Everything you know is wrong: Making a case for Rickie Weeks
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The underperforming Milwaukee Brewers have absorbed the ire of fans to this point with a largely disappointing campaign complete with changing closers a week in, a historically bad month of May, the prospect of a 100-game suspension looming over Ryan Braun, and the organization resorting to “Zubazpalooza” to get people in the seats to watch a team that’s lost to the Miami Marlins. But of all the points of contention for Brewers fans, no one aspect of this team seems to be more of a lightning rod for criticism than Rickie Weeks.
Presently mired in career lows in batting average, on-base percentage, and virtually every offensive category, some of that frustration is warranted. However, the presently middling middle infielder’s reputation had fallen victim to shortsighted, kneejerk hatred, and broadly painted generalizations from an alarming portion of Milwaukee’s faithful. (Which is the perfect way to encourage a struggling player, by the way.) Here are just some of the criticisms Weeks is playing amid, and why The A.V. Club thinks they’re just a bit off base.
Yes, Weeks’ $10M price tag for 2013 is a tad tough to swallow. But not many people were miffed when the Brewers signed him to a four-year, $38.5M extension after his career-best 2010 season (in which he made $2.75M). Weeks echoed with an All-Star—albeit, injury-shortened—2011 season, worth $4.5M. So while having a part-time, scuffling middle infielder pulling in about an eighth of Milwaukee’s payroll is now less-than enticing, Brewers fans were treated to three 20-home run and four 2.2-3.7 WAR seasons of Weeks for relative peanuts. Some of those teams paid Jeff Suppan and Randy Wolf $12M apiece.
He’s a draft bust
Weeks was selected second overall in the 2003 MLB Draft. Had he been taken two in either the NBA or NFL drafts, the selection would have come with much greater expectations of playing an immediate role on his team. However, baseball has many more rounds and a much longer road to the majors. Even if an MLB draft pick comes through in the minors and quickly cracks a big league roster, it’s far from guaranteed he’ll sustain long term and top-tier success. For example, the first overall pick in 2003, Delmon Young, threw his bat at an umpire in the minors, was traded twice, never put up All-Star numbers, and signed a contract with a fat clause this offseason. Only one 2003 first rounder—supplemental first rounder Adam Jones (37th pick)—is an elite level big leaguer. See for yourself.
Number one 2004 draftee Matt Bush never made it past double-A ball. Aside from admittedly bigger name players such as Justin Verlander (2004), a reborn Alex Gordon (2005), and the arguably more valuable likes of B.J. Upton (2002) and Pedro Alvarez (2008), no other number two pick currently on a big league roster is as proven or currently valuable to his team than the Brewers second basemen. Weeks isn’t even the biggest draft bust in his own family. His little brother Jemile was taken 12th overall in the 2008 draft and was demoted to triple-A earlier this year after a pair of abysmal seasons in Oakland.
He’s blocking “Scooter” Gennett
With the old guard not meeting some fans’ lofty expectations, many have sought an in-house replacement to take the torch. Unfortunately, the replacements available now are Yuniesky Betancourt, Jeff Bianchi, and, lately, homegrown prospect Ryan “Scooter” Gennett. While the idea of giving Baseball John Kuhn the chance to inspire us with his gritty, sprite-like play is a good thought, we tend to prefer the former All-Star who looks likes like a minotaur and can hit balls 460 feet—or out of the infield, for that matter.
Weeks is under contract through 2014 (with a 2015 team option), and each year will only get pricier. If Weeks truly is “blocking” a light-hitting, 5’3’’, should-be utility player on a decidedly non-playoff-caliber team, it seems like letting him play every day, putting up some numbers to show his worth to other organizations, and seeing his trade value grow would be the way to solve the problem. Who knows, maybe Weeks could even be dealt for a legitimate second base prospect.
He’s injury prone
Very true. Weeks—or “Weaks” if you’re talking about his knees and ankles—needed knee surgery in the 2008 offseason. He managed just 37 games in 2009 due to a torn hand muscle, and was on the disabled list for two months down the playoff stretch in 2011 on account of an ankle sprain. As Weeks is likely just living between season-ending injuries, why not use him while you can?
He’s streaky as fuck
Exactly! And it’ll be tough for Weeks to go off on one of his torrid month-long Homerpaloozas—the home run equivalent of Zubazpalooza—if he’s losing at-bats to some honorary bat boy named Scooter and the ghost of Yunie B.’s above average April. This might be hard to read, but Rickie Weeks is hands down Milwaukee’s best option at second base.