Here's the third installment of organizational droughts, in which we look for the last homegrown star developed by each team at every position. The first part is here, where we learned that the Cardinals haven't developed a five-win pitcher since John Denny in the '70s, and the second part is here, where we learn that the Padres (and three other recent expansion teams) have never developed a four-win first baseman. Today, we turn our attention to second baseman.
There's a special wrinkle to this installment, though. I will actually double-check my work to make sure these players are homegrown! No additional charge. It's a weird strategy, but I'll make it work.
Here, then, are the last second basemen developed by each team to have a four-win season before they played for a different team. All stats are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
Still with the team
Brian Roberts - Orioles (5.2, 2008)
Chase Utley - Phillies (5.8, 2010)
Howie Kendrick - Angels (4.5, 2011)
Ian Kinsler - Rangers (7.0, 2011)
Dustin Pedroia - Red Sox (4.9, 2012)
Jason Kipnis - Indians (4.0, 2012)
Darwin Barney - Cubs (4.8, 2012)
Robinson Cano - Yankes (8.5, 2012)
I was waiting for this one. Oh, Darwin Barney. Survival of the fieldiest. Thorn in the side of people who trumpet Wins Above Replacement, and bane of the people still skeptical of it, too. Barney's on-base percentage was .299, yet he supposedly had a season that was better than anything Frank White ever did? Harrumph, harrumph. Two points:
a. Think of defense like batting average. Darin Erstad hit .355 in 2000, but was he really a .355 hitter? No, but presented 676 chances in 2000, he converted 240 of them into hits. He never did it again. Never came close. That doesn't mean his .355 average is illegitimate. It still happened. Now replace "at-bats" with "tough chances in the field" and "hits" with "plays made." It might not mean that Barney is on a Hall of Fame path. It just might mean that in 2012, Barney had a Darin Erstad-like year, but in the field.
b. I'm pretty freaking skeptical, too.
If not Barney, you have to go back to Billy Herman in 1935, Cubs fans, which is pretty amazing. Though pilfering Ryne Sandberg from the Phillies probably takes some of that sting out.
Howie Kendrick will never live up to his minor-league numbers (where he was a career .360 hitter), but he's been remarkably consistent, and he's signed to a team-friendly deal that ends right around the age when most second basemen expire. The biggest surprise for me with the Angels is that the oft-traveled Sandy Alomar (Sr.) had the best non-Grich season for a second baseman overall (though he wasn't homegrown).
Aaron Hill - Blue Jays (5.8, 2009)
Martin Prado - Braves (5.0, 2010)
Prado played over half his games at second in 2010, so even if he's not a true second baseman, he qualifies. Next up for the Braves was Marcus Giles, who was an All-Star picking up down-ballot MVP votes until he was out of baseball by 30. That's kind of the running theme of this list. But I'm sure your team's young second baseman will stay good forever and ever.
Most confusing career? For my money, Aaron Hill is the current winner. He was a first-round pick who was mediocre before he was great before he was awful before he was great before he was awful before he was great again. Makes sense.
Edgardo Alfonzo - Mets (6.4, 2000)
Ray Durham - White Sox (4.3, 2001)
Jose Vidro - Expos/Nationals (5.3, 2002)
Bret Boone - Mariners (5.9, 2003)
Luis Castillo - Marlins (4.4, 2003)
Bret Boone probably doesn't count, as he was traded away before his first good season for Bobby Ayala and Dan Wilson. He came back to star for the Mariners, but if you want to call foul here's the runner-up.
After the 2002 season, the Giants signed both Alfonzo and Durham to five-year deals. Both of them made sense at the time, and the Durham one worked out to some extent. But they both gave their best years to the teams that developed them.
