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Rickey Time Rickey Henderson seems
2002-09-17 10:56
by Mike Carminati

Rickey Time

Rickey Henderson seems to be upset that he is not getting more playing time with the Red Sox. On some level his getting less playing time does make sense. The Red Sox picked up Cliff Floyd right before the trade deadline, and he, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, and Trot Nixon have deservedly been the starters in the outfield and designated hitter positions ever since. Floyd and Ramirez have OPS's over one since the All-Star break, Nixon's is a not too shabby .841, and Damon though struggling since the break (his OPS dropped 80 points in 2nd half and his batting average 50) is the only logical choice for center field.

Henderson's post-All-Star OPS is just .731. His slugging percentage is a paltry .340: only three of his 11 post-All-Star hits have been for extra bases (1double and 2 homers). Also, his main role as Manny Ramirez backup in left has been filled on occasion by Cliff Floyd (14 games) when he is not DH'ing. Henderson has been tried only 5 times in center and right field, and it appears that the Red Sox, probably correctly, feel that he is not a viable candidate for either position.

On the other hand his second-half on-base percentage is .391, third on the team behind Ramirez and Floyd. He has drawn 16 walks to go with his mere 53 post-All-Star at-bats-that's as much or more than half the starters who have been up four or five times as much. Given that Sox found more time at DH for players who are no more, and in some cases much less, deserving of such playing time-Carlos Baerga (102 ABs), Jose Offerman (81 ABs), Doug Mirabelli (5 ABs)-it is surprising that they could not find more for Rickey (4 ABs in three games). Baerga is batting an empty .302 (.333 OBP and .736 OPS), Offerman had a .650 OPS before he was sent packing, and Mirabelli is a backup catcher with a .707 OPS and a .296 on-base percentage. The overuse of Offerman is particularly egregious: Offerman has similar skills to Henderson or maybe similar deficiencies at this stage of their careers. They do not bat for a high average and have little power but got on base and still had decent speed. At least Offeman used to get on base-his on-base percentage dropped to .325 (the same as his slugging average), his average to .232, and his OPS to .650 but the Red Sox still managed to get Jose 237 at-bats mostly at first base in his partial season with them.

Does Rickey have a reason to complain? Not really, he is a 43-year-old backup outfielder, and he should accept that or retire. But could the Red Sox have used Rickey's positives (high on-base percentage and speed and experience on the basepaths) a little more to their advantage. The Sox knew what kind of player Henderson has become when they signed him-his current season ie not out of line with the past few seasons (low batting average and slugging average, high on-base percentage and lost of walks). It is one of their many shortcomings for the second half in which they are 33-32 and for this season that will now expire with, again, no playoff appearance by the Sox even after very high expectations in the off-season.

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