The Girls Ran Screaming Behind Him on the Beach

Do you remember where you were when the Ben Davis Era (TM) ended? Neither do I. Let’s face it, that’s not the sort of thing one remembers in a life full of Things That Matter (TM).

(What’s up with all the TM’s, anyway? Or as I like to say, WUWATTA? (TM))

Quick refresher: The Padres took Davis with the second pick overall in 1995, ahead of Jose Cruz Jr., Kerry Wood, Todd Helton, Geoff Jenkins, Roy Halladay, and 1660 other guys. The track record for high-school catchers isn’t real good, and early in his career, Davis looked like he would join the ranks of those who had failed before him.

In his first full pro season, Davis hit .201/.264/.286 at Rancho Cucamonga. Granted, he was 19 years old, but… just yuck. In his 1997 Minor League Scouting Notebook, John Sickels had this to say about Davis:

He isn’t the second coming of Steve Chilcott quite yet, but Ben Davis is struggling, which shouldn’t really surprise anyone… He could still develop into a fine player. But it is less likely than it was a year ago, and if history is any guide, it wasn’t that likely to begin with.

Yep, a Chilcott mention. That is never a good thing… Sickels gave Davis a grade of C-minus, which is the lowest grade he’ll give a prospect.

But Davis improved with the bat over the next few years and, after brief stints here and there, stuck with the big club in 2001. That season he hit .239/.337/.357 in 138 games — not great, but acceptable for a 24-year-old at a demanding position. The future looked, if not bright, then… well, it had sort of a glow… let’s say it was like a cheap motel in a bad part of town; maybe some letters were missing.

Then on December 11, 2001 (it’s coming back to you now; perhaps you were at a holiday party with some co-workers — whatever happened to that guy who collected rubber bands?), Davis was traded to Seattle, where only the mighty Dan Wilson stood between him and greatness.

Dan Wilson. You remember him, right? He was basically the Deivi Cruz of catchers.

But a funny thing happened along the way. Davis never took hold of the starting job.

Who could have seen that coming? Certainly not me. I actually lamented the departure of Davis (and not just because of those cheesy commercials that showed him running along the beach followed by screaming girls — whatever, dude), figuring he’d turn into a solid contributor for the Mariners:

I still believe Davis is going to be a Mike Lieberthal type offensive player and one of the better defensive catchers in baseball. Wiki Gonzalez is a nice ballplayer, and it’s good to see him get a shot to start, but when all is said and done, he won’t be anywhere near what Davis will be.

First off, how sad is it to be arguing about Davis versus Gonzalez? It’s less interesting now than “paper or plastic” ever will be.

Second, guess which of those guys stuck around the big leagues longer? Hint: It’s not the first-round pick; it’s the guy taken in the minor-league phase of the Rule V draft. Because, you know, he just wasn’t good enough to stick with the Pirates.

On a more symmetrical note, it’s worth pointing out that both guys have a career OPS+ of 78. Why is that worth pointing out? Look, enough with the questions already.

You know what, this post is going nowhere. Hey, at least Ramon Vazquez came over in the deal. He gave us a couple good seasons before being flipped to Boston in the Dave Roberts deal and eventually, improbably, driving in seven runs in a game while playing for the Rangers.

Eh, this has no flow. I’m done. Write your own ending.

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4 Responses »

  1. Maybe the ending has not yet been written. Ben Davis has been attempting a comeback as a knuckleball pitcher. Really. I think he played in one of the independent leagues. Now that would be a great story. Let’s put him at the back end of the ’09 rotation!

  2. Hey, I actually liked the flow … Ben Davis was a guy I rooted hard for … saw him play for Rancho Cucamonga in 96 or 97 … he gave me a bat he’d broken during the game … a brief conversation with him at the time led me to think he was a good kid with a good head on his shoulders … so I gotta believe the issue was simply he didn’t have MLB-caliber talent … and few do, in actuality …

    Also, DePo with an interesting Q&A on Rule 5 draftee Cabrera …

  3. #1@Mike Champion: he signed with the Reds AAA team the bats as a RHP/catcher. so who knows.

    he pretty much just sucks tho

    on another side note….

    -Golden Baseball League

    ORANGE COUNTY FLYERS-Named Phil Nevin manager.

  4. Great writing, Geoff. Baseball is a game and this sort of piece, where you’re having fun with words and writing, captures the game and sense of play just as well as a more “serious” piece. WUWATTA!