Rennie Stennett - Pirates (4.9, 1975)
Jim Gantner - Brewers (4.3, 1983)
Frank White - Royals (4.1, 1984)
Tom Herr - Cardinals (5.6, 1985)
Steve Sax - Dodgers (5.0, 1986)
Roberto Alomar - Padres (4.4, 1989)
Mike Bordick - Athletics (4.3, 1992)
Robby Thompson - Giants (6.3, 1993)
Lou Whitaker - Tigers (4.1, 1993)
Chuck Knoblauch - Twins (6.7, 1997)
Pokey Reese - Reds (4.0, 1999)
Craig Biggio - Astros (5.0, 1999)
Stennett was just 25 when he had his superlative '75 season, but he's also remembered for what he didn't do with the Giants. Peter Gammons explains:
On Dec. 5. the day baseball's 1988 winter meetings officially opened at Atlanta's Marriott Marquis Hotel, Rennie Stennett was milling around the lobby looking for a job—as a player. Remember Stennett? In December '79 the San Francisco Giants signed him to a five-year, $3 million contract, even though he was hampered by leg injuries and had hit no homers and had only 24 RBIs for the Pittsburgh Pirates the previous season.
The five-year deal was huge back then. And it didn't make sense at the time, either.
Apropos of nothing, this is my favorite tidbit from that Gammons column, written in '88:
The Indians landed reliever Jesse Orosco, who's widely perceived to be over the hill, with a two-year, $1.675 million deal, after everyone else was passing on him.
Orosco pitched 15 more seasons.
After Steve Sax was convicted of murder, the Dodgers had an awful time finding a second baseman of note, which almost explains the Delino DeShields/Pedro Martinez trade. Almost. But the Giants have had a similarly tough time with their second-base prospects, and it was Thompson's '93 season that made them choose the 31-year-old second baseman over Will Clark when both were free agents. They chose …
Bordick is another example of a player who would have been treated far kinder in the fog of WAR. He was consistently an excellent fielder, but he was a pretty regular punching back for OBP fetishists at the turn of the millennium. Didn't get on base enough. It's funny that one of Bill James's most famous quotes is that bad teams look at what players can't do instead of what they can, yet in Bordick's prime a lot of analysts were doing the same thing with good-glove/weak-bat players. Also of note: Bordick was not drafted.
Pokey Reese was the Darwin Barney of his time, but no one ever thought to argue on his behalf. It's a shame the Reds stubbornly refused to call up Gookie Dawkins in 2001 so they could have an infield with Gookie at short, Pokey at second, and Corky behind the plate.
Rickie Weeks came close for the Brewers (as did Ronnie Belliard!), and a young Paul Molitor would have taken the crown if Gantner hadn't shown up, but it wasn't necessary. Gantner played 17 years for the Brewers, racking up just over 22 wins. That's more than Dan Uggla, Freddy Sanchez, and Carlos Baerga, in case you were wondering.
It's the recent expansion teams at the bottom again, which isn't surprising or fun. The only homegrown second baseman to play enough to be worth just a single win was Neifi Perez in 1997, who was worth one win. He hit .291/.333/.444, and his OPS+ was .86. Those turn-of-the-millennium adjusted Coors stats never get old.
Ben Zobrist came over from Houston in a deal for Aubrey Huff (!), so he doesn't count. The only Ray who comes close was Akinori Iwamura, who was pretty danged good until he fell down a well, which is the only explanation for a player disappearing like that. (He's still playing, actually.)
I'm looking to the judges, and they're shaking their heads "no," so I can't include Junior Spivey's 2001 season, in which he was good for 3.9 wins. We aren't even pretending that WAR is hyper-accurate, so what's a tenth of a win among friends? Alas, there has to be a cutoff point somewhere, and four makes more sense than 3.9. Also, Spivey fell down the same well as Iwamura. Imagine Rickie Weeks being out of baseball by 2015. That's what it was like to watch Spivey come and go.
The Cubs should be the loser in this one, dang it. They should have a homegrown player from the '30s as their rep. It would have been amazing.
Oh, Darwin Barney. You've ruined everything.