Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A bunch of nobodies

I am trying to rid myself of the habit of referring to certain major league ballplayers as "nobodies."

I know it's a common phrase used by baseball fans. It refers to players who are on the fringe of the major leagues. They could be rookies, and others not so hopeful, who are called to the bigs. They could be pinch-hitters, mid-inning relievers, and late-inning substitutions.

But the phrase has gotten myself into trouble a few times. In this hyper-sensitive world, some people have objected to reading my reference of a player as a "nobody." The protests usually come from those connected to the player -- family members, etc. -- or those connected to the team, fans proud of their knowledge of their squad and eager to share it with the less informed.

I'm not trying to rid myself of the term because of those people. Those are their hang-ups, not mine. I'm trying to do so because calling players "nobodies" is in direct opposition to my collecting philosophy. I collect all players who have made the majors, no matter how "nobody" they are. While others go for only the biggest stars of the game or the "next big thing," I'm happy with the five-year veteran who manages 121 hits a year. So, while the mojo collectors have the right to say "a bunch of nobodies" without appearing to be a hypocrite, I can't do the same.

This became apparent through recent interactions with two different bloggers, regarding two current Dodger players. The first was the huge card package I received from Smed. It contained a Blake Hawksworth card.

(If you haven't noticed, I'm showing approximately a card a day from Smed. With about eight card packages ahead of his, it's going to take weeks before I dedicate a whole post to his cards. So this helps alleviate some of the guilt).

It is my first Blake Hawksworth card. My first card of the Dodger reliever, currently on the disabled list.

The second interaction was a communication with Spiegel. He was looking for a Jamey Carroll card as he had a signing to attend. I was able to turn up a card for him, but I realized that sending the card his way left me with just four Jamey Carroll cards.

It is very unusual for me to have so few cards of current Dodger players. And I then realized why.

The Dodgers are a bunch of nobodies!!!!

Because of a plague of injuries that is among the worst this year in the majors, and the warped spending habits of current Dodger ownership, Los Angeles is filled with players that are unfamiliar to anyone besides the biggest Dodger fan or fiercest fantasy league player.

To the vast majority, these players are a bunch of nobodies. As a Dodger fan, it is strange to have that term applied to my team. The Dodgers have featured some of the most well-known players in history, for decades.  Yet, they have guys named Hawksworth and Carroll on the team, and unless you live in places where these players once toiled, you have no idea who these people are.

So, in an effort to give these players a little publicity, and figure out the paltry number of cards I have for these current Dodgers, here is the cast of characters that I have called "nobodies" but no longer will.

How many of them did you know were on the Dodgers?

Rod Barajas: 5 cards
Cards as a Dodger: none
Position: Catcher
Why Barajas isn't a nobody: I am desperately rooting for him so I can win a blaster bet with The Lost Collector. It doesn't look good because he's batting .219 and has already struck out 40 times, but MLB studio host Dan Plesac happens to think he has the coolest name in baseball (and demonstrated why in a way that must have left spit all over the studio set).

Ivan DeJesus Jr.: 3 cards
Cards as a Dodger: 3 (if you count minor league cards)
Position: Shortstop
Why DeJesus Jr. isn't a nobody: Well, he's been the Dodgers' shortstop of the future for sometime now, although Dee Gordon has now taken that title. But at least DeJesus will always be known as the son of the guy traded for Ryne Sandberg.

Jay Gibbons: 4 cards
Cards as a Dodger: 2 (if you count minor league issues)
Position: Outfield
Why he isn't a nobody: I'm sure there are many fans that think Gibbons is long retired. A Mitchell Report mention, Gibbons has worked tirelessly to return to the majors and is getting a shot with the Dodgers, even though I think L.A. has better options in this area. Gibbons is one those players who appears overmatched just from his appearance at bat or in the field. I never would have guessed he is a former 100-RBI guy. But he surprises me. A lot.

Javy Guerra: 3 cards
Cards as a Dodger: 3
Position: Relief pitcher
Why he isn't a nobody: Of the Dodgers who have taken a turn at closer this 2011 season, he's about the last man standing. Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla and Kenley Jansen have all been disabled. I couldn't tell you if he's the Dodgers' closer now. But there aren't a lot of options left.

Matt Guerrier: 1 card
Cards as a Dodger: none
Position: Relief pitcher
Why he isn't a nobody: Signed to be the Dodgers' set-up man, he has performed his job fairly well. Not spectacular, but considering the horrendous state of L.A.'s bullpen, he's an absolute shining star. Which is why I need a card of him as a Dodger, instead of this dark, uninspiring card of him as a Twin.

