Casey Blake was cut by the Rockies on Tuesday. Suffering from nagging injuries and nearing 40, it might be the end of the line for him. So, itís time to pay a little bit of appreciation to a man who deserves to be known as the man who was traded for Carlos Santana
A 7th round draft for the Blue Jays in 1996, Blake had two unremarkable seasons and then burst onto the scene with a .995 OPS in 1998 between Single and Double-A and then put up an .829 OPS for Triple-A Syracuse in 1999. He also debuted for the Jays that season, putting up a .256/.293/.385 line in 41 plate appearances. He was lost to waivers to the Twins, who lost him on waivers to the Orioles who subsequently lost him back to the Twins.
At the end of 2002, Blake had amassed 125 major league plate appearances for a .232/.304/.339 line for a 67 OPS+. He was 28, turning 29 during the next season, and had just had two seasons putting up a mid-800 OPS for Edmonton, but looked like he might become a Triple-A veteran who would serve as injury backup. He signed a minor league contract with Cleveland for the 2003 season.
And then I donít know what happened. Ricky Gutierrez was Clevelandís primary third basemen in 2002 and, although he struggled, he was coming off two seasons for the Cubs where he had put up a mid-700s OPS. He played infrequently for Cleveland during the 2003 season, only during June and July, so I assume he got hurt at the beginning and end of the season. Credit should be given to Mark Shapiro, who is a bright executive, and he had several SABR-savvy personnel in his front office at the time, so they probably identified Blake as a key Triple-A talent who could aid the team.
In any case, pressed into starting duty, Blake showed what he can do. He posted an unremarkable .257/.312/.411 line for a 93 OPS. On a major league minimum, it was good enough for Blake to earn the starting job the next year, where he hit 38 doubles and 28 homers for a .271/.354/.486 line for a .839 OPS and 122 OPS+. In 2005, Blake put up a 99 OPS+ on the strength of 32 doubles and 23 homers.
He then started four straight years of posting OPS+ of over 100. After posting a 115 and 103 for Cleveland, he had a 121 OPS+ at the trade deadline in 2008 when Cleveland swapped him to the Dodgers for Carlos Santana. Blake filled Los Angelesí weakness at 3B and helped the Dodgers to the playoffs. He signed a new three-year deal with Los Angeles and had a great 2009, when the Dodgers also made the postseason, with an .832 OPS and 122 OPS+. In 2010 and 2011, Blake posted a 98 and 99 OPS+, respectively. Blake struggled with injuries in 2011, amassing only 202 at-bats, which was just the second time that he didnít have at least 500 at-bats since becoming a regular.
For his career, Blake racked up 1,186 hits, 167 homers and made enough money to last the rest of his life. Thatís quite unexpected for a player who had 26 hits and 2 homers, a career .637 OPS and a solid, but unremarkable, Triple-A career at 28.
What else is going on in the world of baseball, Bauxites?