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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Your SKO Random 3rd Baseman of the Day: Ron Coomer

Name: Ronald Brian Coomer
Ht: 5'11'' Wt: 195 (No one's buying that, Ron)
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 2001

The Strength.. The Skill.. The Coomer

During the 2000 season, as mentioned during the Bill Mueller article, the different third basemen the Cubs were forced to use combined to hit .224 with a .302 OBP and a tepid .712 OPS. The Cubs President and temporary General Manager, the brilliant Andy MacPhail (a favorite around these parts) "rectified" the situation by trading for Mueller and signing free agent Coomer from his former organization, the Twins. Coomer was expected to be the team's top bat off of the bench, Mueller's back up, and the right handed back up to left handed (and similarly burly) first baseman Matt Stairs, the Cubs prized free agent offensive pickup (who had posted a .221, .333, .411 line with Oakland the year before. Are you starting to figure out why this team so rarely works?) . Coomer had been a starter for the Twins from 1996-2000, and had posted decent power numbers as he averaged 13 hrs and 69 RBIs per year in his time in Minnesota. Coomer was not much of a patient hitter, however, and posted OBPs between .295 and .324 in his four full seasons as a starter, and never walked more than 36 times. The Twins made the decision to move in a different direction, and let the 34 year old sign with the Cubs.

During the first month of the 2001 season, Coomer remained on the bench where he belonged, and hit .267 with a .250 OBP in just 6 April games. Coomer was thrust into the starting job, however, after Mueller injured his knee in May, and would start end up starting over 70 games in Mueller's absence. For most of those starts, Coomer and Stairs paired together for perhaps the least athletic corner infield of all time. Coomer as a third baseman was one of those guys that always had his supporters, and they were always old guys who apparently were enamored of the fact that if he could make it as a major leaguer, so could they. They are the guys who'd throw out the same damn fact every time you'd deride him for his 7 errors and .954 fielding percentage, or the fact that his 1.89 range factor that year put him well below the league 2.17 average at third, or the fact that he could hardly ever get on base, as he posted a mediocre .316 OBP for the season.

The typical defense for Coomer was that he was "just supposed to be a backup" and "he has some pop". I've never understood the "he was just supposed to be a backup, therefore you can not boo him for sucking as a starter" argument. Bad players are bad players. Ron Coomer probably would have told you before 2001 he could start. He alone is responsible for not taking pitches, drawing walks, or having a slugging percentage above .400, therefore he deserves to be booed. As for Coomer having "some pop", that may have been true as a Twin, but it was long gone with the Cubs. Coomer's .261/8 hr/53 RBI/.316 OBP/.390 Slugging line for 2001 reaks of a lack of "pop". The only "pop" one could identify with Ron Coomer that season was this:

RC Cola- goes great with NASCAR.

The worst part about Coomer's offense is that the 2001 Cubs craved a second power hitting option behind Sammy Sosa. McGriff was busy wondering whether he wanted to leave the storied Devil Rays franchise for the upstart Cubs, Stairs was posting his lowest home run total since his rookie year, and Ricky Gutierrez was second on the team in RBIs. This dearth of power resulted in Coomer starting over 24 games each in the cleanup spot and the five spot. That mean's the guy protecting Sammy Sosa, he of the .328/64 HR/160 RBI/.437 OBP/.737 slugging was protected by a guy who failed to top double digits in home runs. Now, having a guy with less than 10 homers protect Sosa works alright when that guy is Mark Grace with his career line of .303/.383 OBP/.442 slugging. Despite what I can only imagine were similar tastes in beer, cigarettes, and women named Beth, Ron Coomer was no Mark Grace. Sosa ended 2001 with 116 walks, and 37 intentional walks. How many of those walks do you think came because the pitcher facing Sammy looked at the on deck circle and went "Holy shit, is that Ron Coomer? Nice." BALL FOUR!

After the 2001 season, the New York Yankees lured Coomer away from the Cubs. I'm not sure how you "lure" someone away by giving them a minor league contract, but I can imagine that some of the incentives in the contract included this package:

Coomer played in 55 games for the Yankees in 2002 and 69 games for the Dodgers in 2003 (posting OBPs of .290 and .299, respectively) before retiring, and is now a baseball analyst for FSN North, which carries most Twin games. And you thought it was bad that we had to deal with Dan Plesac.

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