Daniel at Friar Forecast wishes the Padres had signed free agent second baseman Felipe Lopez to replace incumbent David Eckstein. Of Eckstein, Daniel says, “He is a terrible player. His fielding and batting are both below average.”
I can’t argue the point, but I can approach it from a different angle. Maybe my expectations for 2010 are unreasonably low (certainly lower than Heath Bell’s expectations), but I don’t see Lopez making an appreciable difference in where the Padres end up in the standings this year. I also don’t see him as the long-term solution to anything.
Furthermore, although it is true that Eckstein offers precious little value on the field, I like all the things about him that he gets grief for (scrappiness and what-not), especially on a team filled with young up-and-comers that are learning how to conduct themselves at the big-league level. I want to see guys play hard (not reckless; that’s a different thing), regardless of their talent level.
Eckstein plays hard, and I’m glad kids like Kyle Blanks and Everth Cabrera (who seems to grasp the concept) will watch him do that every day. Again, if I thought the Padres had a chance to contend this year, I might feel otherwise, but from where I sit, this season is all about getting the youngsters acclimated to their environment so they can contribute down the line, when those extra few wins or losses might mean something.
Besides, it’s not as though Eckstein is blocking anyone. Matt Antonelli hasn’t developed as expected; if that suddenly changes, I imagine he’ll find himself in San Diego before too long. Josh Barfield? That would be a fun story, but I’m not holding my breath.
The Padres have committed themselves to playing the kids, which is great. What’s also great is having a few veterans around to help them make the transition into big-leaguers. Eckstein fills that role. As for the “problem” of sticking him in the lineup every day to make outs, that will resolve itself by the time it matters. Like you, I look forward to such a time. Until then: Don’t worry, be scrappy.