Tony Gwynn Jr.: 4 cards
Cards as a Dodger: none
Position: Outfield
Why he isn't a nobody: Gwynn's not going to get the playing time he got in San Diego or Milwaukee, but he's not a nobody to me because of a) his famous father; and b) I was correct in predicting that he would land the uniform No. 10, my favorite Dodger uniform number.

Mike MacDougal: 3 cards
Cards as a Dodger: zero
Position: Relief pitcher
Why he isn't a nobody: A former sensation with the Royals, MacDougal had some seasons with the White Sox and Cardinals that made me eternally grateful he wasn't on the Dodgers. Then, out of nowhere, he was. Just as surprisingly, his ERA is 1.45 in 23 games. But I don't know if I want to see him close in Dodger blue.

Aaron Miles: 5 cards
Cards as a Dodger: none
Position: Third base/second base/wherever scrappy guys play
Why he isn't a nobody: If Miles never left St. Louis, I don't think I would ever be able to tell him apart from Skip Schumaker, Brendan Ryan, David Eckstein, Adam Kennedy, Tyler Greene, and now Ryan Theriot and Allen Craig. But that's the "a bunch of nobodies" side of me viewing a team I don't follow from a distance. Now that Miles is on the Dodgers, I KNOW that he's a .280-hitting, respectable-fielding, not-a-lot-of-power swinging, should-get-on-base-more type of player.

Russ Mitchell: 3 cards
Cards as a Dodger: 3 (if you count minor league cards)
Position: Third base, first base, catcher, you name it
Why he isn't a nobody: I know he was just sent down and I know he didn't hit a lot, but I couldn't help but like him when he was in a Dodger uniform. He has a knack for doing the spectacular, even if you don't see it enough.

Dioner Navarro: 11 cards
Cards as a Dodger: 2
Position: Catcher
Why he isn't a nobody: It's really your fault if you don't know who Navarro is. He started out as a Yankee, was hyped by card companies as the next big thing, dealt to the Dodgers from the Diamondbacks in the Shawn Green trade, dealt to the Rays for some players that did nothing, made the Dodgers regret the trade briefly as a starter for Tampa, then fell on hard times, and is back with L.A. He's still great in the field. Not much with the bat.

Jerry Sands: 3 cards
Cards of him as a Dodger: 3 (if you count minor league issues)
Position: Left field
Why he isn't a nobody: In 10 years, there will be fans of the Brewers, Yankees, Braves, etc., collecting Jerry Sands cards, not because he has left the Dodgers, but because he will be a superstar in L.A. and people who must collect the superstars will be swooping up cards of Sands before us poor schmuck team collectors with limited funds can say, "hey!!!!!!!!"

Which is why he should be playing every damn day.

Marcus Thames: 3 cards
Cards as a Dodger: none
Position: Outfield
Why he isn't a nobody: Thames is pretty well known among even casual fans, but I bet a lot don't know he's on the Dodgers this year, mostly because he's been on the DL for awhile. He has the ability to come up with the well-timed big fly, but I don't know if he'll get that much of a chance with the Dodgers. The outfield is one of the few places to escape major injury issues.

I also have cards of other Dodger fringe players like Jamie Hoffman, Hector Gimenez, A.J. Ellis and Juan Castro. I think it's very cool that I can find a player's card in my collection when I suddenly learn he's on my favorite team.

As of now, there is only one guy who has played for the Dodgers for whom I don't have a card.

Reliever Rubby De La Rosa, brought up last week, has appeared in two games for the Dodgers. He was born in 1989!!!!!

I will have to look for a minor league issue of De La Rosa, which could be an issue, since he didn't even pitch for Albuquerque this season.

Congrats, Rubby, you're not a "nobody" anymore. I'm on the hunt for your card!

I'll still use the term "nobody," like when I'm teasing someone about the inadequacies of their favorite team, because that's just good, clean fun. But the truth is, if you're playing in the majors, you're always somebody.


  1. Great post. It is hard for me to tell what Dodger players are considered "nobodies" by other fans. I am familiar with all the players you mentioned some even before they became Dodgers. Sands and Rubby won't be anonymous for too long.

  2. I have respect for anyone who can make it to the majors, no matter how short their career is. But remember, nobody is somebody to everybody. Everybody is somebody's nobody. Everybody loves somebody sometime.

  3. Allen Craig is a legit hitter. The rest of the scrappy Cards/ex-Cards are pretty interchangeable as hitters.