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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Your SKO Random Third Baseman of the Day: Mark Bellhorn

Name: Mark Christian Bellhorn
Ht: 6'1'' Wt: 195
Bats: Switch Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 2001-2002

Ron Belliard and Mark Bellhorn. 'Nuff said.

Mark Bellhorn is one of the more intriguing players to appear on this list. Bellhorn started his career with the Oakland A's in 1997, and bounced back and forth between Oakland and AAA until the 2001 season. Before 2002, Bellhorn was swapped to the Cubs for the immortal Adam Morrissey. Bellhorn was an afterthought to most around the Cubs going into the season, as many expected the switch-hitting utility man to spend the season filling out the Iowa Cubs roster. Bellhorn made the team, however, and ended up being one of the few bright spots of a dreary 2002 season.

The Cubs lineup on opening day featured the aging DeLino DeShields and Fred McGriff, and the completely useless Chris Stynes, who was filling in for the completely porcelain Bill Mueller. A few starts for the versatile Bellhorn, who could play all four infield positions, seemed inevitable.

Bellhorn did indeed became a regular for the 2002 Cubs, as he started at all four infield spots and made one appearance in left field. In all, Bellhorn appeared in 146 games for the Cubs, with 109 starts, 29 of which came at third base. Bellhorn also was on-base machine, as his .374 OBP ranked second on the team behind Sosa. Cubs interim manager Bruce Kimm, in a move that would have baffled his successor, Dusty Baker, batted Bellhorn in the leadoff spot for 59 games despite Bellhorn's mediocre speed. A novel concept, this idea that your lead-off hitter should be a guy that gets on-base consistently, regardless of speed. Bellhorn also showed an almost Adam Dunn like ability to accomplish the three true outcomes, as he hit 27 homers, walked 76 times (second behind Sosa), and yet also struck out 144 times (also second behind Sosa). Bellhorn holds the Cub record for home runs in a season by a switch hitter, and set a major league record by becoming the first switch-hitter to homer from both sides of the plate in the same inning. Bellhorn's line for 2002 was:

146 games, .258 avg./27 hrs/56 RBIs/.374 OBP/.512 slug.

Bellhorn also scored 86 runs and was, as most of his stats show, the team's most valuable position player behind Sosa.

Going into the 2003 season, Bellhorn was handed the starting third base job for the Cubs, and Dusty Baker showed his always firm grasp on the importance of OBP by batting Mark Grudzielanek (.301 OBP in 2002) and Alex Gonzalez (.315 OBP) 1-2 on opening day and moving Bellhorn into the 6 hole behind the force of Hee Seop Choi. Over the next few months, however, Bellhorn struggled, and while he still got on base at a respectable .341 clip, he showed no sign of the power he once had, as he posted a .209 average with just 2 hrs and 22 RBIs and a meager .317 slugging percentage through the Cubs first 51 games, ultimately resulting in his being dropped from the lineup (bad), the hideous sight of Lenny Harris at third base (worse), the re-acquisition of Jose Hernandez (ugly), and the trade for Aramis Ramirez (good). Bellhorn was shipped to the Rockies for the aforementioned Hernandez on June 20th, and his Cub career ended.

Bellhorn was traded by the Rockies to the Red Sox before the 2004 season, where he made the team as utility infielder. After injuries to Pokey Reese and Nomar Garciaparra, Bellhorn became a starter for the Red Sox, and posted career highs in several categories on his way to winning a World Series ring. Bellhorn became a fan favorite with Red Sox fans, and those clever bastards had brilliant t-shirts saying "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Bellhorn" and "Who Died and Made You Mark Bellhorn". The next year Bellhorn hit .210, his fan club evaporated, and he was released. The moral of the story: F&%k the Red Sox.

Bellhorn then bounced around the majors, spending the end of 2005 with the Yankees, 2006 with the Padres, and 2007 with the Reds. He is currently a free agent, and also is a youth pastor.

Mark Bellhorn: Walk, K, Homer, or Preach.

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