If I were to design a ballplayer for the express purpose of destroying franchises and ruining managerial careers, that player would resemble -in probably all ways except looks- Eugenio Velez.
It’s probably hard to appreciate from afar just what kind of player Velez is. If you haven’t really followed the Giants, you just see a .256/.300/.388 line and a spotty defensive track record. What’s the big deal in that? It’s the type of player that should be kept at AAA, only to be brought up in case of 2010 Mariners style all out catastrophe.
The problem is that Velez is far, far more talented than his line suggests. He’s extremely fast, has a great arm and his crazy, Rube Goldberg contraption of a swing generates decent power. You see him on the right three days, and you see a not so poor man’s Alfonso Soriano.
A bad player with talent is a dangerous player. For three day stretches Eugenio Velez would do all of those things that talented players would do! People would get excited, his coach would give him a months worth of playing time. . . And oh. My. ggggargh. mmmrph.
The most perfect example of this was in 2009, when he hit an insane .429/.458/.661 in the three series following his call-up. Having earned several months of rope, proceeded to hang himself with a sub .300 OBP for the rest of the year.
Velez can’t hit. His swing is impossibly long, and he has no pitch recognition skills to speak of. Despite his speed, he can’t steal bases either. He is clearly a graduate of the Ruben Rivera School for Fast Guys Who Can’t Steal Good and Can’t Do Other Stuff Good Too. His defense at second is terrifying. He’s error prone, and has such a bad first step that no amount of range could possibly make up for it. Each error is executed with such goofy panic that the viewer can’t help but feel that the next one will be even worse. His OF defense progressed from unplayable to all the way up to merely unwatchable during his tenure with the Giants. I imagine that the way forward for him, career wise, is to play 6th outfielder until hope triumphs over experience for some poor team in spring training again.
The last thing about Velez, and probably the most dangerous thing about him is that by all accounts, he’s an absolute gem of a human being. He’s beloved by his teammates and praised by all that meet him. If he were just a crappy, surly, jerk of a ball-player no one would ever be tempted to play him. So, Dodger fans, if you are comforting yourself with the thought that this is just a minor league deal, and that Velez has a seemingly remote chance of making the roster, I say “ha!”. He is exactly the kind of player who will hit .600 with 7 HRs in spring training, then spend all of April and May converting his own PAs into outs and balls in play into anything but.
Then you will hate him, and then you will feel kind of bad about that. Then you’ll hate your own team for making you hate a perfectly likable human being. That’s how these players go.