Monday, March 23, 2009


The Little Utility Infielder That Could

It seems like only yesterday that Cody Ransom was run out of San Francisco after making a critical error in the ninth inning of that notorious Steve Finley/Wayne Franklin game in 2004 that ended the Giants' season. After that debacle, Ransom was unceremoniously cut, then spent the next few years bouncing around DFA lists, and we figured we'd never hear from him again, and so much the better. He was just a bad blip in Giants history, like Candy Maldonado's ole' in '87 or Alvin Mormon's short-lived antics in '98.

Now, in one of those inexplicable events that makes you seriously question whether there is any tangent meaning in the universe, Ransom is the talk of Gotham, as he'll be taking over for ARod for the duration of the latter's DL stay. Those of us who remember Ransom as the Fresno whiff-master extraordinaire and perennial hopeless September call-up are speechless, to say the least.

Yes, the ARod hating has reached such a fever pitch in New York that there's now an intense sense of excitement for our old friend Cody, a journeyman cast-off with a career minor league OBP of .322. The New York media mythmaking has already begun, as rumors are swirling of Ransom's ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Hey, at least it's better than talking about Mike Piazza's zit-infested back (seriously, Chass, we're getting worried about you).

After a few years toiling as an all-or-nothing hitter in the Giants' farm system (look at that 2002 line...eeeaagh), Ransom was brought up in 2004 as a late-inning caddy for the not-so-rangy Deivi Cruz. The only problem was that Ransom developed a horrible habit of flubbing ground balls in crucial late-inning situations, and it's hard to get much more worthless than a defensive replacement who can't, well, play defense.

After his fumbling of a double play ball that would have ended the disaster game that shall not be named (and, wouldn't you know it, the last time the Giants were good), Ransom was excommunicated from Giants-land. I had some not-too-kind things to say about him, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one. The Giants' bullpen was enough of a disaster that season on their own; they didn't need Ransom in there fucking things up even more.

So off Ransom went, not to resurface in the majors until 2007 with Houston, to the sarcastic grunts of the Orange and Black faithful. While still displaying the all-power, no-average minor league bat that he always had, he landed in New York, then seduced Yankee brass with a ridiculously small-sample-sized hot streak last season.

Since then, ARod got hurt, was outed as a steroid user (and an indiscriminating one, at that) and everybody has a completely irrational hatred of him anyway, so here we are. With a gaping hole at third base, the Yankees were content to go the Bocockian route instead of trading someone promising for a stopgap. Ransom happened to be standing there, and with the memories of his .621 slugging percentage in 82 major league at bats still fresh in the minds of Yankee brass, he was handed the everyday job.

Ransom now has the opportunity to become a sort of Yankee folk hero, like Shane Spencer or Scott Brosius, a player who isn't that good but has a stretch of unexpected competence under the spotlight that draws attention away from his flaws. Yankee fans are chomping at the bit to prove once and for all that the team doesn't need their overpaid choke artist of a third baseman. I can imagine Ransom coming in, hitting some home runs, and the Yanks treading water for a month with a weak schedule. Then ARod comes back, the Yanks play well, but miss the playoffs in a tough division, ARod is dismissed some more as a self-centered loser, and Ransom is turned into the Man Called Jayne due to his early not-so-horrid performance.

As a gallows postscript, sometimes I wonder: what if the Giants, in 2004, had just not even messed around with Neifi and had installed Ransom at shortstop for the first half of the season before Cruz came in? Would they have won the NL West? The Wild Card? Remember how mind-blowingly awful Neifi was. I'm not so sure I want to know the answer.

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