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The Wisdom of Dewayne Wise

Dewayne Wise: Close enough for horseshoes and baseball. (AP)

The best thing about the blown call on Dewayne Wise’s "catch" yesterday is not that it helped the Yankees to a win, but that Wise was the player in question on the play. Yes, we need an eye-in-the-sky ump already—heck, we need it yesterday—but that’s not the point here. What we need to remember is the hustle.

I am not praising Wise’s hustle for its own sake, but hustle by a player who frankly needs to go all out if he’s going to be in the big leagues. Wise has been kicking around the big-league fringes since 2000, and at no time has he given any indication that he should be in the bigs. He can play a fine outfield, and will be justly remembered for his part in saving Mark Buehrle’s perfect game in 2009, but the guy can’t hit, has never given any indication that he can hit, and at 34, never will.

Wise is a career .218/.254/.372 career hitter in the big leagues. He has a little pop, knocking a ball over the fence now and again, but he just never learned the strike zone with the result that he can’t reach base often enough to play. Even his career on-base percentage at Triple-A is only .319. Given that, his major league results are unsurprising. He has been with six teams, getting a call mostly when the half-dozen outfielders in front of him got hurt. In 2010, Cito Gaston gave him 17 starts as the leadoff man in Toronto. Gaston retired right after that, and none too soon; if you’re leading off Wise, you’re not really paying attention.

When dinosaurs roamed the earth and pitchers hadn’t eaten ever available roster spot, a player like Wise might have had a nice little career as the last man on the team, pinch-running, playing defense, and getting a start once a month. This is another area baseball needs to address, somewhere down the list from the "Stop Umpires from Looking Incompetent by Liberalizing Replay" initiative. Until such time, a Wise-guy will have to make his own opportunities whenever the Brett Gardner in front of him gets hurt. Sure, he didn’t catch the ball last night, but he gave it more than a game effort. It’s always good to see a player who knows not to take anything for granted because, well, he can’t.

I Just Wanted to Say This
Raul Ibanez in June: .169/.246/.288. Raul Ibanez is April .241/.297/.448. Yes, he had a fine May. Yet, the aggregate of .239/.296/.467 is not too different from what he did last year, and the trajectory is obviously not good. In both cases, Ibanez was able to take advantage of his home park to prop up his numbers:

Home Road
2011 .278/.316/.516 .210/.261/.317
2012 .265/.327/.531 .212/.266/.404
Total .275/.319/.520 .211/.262/.341

Because I can’t help but see everything in shades of grey, I will submit that the home production has value—being able to exploit your home park is a skill, not trickery. That said, a better all-around hitter might also be able to take even greater advantage of the park. More to the point, the road numbers are real and they’re terrible. No manager tries a home/road platoon, and when you add in Ibanez’s defensive problems and inability to hit lefties, that kind of thing gets very complicated—you would need a Casey Stengel-sized multi-angled platoon to make things work, and, as above, you just don’t have room for that kind of thing in an era of 12 and 13 pitchers.

There are two real points here:

(a) Despite Brian Cashman’s love of Grey Power, sometimes a 39-year-old coming off of a miserable season is not going to recover, but is simply going to be a 40-year-old having another bad season, and,

(b) Commentators keep questioning if the Yankees should try to deal for an outfielder if Brett Gardner doesn’t come back, or doesn’t come back soon. The real question is if they should deal for an outfielder, or at the very least a designated hitter, regardless of what happens to Gardner.