Empty Calories

Scan 139

The past couple of weeks have been busy for former Mariners who have entered the coaching ranks. Another one was in the news on Friday, as the Angels promoted minor league hitting coordinator Jeremy Reed to major league hitting coach…

In her younger years, our daughter had a tendency to request one thing from my wife before her weekly trip to the grocery store (or of me, should I make a trip to the market): Lunchables.

Unless you’re living in an alternate universe, you’re at least familiar with Lunchables, the prepackaged lunch containing processed meat and cheese, crackers, artificially flavored fruit drink and desert! It’s a convenience “food” loaded with saturated fat, sodium and sugar, conceived by marketing genius Bob Drane, who at the time was VP of new business strategy and development for Oscar Mayer.

It was hard to say no to our daughter because she was such a picky eater when she was younger (took after her old man). And when you have a picky eater and they find something they like, as a parent, you’re relieved and are susceptible to giving in to their wishes- no matter how unhealthy the food might be. In her mind, the lunch tray was a perfectly healthy lunch choice. But we knew better and would buy them only sparingly.

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If I had been collecting around that time (2004/2005-ish), I would have, without a doubt, been going to card shows, the Beckett Marketplace website and eBay to buy (or trade for) Jeremy Reed cards. Named the best pure hitter and base runner in the Mountain West Conference, where he played for Long Beach State, Reed had been drafted 59th overall in the 2002 draft by the Chicago White Sox, and reminded me a lot of one of my favorite players at the time, Mark Kotsay.

Baseball America would later go on to name Reed the top prospect in the Southern League (AA) following the 2003 campaign, a season in which he hit .409/.474/.591 in 242 at-bats along with 7 HR, a 29/19 BB/K ratio and 18 stolen bases. Fangraphs had him ranked as the #4 prospect in all of baseball following that season. Thus, when, on June 27, 2004, the Mariners traded Freddy Garcia and Ben Davis to the south side for Reed, Mike Morse and Miguel Olivo, Mariners fans had reason to be excited. That excitement only increased after a September call-up saw Reed hit .397/.470/.466 (with 7 walks vs 4 k’s) in 66 plate appearances. At this point, Jeremy Reed looked like a pretty healthy option for the franchise going in to the 2005 season.

But because this is the Mariners we’re talking about, any excitement the fans had about Jeremy Reed was extinguished following a rookie season in which he compiled a 2.0 WAR (Baseball Reference). A sophomore slump ensued, the result of JR forsaking the level swing that made him a line-drive hitter and, instead, employing an uppercut. As a result, Reed watched his strikeout totals rise; his walks, diminished. This new approach at the plate only intensified the struggles he already had against left-handed pitching, as he went 0-23 against southpaws during the 2006 season. And while Jeremy’s slugging percentage was up from the previous season, his OBP and OPS dropped significantly. Even his base running- a strength in college and the minors- was a mess (17 steals/ 15 caught stealing in his first three major league seasons). A broken thumb in July (mercifully) ended Reed’s sophomore season and, effectively, his career in Seattle.

With his long list of ingredients, I thought Jeremy would be a well-balanced player and, like so many others, I really thought he would help the Mariners eat Chicago’s lunch. Turns out the player we received in the trade contained nothing but empty calories.

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