I like to think I’ve grown beyond the days where I feel the need to talk at people about baseball statistics. There will still be the occasional conversation where pitching wins get cited, and whatever, that’s fine. The fact is, though, that there are so, so many ways to try to track, to quantify, to evaluate baseball players and their performance these days that I can barely keep track of them all myself, which does make me chuckle at the old ‘WAR vs. batting average’ debates of yesteryear.
Derek Dietrich, who was granted his release today by the Cincinnati Reds, was a career .187 hitter in the uniform. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon had the news.
Derek Dietrich, .187 hitter with the Reds.
In a special instance, here’s where I get to have my gripe. There is perhaps no other player in recent Reds history who can be less defined by one number than Dietrich, whose lone season with the Reds featured everything and the kitchen sink.
While hitting .187, he bonked 19 homers, a career high. A huge chunk of them came in one single month, a month that propelled him into temporary stardom, made him an instant fan-favorite, won him awards, and made us all forget Scooter Gennett. He wore eye-black in copious amounts, let his neck chain swing as freely as his bat, and flexed on just about everyone he came across - Pittsburgh Pirates in particular. He waited patiently on the bench in the original role for which he was signed, and did so with a smile that had his true Ohio roots on display each and every time he donned the jersey.
He kept bees, even, or tried to keep them the hell out of GABP.
Despite a shoulder injury derailing what could’ve been an even more epic 2019 season, Dietrich still managed to etch his name in the Reds record books last year, doing so while doing just about everything to etch his name into lore in the minds of fans, too. After the Reds brought him back on a minor-league deal this spring, the hope was his shoulder would again be healthy, and he’d again be able to carve out a meaningful role on a club finally trying to contend in 2020, too.
Then, of course, came COVID-19. It swooshed spring training, punted the season back a few months, and even chased down Dietrich, who had to battle through it before ever reporting back to Reds Summer Camp. That surely had him behind the 8-ball for making the Opening Day roster this week, and given the nature of minor-league contracts in a season where there are no minor league games, he was going to face a very tough decision, one that he and the Reds concluded today.
The Reds, in this year of years, cannot resign Dietrich for 2020, meaning there’s no chance he sneaks back onto the roster this year. That idea, for good or bad, is kaput, bringing his tenure with the club to a close for now.
He stole hearts, bonked dingers, pissed off Clint Hurdle to no end, and had a ton of fun doing it, something that made following him fun, too. We’ll always have that, at least, and for that we thank you, Derek. Here’s to latching on with another club that gets to feast on Pirates pitching.