Rivera cutter or Fernando Rodney change-up. If they did, they would be playing at the major league level.
Former Angels GM Bill Stoneman tried to sell him so hard that at one point I thought he was going to start citing his American Legion statistics as grounds for keeping him.
Brandon Wood can now be viewed under the same prism as Orange County's real estate market—it's hard to believe how much more he was worth just two years ago.
Wood, who has constantly been referred to all season as a kid (even though he is roughly the same age as half the team at 25), figured to get his one last good look at the majors after the Angels let Chone Figgins walk.
I even said in an earlier column Scioscia should be patient and give him until the All-Star break to prove himself. That was assuming he would at least hit above the Mendoza line, show some pop and not be a total defensive liability.
Bad assumptions on my part.
Wood has managed to make Mario Mendoza look like a batting champion with his .167 batting average in 114 plate appearances. In fact, even his slugging percentage (.228) is only a few points higher than Mendoza's lifetime batting average of .215.
To compare Wood to the former flashy shortstop would also imply that he was at least good defensively. His five errors and poor decision making have been evidence to the contrary.
His .938 fielding precentage is closer to resembling a hockey goalie's save percentage. That's not good enough to play on a team whose foundation for success has been set on pitching and defense for the past decade.
Wood not only has been beyond bad, he shows no glimmer of ever getting better. He now has a lifetime batting average of .183 in 338 at-bats, with 108 K's to 9 walks. He has shown no pop, no speed, no defense, no nothing.
Compare Wood's numbers to someone like Robb Quinlan, who has never had the opportunity to win the third base job like Wood has. Quinlan is a lifetime .279 hitter in almost 1,200 big-league plate appearances and strikes out only 15 percent of the time compared to Wood's 31 percent.
Where is Robb Quinlan's big chance? He shuffles back and forth between AAA and the bigs with no fanfare whatsoever because he never had the expectations of Wood. Perception is apparently more valuable than reality in the eyes of the Angels.
If Brandon Wood was going to be an everyday player in this league, much less an impact player, he would have shown us something by now. To put it in perspective, Scott Kazmir is only one year older than Wood and people are already saying the two-time all-star is washed up.
Yet, despite seeing the emperor trot out to third with no clothes on every game, we are supposed to ignore our eyes and still buy into the propaganda of the coming Angels Messiah.
I've got news folks. He's not coming.
The bigger question is, when will management admit their mistake and move on? Will they make an attempt to sign a veteran like Mike Lowell once he asks for his release from Boston or will they risk Wood potentially ruining their entire season in an attempt to justify sticking with him all these years?
In the short-term, Quinlan is certainly the better option. They couldn't do much worse.
The Angels are playing in the worst division in baseball this year and still have time to recover. However, giving Wood more time to prove himself may make the West seem a lot tougher for the Angels than it actually is.
Update: Brandon Wood's 0-4 performance on May 21 has dropped his batting average to .154. That means there are currently 52 pitchers with a higher batting average than Wood.