February 11, 2004

You're kidding, right?

Sometimes it's not easy being a baseball fan. My team, the Minnesota Twins, signed Jose Offerman to a minor league contract earlier this week. When I first saw the news, I thought nothing of it. After all, Offerman is 34 years old and was out of major league baseball last year, after being cut by the Mariners in 2002. A recognizable name for the fans at Triple-A Rochester to watch and nothing more, right?

Then I saw the following headline the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Offerman signed to serve as pinch hitter

Double-checking my calendar to make sure this was, in fact, February and not, say, April Fool's Day, I read on:

"The Twins signed two-time All-Star infielder Jose Offerman to a minor league contract Monday, and they plan for him to fill the role of veteran pinch hitter."

Oh boy. But wait, it gets better. He's a quote from Twins manager Ron Gardenhire:

"Keeping Jose might affect someone like [righthanded-hitting outfielder] Lew Ford. I'm excited about this. We needed a veteran, and we all know Jose can hit. I just talked to him on the phone, and he's excited. I don't know if we'll use him in the field much, but that's not what we need."

I would submit that the single last thing the Minnesota Twins need is a defensively challenged hitter. And that applies even if Jose Offerman could actually hit, which, despite Gardenhire's insistence that "we all know Jose can hit," is simply not true.

Before not playing a single inning of major league baseball in 2003, Jose Offerman hit a robust .232/.320/.335 in 2002, while racking up 326 plate appearances between Boston and Seattle. Prior to that, he hit .267/.342/.374 in 2001 and .255/.354/.359 in 2000. In 6,264 career major league plate appearances, Offerman has hit .274/.361/.373.

Oh, and last year, while playing in the independent Atlantic League for the Bridgeport Blue Fish, Offerman managed a very pedestrian .295/.383/.466 in 98 games. That's the same league that Rickey Henderson hit .339/.493/.591 in before being signed by the Dodgers last year.

Never a good defender, Offerman used to at least play a passable second base. At 34, he is, as the quote from Gardenhire suggests, most likely limited to playing first base, DH or pinch-hitting.

Aside from the absurdity of having a 34-year-old 1B/DH/pinch-hitter who missed all of 2003 and hit .255/.360/.341 from 2000-2002 combined, there is also the fact that Offerman would be taking playing time away from much younger, much more promising players.

Over the past several years, the Twins have had an incredible logjam of quality 1B/DH/LF/RF-types throughout their organization. They jettisoned Dustan Mohr to San Francisco during the off-season, but they still have a wide variety of guys who should absolutely, without a doubt, be playing ahead of Jose Offerman.

As long as Gardenhire brought him up in his quote about Offerman, I'll mention Lew Ford. Ford is a 27-year-old who is fast, can play all three outfield spots very well and hit .329/.402/.575 in 83 plate appearances for the Twins last season. He is also a career .317/.374/.468 hitter at Triple-A.

You don't think it would be a better idea to let Ford be a bench guy, instead of a 34-year-old who can't play defense and hasn't hit since I was in high school? You don't want to maybe develop a guy in his 20s that can actually play defense and just might have some actual value down the road?

I see literally zero reason for Jose Offerman to be on the Twins roster when the season begins. If he could actually play a middle infield position at a reasonable level of effectiveness, I'd be all for the signing. Lord knows "competition" like Nick Punto and Augie Ojeda aren't exactly making Luis Rivas shake in his boots. But Jose Offerman is about as likely to take Rivas' starting spot at second base as I am. Of course, second base was my best position and I was a magician with the glove...

If the Twins wanted to sign a washed up, 34-year-old relief pitcher, I'd be fine with it. A 34-year-old starting pitcher who hasn't been good for years? Yeah, why not. A 34-year-old backup catcher who hasn't hit in five years? Fine, sign him up.

But a 34-year-old pinch-hitter who can't actually hit, in an organization bursting at the seams with young players who can actually hit? Wow. I mean, it's enough to...well, it's enough to make me write a few hundred words about Jose Offerman in the middle of February!

Actually, I am still holding out hope that Gardenhire's quotes about Offerman are simply one of those "I'll say something nice about him because all these tape recorders are in my face" situations.

It's sort of like when you're eating dinner at someone's house and the food is horrible. When they ask you how the food is, you want to tell the truth and say, "To be honest, it's really bad and I see no reason why you can expect it to improve at this point." Instead, it comes out, "The food? Well...the food is...the food is very good. Yeah, the food is great! We expect the food to be a solid option off the bench for us this year."

