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.

Cubs-Reds, April 16, 2008

Reds @ Cubs. 7:05 PM. Comcast SportsNet Chicago
Starting Pitchers: Chicago- Carlos Zambrano (1-1, 3.20 ERA) Cincinnati- Josh Fogg (1-1, 7.00 ERA)

Lineups:

Cincinnati-

CF Corey Patterson
SS Jeff Keppinger
RF Ken Griffey, Jr.
2B Brandon Phillips
LF Adam Dunn
3B Edwin Encarnacion
1B Joey Votto
C Javier Valentin
P Josh Fogg

Chicago-

2B Mike Fontenot
SS Ryan Theriot
1B Derrek Lee
3B Aramis Ramirez
RF Kosuke Fukudome
LF Mark DeRosa
C Geovany Soto
CF Reed Johnson (explain why here's here and not Theriot)
P Carlos Zambrano

Soriano DL'd, Patterson Recalled, Murton on Suicide Watch.



Chicago- The Cubs placed left fielder Alfonso Soriano on the DL with a calf injury today, and in a somewhat surprising move, recalled Eric Patterson from AAA Iowa over proven major leaguer Matt Murton. Patterson is rejoiced at the opportunity to play against his brother in the current series against the Reds. The Patterson parents were also invited so the family can be booed as one. Matt Murton, the natural choice to replace Soriano on the roster, was stunned by the move, and has been moved to a safehouse that has been childproofed and removed of all sharp objects.

Your Random Third Baseman of the Day: Wade Rowdon

Name: Wade Lee Rowdon
Ht: 6'2'' Wt: 180
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Years as a Cub: 1987

That unforgettable Wade Rowdon Swing.

Do you remember the Wade Rowdwon era? You don't? I don't see how you could forget his epic 11 game, 31 at-bat tenure with the Cubs on that 1987 team that made all Cub fans dare to dream...of a 76-85 finish. Teams that only play 161 games amuse me. That means that at some point in the season, you had a game that was postponed. Not only were you so far out that the game had no playoff implications for you, but you were apparently also playing a team that had no postseason implications. Meaning your team was bad enough to have as minimal an effect on the postseason picture as possible. Now who had the most minimal effect on that team? Wade Rowdon.

Wade Rowdon represents the bulk of the 83 guys (I finally counted them) who started at third for the Cubs between Santo and Ramirez. They were neither big ticket free agents who bombed, or star rookies who failed. They were just untalented, mediocre, cheap baseball players who the Cubs propped up there due to a lack of will to win. Some of them were cheap rookies, some of them were aging veteran castoffs, and many, like Wade, were no name players acquired in non-impact trades that no one will ever really note again. Wade Rowdon for Guy Hoffman wasn't exactly a block buster. It had less than marginal effects on either team, and it was quickly forgotten.

But enough of my waxing philosophical on the nature of the third base conundrum, back to the actual man himself. During his 11 game stint with the Cubs in September of '87, Rowdon started 7 games at third, Rowdon hit just .226/1 hr/4 RBI/.294 OBP/.419 slugging in that stint, but what was really notable was his defense. Or lack thereof. Rowdon contributed to the black hole of defense that was the Cubs hot corner that season. Primary starter Keith Moreland made 28 errors in 149 games started and posted a .934 fielding percentage. Backup Manny Trillo made 2 errors in just 5 games started and posted an even worse .926 fielding percentage. But Rowdon topped them all with 4 errors in just 7 games started with an .818 fielding percentage. Combined thats a .929 fielding percentage and 34 errors. All three also posted range factors that were below league average. Rookie groundball pitcher Greg Maddux went 6-14 with a 5.61 ERA that year. I'm willing to be every time a batter pulled one his pitches toward the third baseline Maddux swore and went to block the ball from getting into the dugout.

After the 1987 season the Cubs traded Rowdon to the Baltimore Orioles, who went 54-107 the next year after starting the season 0-21. Rowdon appeared in 9 of those 21 losses. Coincidence? I think not. He was sent down after April and spent most of the season in the minors before being released at the end of the year.

I couldn't find what Rowdon is doing now, though I've heard he's a minister. He apparently hosted a Christian baseball camp in Moldova though.

Wade Rowdon: So bad we sent him to Moldova.