September 18, 2004

Placido’s uphill battle to nowhere

For Placido Polanco, the long journeyman road may begin this off-season.

An argument can be made that Placido Polanco became a journeyman the moment he was traded as a lesser component in the deal for Scott Rolen.

But some players are just like that; they pick up the journeyman tag along the way, like picking up a virus.

The indicator is when you listen to out-of-town broadcasters. Words I’ve heard to describe him is that he “plays beyond his means” and is a real “student of the game.” Both imply that Polanco is in over his head, and that his spot on the team has been given to him out of charity.

When a player is described as “a student of the game,” what it really means is that he’s too complicated to describe in simple terms. Players given these tags are rarely invested in long-term, but still manage to stay employed forever.

What is Polanco worth?
The players whose assets are clearly measured – home runs for example – their worth can be measured in simple terms. Trading dollars for dingers is an easy formula. If you want a long-term deal, it wouldn’t hurt to bash homers.

Since Polanco doesn’t hit for power, teams will be looking at other components and are bound to say “he does this well, but doesn’t do this enough.”

In the second half, he’s hit some home runs and raised his average slightly. His slugging has jumped impressively – from .400 to .421 -- in about a month. But because he hasn’t taken a walk since Aug. 19, his on-base has dropped 10 points.

In the field, he’s above average, but prone to boneheaded judgment from time to time – baserunning mistakes, throwing to the wrong base, throwing at the wrong time.

A Placido prediction
If it’s stability he’s seaking, he’d have more luck if a team like the Cubs sign him to be a utility infielder.

If he becomes a starter, at Oakland for example, his time will be short unless he starts getting his walks.

If he can get over that hump, a $4 million contract will be a steal for whoever lands him.