I'd like to have Ron Gardenhire over to my dorm room for dinner one night, so I can further investigate this matter.

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As a special tribute to Jose Offerman, I would like to present to you now the third entry in the history of Aaron's Baseball Blog, written nearly 19 months ago.


"You're full of (expletive)"

By Aaron Gleeman

August 2, 2002

The Red Sox (finally) released Jose Offerman. Unlike everyone else who pays attention to major league baseball, this apparently came as a huge shock to Jose.

And, in his state of shock, Offerman had some interesting things to say (according to MLB.com):

"You're full of (expletive)," Offerman told [Mike] Port.

This after Port (the Red Sox GM), according to news stories, flew to Texas to personally inform Offerman of the decision.

"I ain't got nothing to say," Offerman said. "You guys (messed) me up, that's what I have to say."

Whenever someone says, "I ain't got nothing to say" and "that's what I have to say" in the same sentence, you know you have an A+ quote.

Also, I find it amusing when writers (or editors maybe) decide to substitute different words for something a player says. So, for Offerman, "You guys f---ed me up" becomes "You guys messed me up." Gotta love that.

As long as they are (presumably) changing things, why didn't anyone substitute something for "(expletive)"? I have a few suggestions:

- "You're full of whatever the equivalent to my hitting performance is."

- "You're full of professionalism."

And my favorite...

- "You're full of Selig."

As for the actual baseball aspect of his release...

As I said before, it was about time. Offerman has been in steep decline mode for about three years now and with his defensive shortcomings he is pretty much a useless player at his current level of performance.

Offerman's career in Boston is an interesting one, both because of his signing and his performance. The media generally had three phases during Offerman's tenure in Boston:

1) Immediately after his signing, Dan Duquette was almost universally ripped, mostly for letting Mo Vaughn leave.

2) During Offerman's first season in Boston, Dan Duquette was almost universally praised for signing Offerman at a fraction of the cost that it would have taken to keep Big Mo (who coincidently was beginning a pretty nice career decline himself, in Anaheim).

Stuff like, "With the money Vaughn would have gotten, the Sox got Offerman, ________ and _______."

3) Ever since Offerman's first season with the Red Sox, Dan Duquette has been almost universally ripped (yes, once again).

The three phases are wrapped up very nicely by these quotes found in the article about Offerman's release:

Phase One:

"It was a tumultuous end to Offerman's largely disappointing run in Boston. It was a tenure that started on Nov. 13, 1998, when former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette signed the switch-hitting infielder to a much-criticized four-year, $26 million contract with an option for a fifth year.

The timing of the signing couldn't have been worse, as the Red Sox had just parted ways with popular slugger Mo Vaughn. Duquette said at the time that Offerman could replace Vaughn's "on-base capability", and from that moment on, the move became a favorite target of Duquette's critics."

Phase Two:

"Offerman did have a solid first year in Boston, earning a trip to the All-Star Game, which was played at Fenway Park. He led off and played second base in that '99 season, helping the team's run to the ALCS by hitting .294, scoring 107 runs, hitting 37 doubles and leading the AL with 11 triples."

Phase Three:

"But he came nowhere near that level in the three ensuing seasons. In fact, he never hit as high as .270 or scored more than 76 runs. This season, Offerman was hitting .232 with four HRs and 27 RBIs. His last game with the Red Sox was a loss to the Orioles on Friday night, when he lost track of outs and got doubled off on a flyball to end an inning."

I actually think the Offerman signing was a decent one - not a great one, but certainly not a horrible one. To me it seemed like a reasonable contract, in both length and dollar amount for a 29-year-old second baseman coming off of a year in which he had a .400+ on-base percentage and 45 stolen bases. Offerman was a certified leadoff man, having had an OBP of .380 or higher in three of the four years prior to signing with Boston.

In hindsight, of course, it looks pretty bad. Although the Sox did get one very good season from Offerman, in which they made it to the AL Championship Series.

Jose Offerman in Boston: Four years/$26 million

1999: 586 AB .294/.391/.435

2000: 451 AB .255/.354/.359

2001: 524 AB .267/.342/.374

2002: 237 AB .232/.325/.325

I am sure Sid Thrift (Baltimore's GM) is on the phone with Offerman's agent right now.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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