Casey Blake: the bargain-bin MLB player

Chris Crowell

My girlfriend showed me a funny clip from the reality show “Surviving Motherhood” the other day. The mom on the show made her young son macaroni and cheese. Apparently, this was a different mac and cheese than normal. Sonny was not happy. He wanted his “ABCs!” He threw a fit and declared, “I don’t like it. This is NOT my favorite!”

I thought it was a funny complaint, and I bring it up because many Indians fans sound like this when talking about Casey Blake. I’ll pause here so everyone can shout his favorite obscenities.

We all want our “ABCs” and Blake is Value Time pasta in the shape of Millard Fillmore. He’s boring. His chin is big. He has mediocre numbers. He is NOT our favorite!

He’s a career .260 hitter. He bats .224 with runners in scoring position. Who could forget his 2005 on-base percentage of .308? Ouch.

Despite Blake’s puny numbers, Indians general manager Mark Shapiro goes out of his way to find him a spot. Blake used to start at third. When the Indians signed Aaron Boone, Blake moved to right field. This year, the team signed Trot Nixon to platoon with Blake in the outfield. Did that lessen Blake’s time? Nope. Blake moves to first on the days Nixon plays.

Rumor has it Shapiro is working out a deal to let Blake also play nose tackle for the Browns and point guard for the Cavs.

Did I mention he bats .201 with runners in scoring position and two outs? Not quite the production one expects from a corner outfielder/first baseman.

I am definitely not here to say that Blake is awesome. I can’t. His numbers show us, unequivocally, that he is not awesome.

However, Blake is extremely valuable. He is versatile. He can adequately play anywhere on the field. He has a great arm in the outfield. He sees a lot of pitches and makes opposing pitchers work. And let us not forget he only makes $3.75 million a year. Blake has value for a mid-market team like the Indians, especially in a platoon situation. I fully understand why Shapiro wants to keep him around.

The Blake hatred is misdirected. If he stinks in big spots and is merely a quality role player, why is he taking at bats away from Ryan Garko and posing as a middle-of-the-order hitter? Blake can’t tell you. The answer is somewhere within the cobwebs of Eric Wedge’s brain.

That is why I can’t hate Blake. He’s maximizing his menial talents and doing anything he can to help the team win. He’s not penciling his name in the fifth spot. He’s not demanding time at first base.

Garko should be the everyday first baseman. Blake should platoon with Nixon and move down in the order. Suddenly, Blake is working left-handed pitchers, doing the little things to win games and not being relied on in big spots.

Blake is who he is. He’s an average guy who’s not a big run producer, and he gets paid as such. Everyone needs to stop hating him for things he can’t control (place in the order, number of at bats) and appreciate (tolerate) him for the things he brings to the table.

He’s NOT my favorite either. Then again, neither is Value Time macaroni and cheese, but at 35 cents a box, I can’t complain.

Contact sports columnist Chris Crowell at [email protected].