Monday, May 4, 2015

Personality switch

To me, there is no greater change in a player's personality than when one switches from pitcher to hitter, or from hitter to pitcher.

This is why there is so much amusement/discussion when a position player pitches in a game, and so much amusement/discussion/outrage when a pitcher steps to the plate. The player is actually changing his very baseball personality.

Pitchers and hitters are so different, and they are adversaries. They're on opposite sides of the battlefield. They're also narrowly defined. Pitchers "throw smoke," while batters are "sluggers." Hitters are "scrappy," while pitchers are "crafty."

Seeing a position change on a baseball card from "third baseman" to "second baseman" is no big deal. But seeing the position change from "pitcher" to "outfielder," that is quite a big deal.

This is why I have held on to this particular card for so long. I'm not a fan of the Cardinals and I'll never try to complete 2002 Topps, but I need something in my collection that says "Rick Ankiel was a pitcher."

Then I can whip out one of Ankiel's later cards and marvel at his transformation from moundsman to batsman. It's almost as if the brain doesn't compute and treats Ankiel as if he's two different people, a pitcher person and an outfielder person.

It's very cool to have cards like this in my collection.

Which is why I'm extra excited about the development on the Dodgers.

Meet Pedro Baez.

For six years in the Dodgers' minor league organization, he was a third baseman. He didn't make it above Double A and his stats declined steadily each year.

But there was a sign that he could be something more.

It was right there on the two Bowman Chrome cards I have of Baez (from 2008 and 2010):

He had An Arm.

The Dodgers converted him to pitcher in 2013, Baez was promoted to Triple A in 2014, and he is now a regular member of the Dodgers' revamped bullpen, which is much improved now that L.A. isn't relying on past-prime fire hazards like Chris Perez, Brian Wilson and Brandon League.

Baez has appeared in 11 games for the Dodgers and struck out 15 in 11 innings with a 2.45 ERA.

Although not a headliner member of the bullpen, it is my hope that somehow Baez finds his way into a Topps Update set -- preferably throwing the ball -- so I can have a baseball personality switch in Dodger blue documented on cardboard.

I know it's a long shot, especially with how the new Dodgers front office rotates players in and out so frequently. And relievers like Kenley Jansen, Yimi Garcia, J.P. Howell and Juan Nicasio will probably get preferential treatment. (Topps Total, where are you?)

But if Baez does get on a card as a pitcher it automatically will be special.

(P.S.: The Dodgers from 2008 Bowman Chrome have done fairly well for themselves:

You just have to wait seven years for the cards to mean something).


  1. 'Hitters are "scrappy."'

    It was my understanding that "scrappy" was a term used to describe a white player's defense. And "smooth" was the word for non-whites and their defense.

  2. I was excited to see Ankiel's card as a hitter, and hoped that Topps could figure out a way to put both pitching and batting stats on the same card. Alas no, Topps let me down. Maybe they could have had the top section as a pitcher, and the bottom section as a hitter, just put a new header between the stats. It would have been something new and innovative... oh wait I forgot I was talking about Topps.

  3. Baez did the right thing. When he came to the fork in the road, he took it.

  4. I'm bummed that it doesn't appear Brooks Kieschnick ever got the pitcher-hitter card he deserved.