Shake tree, find banjo-hitting infielder

March, 26, 2010
3/26/10
10:06
AM ET
Emmanuel Burriss broke his foot. A surgeon fixed it. He -- the baseball player, not the surgeon -- will be out of action until the middle of June. This is bad news for Burriss. It's not clear that it's such terrible news for Burriss' employers, the San Francisco Giants. That's my gut reaction, anyway. Here's another:


Burriss’ break earlier this month was painful for the Giants, too. He would’ve been the perfect utility guy because of his ability to play shortstop, second base and the outfield. Most of their utility candidates are second basemen or third basemen (Kevin Frandsen, Ryan Rohlinger, Matt Downs) that either can’t play shortstop or are considered fringy there.

Having a healthy Freddy Sanchez changes things because Juan Uribe could be more of a true backup shortstop. But now that Sanchez will be out at least through April, the Giants might have to go out and get more of a true utility presence who can play dependably at both middle infield positions.

With all due respect to Messrs. Burriss and Baggarly, this is sorta nuts.

I might be wrong. Bill James once described Brent Mayne as a special player, meaning that Mayne was a winning ballplayer even if we didn't have the tools to identify him as such a beast. Maybe Burriss is a special player, too. Maybe he's so special that if you're faced with his absence for a few months, you simply have to find another special player to take his place.

I'm not seeing it, though.

Burriss isn't any sort of outfielder. He's played two innings in the outfield with the Giants, and I've not yet found any evidence that he's played even a single inning there in the minors. He was a shortstop in the minors, but was so awful at shortstop in '08 that the Giants didn't let him play one inning there in '09. He might be a good second baseman ... but again, that's not really the point. The point is that he's supposed to be good (or at least decent) everywhere.

Burriss isn't any sort of hitter; his subpar on-base percentage is higher than his slugging percentage (and no, that's not some esoteric compliment). That's no fluke. He did the same thing in the minors, and his major league numbers are highly reflective of his true talents.

Burriss is fast. No way around that. In 2007, he stole 68 bases in 125 minor-league games and was caught only 18 times. Do his wheels make him special, though? Sure. It's just not the sort of special that wins a great number of baseball games.

He's a handy fellow to have around. Or in Fresno. But you can shake a tree and a dozen handy fellows will fall out. No decent organization should ever have to trade for one.

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