Friday, August 25, 2006

Center of Attention

You're probably thinking that this is just another in a seemingly endless string of stories about the Cleveland Browns problems at center. You'd be wrong. Sure, we noticed that the Browns signed their 83rd center this pre-season and sure we're hoping this one is drug-free.

So then you're thinking that this is probably another column about the Indians and their improbable comeback against the other night against the Kansas City Royals. You'd be wrong, again. Sure, we noticed that on the night that the Royals set a franchise record for most runs scored in the first inning they also set a franchise record for squandering their biggest lead ever. And sure we noticed that manager Buddy Bell is fast approaching personal records for managerial frustration. Some 900 games into his career as a manager with Detroit, Colorado and Kansas City, Bell is a about 150 games under .500 and has a lifetime winning percentage of .422. That's a lot of bad baseball.

But no, this isn't about either. It's about Russell Branyan. Little noticed perhaps was yesterday's news that Branyan was traded by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the contending San Diego Padres, supposedly to add depth to the Padres. To those of us who know and love Branyan, he's batting a lofty .201 with 12 homers and 27 rbi. Of course, that's what Sportsticker is reporting. What they're not reporting is some of Branyan's other offensive contributions. For example, through 2006, he has played in 600 games and has 659 strikeouts. But it's not just the strikeouts. Consider, for the moment, the enormity of a career on-base percentage of .323 or a lifetime batting average of .229.

But what is amazing is that the Padres gave up two players to get this kind of depth, sending a 23-year old Class A player and, of course, the infamous player to be named later. Sure, the Padres as touting this on their web site as the acquisition of a "versatile" player. It's true that Branyan can play several positions. It's just that he doesn't play them well. His career fielding percentage is .964. But even that is inflated. He's played most of his games at third base where his fielding percentage is .944. Even the Tribe's current butcher, Aaron Boone, has a carrer fielding percentage that is nearly 8 percentage points higher than Branyan. In the outfield, Branyan has a career fielding average of .968. Pick almost any outfielder and you'll find a better fielder. Jose Canseco, who let a ball bounce on his head and over the fence for a home run? .972. Mel Hall? .981. Leon "Daddy Wags" Wagner? .964. You get the point.

The Padres P.R. staff is right, you just can't buy this kind of versatility.

It reminds me of the short story we wrote, which we'll syndicate here, about Russell Branyan. Look for it in installments in future posts.

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