Listen, I know that I’m being hard on Durham, and, yes, I understand that he’s being asked to do something he’s not suited for. I know that. I also know that he came here as an All-Star second baseman, a leadoff hitter who was durable, had some pop (.800-plus OPS five years in a row), could steal you a base, and knew how to work a walk. That was his resume when he was brought in to replace Jeff Kent. Over the course of his Giants career, he’s been a shadow of that player. He missed almost 100 games his first two seasons, had 35 extra-base hits in ’05, had a monster second half last year (that masked another terrible start), and is back on pace for another 35 extra-base hit zero of a season again this year.
So, he was injured so often during his first couple of seasons that they don’t let him steal anymore. He’s made his share of important, game-turning errors, (his career double plays turned numbers are awful), and he’s gotten exactly how many big hits, or had exactly how many big games? What would you say is his Giants highlight? What has he done that you can say, well, we wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for Ray?
I can remember the first couple of years when Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter came up for the Yanks. In New York, we were calling them Batman and Robin, because they always did something. Their first playoff series against the Texas Rangers, Bernie tied a game in the ninth with a home run, and then won it in the 12th with another. Jeter, well, I know he’s a Hall of Famer and all, but when he was just coming up, he seemed to always be in the middle of everything, home runs, hits, walks, whatever. He also made tons of exciting defensive plays (while everyone was ripping his defense), including some of the most incredible and important defensive plays in the history of baseball.
Name one hit, one play, that Ray Durham has made for the Giants that is even remotely similar. A home run in a playoff game? Nope. A walk-off? One in his career, not with the Giants. How about a game-saving stop? He’s been invisible for most of the time he’s been here. Now he’s at the end of the line, and he’s being asked to be something he’s not. Is it his fault? No. It’s the team’s. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been an empty uniform time and again. He’s started slow three years in a row, and it’s killed the team three years in a row, and he’s killing the team now.
Oh, and guys, if you’re looking for a positive spin, come on, you can get that in the newspapers. I’m writing about a last-place team, one that has ended up exactly as I predicted it would. When they do something positive, I’ll write about it.
UPDATE: So Durham’s walk-off was with the Giants. I was wrong. However, the game in which he hit the walk-off could hardly be brought up as indicative of his great value. Let’s see…. He was 0 for 4 prior to that final at-bat, with 6 men left on base (sound familiar?), and he was swinging away because he had failed to get down a sacrifice bunt. The walk-off brought his season average up to a dismal .246 for the year, and the win brought the team’s record to 37-37. Am I missing something here? That was last season, in which his poor start contributed greatly to the Giants having to spend the entire second half of the season making up for their terrible start to the year.
Sure, he’s posted an .800-plus OPS for most of his career, but it sure seems like he goes on a month-long tear, not unlike Winn, and then spends the rest of the year making me want to tear my hair out. You bring up his close and late stats? His pressure stats are horsehit, and he’s been leaving huge numbers of runners out there. In the last two seasons, as the Giants management has decided to have him be the bat to bridge Bonds, his production has been paltry. The issue isn’t Durham, it’s management. Durham has been OK, obviously the second best hitter on the team. The problem is that, as the second best hitter, he ain’t that good. The drop off is just too much. He’s being misused, and he’s not responding to the challenge.
His career splits illustrate my point exactly. Batting third, he’s posted a poor .726 OPS. His best slot has actually been fifth (.864 OPS), but it’s only 200 or so games. As a leadoff man, he’s posted a good .802 OPS, but with just a .356 on-base percentage, so, he’s really not that effective there, either. For his career, he’s hitting .255 with two outs and runners in scoring position, .268 late and close, and just .266 with men on base. Those are not impressive numbers. Since I already brought up Jeter, you can see that his numbers in the same situations are much better. For his career, Jeter’s hitting .315 with two outs and runners in scoring position, .280 late and close, and .323 with men on base. All of his peripheral stats (on-base, slugging, etc.) are better, too.
Again, it’s not that Durham’s no good, it’s that the Giants are so poor at so many other positions, Durham is being asked to be more than he is. It’s too bad he couldn’t discover that he thrives in RBI situations, but he didn’t.