Juan Pierre Isn’t Happy

Dodgers OF Juan Pierre is disappointed with a lack of playing time this spring. He has expressed his frustration to new manager Joe Torre and has demanded an explanation. Torre says he wants to let things play out with the remaining spring games. The Dodgers have a real logjam in the outfield after the off season acquisition of former Braves OF Andruw Jones. Jones coming to town meant that Pierre had to change from his natural center field to left, and also, compete with some young talent, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. The Dodgers are excited about these two guys and both are having far better springs than Pierre. Ethier is batting .352 with six homers and Kemp is batting .304 with three homers. Pierre however, is batting an uncharacteristic .200. Of course it is only spring, but these two are making the case for increased, if not full playing time.

What may help Pierre in this battle is that the Dodgers inked him to a $44 million deal in 2006. The Dodgers overpaid for Pierre, and he is way too expensive to bring off the bench as a pinch runner. This also makes him less desirable to other teams in a trade. Of course this is more than a money issue though. Pierre, a career .301 hitter, has been one of the more dependable outfielders since 2001. He is blazing fast on the base paths, and he can be counted on to not strike out (NL leading 5.5% strikeout percentage). He’s played in 434 straight games proving his durability. Back to his speed though, he is an excellent lead off man who can bunt for hits and get under pitchers’ skin when he takes his lead off. Ethier is not a skilled baserunner, and Kemp, while he is fast (at 230 pounds which explains his nickname, “The Bison”), is no match for Pierre’s raw speed and great base stealing ability.

It appears that Kemp will be starting in right field this year, so Pierre does not have to worry about him. But Ethier, who came to LA in the Milton Bradley deal, is a young player who played well in 2007. Ethier was a heralded prospect in the minors who is so far, living up to expectations as a good outfielder and future starter. He and Kemp were supposed to be the OF platoon until he took over full time when Kemp ran into the fence early in the season. This increase in playing time allowed him to hit .284 with 13 home runs. Ethier may be a non factor on the bases, but he proved he can get on base and really contribute to the Dodgers’ offense. Kemp is projected to blow up this season. In his injury reduced 2007, he batted .342 over 98 games. He hit 10 home runs and stole 10 bases. Barring another injury, this will be his first real season in the majors, and it will be as the starting right fielder.

It will be interesting to see how Torre will handle this controversy in LA. This seems to be his first real conflict that he must handle as manager of the Dodgers. Will he alienate the veteran Pierre and perhaps other players, by going with the youth, or stick with the proven vet? A surplus of talent is never a bad thing, but someone is going to end up left out and disappointed. I think Pierre will get the nod based on money issues, his previous numbers, which are great, his outstanding speed, and the fact that Ethier is still five years younger than Pierre and would have an easier time being relegated to fourth outfielder. Also, these are just spring training numbers. Joe knows these games don’t count. Pierre is a proven veteran and Ethier could still excel as a fourth man. It is evident that Ethier will play an integral part in the Dodgers future, but at 25, Torre should go the way of the older, more experienced (and pricey) Pierre. Either way, the Dodgers look to be in good shape for 2008 with this deep outfield.

Pierre disappointed in starting status (MLB.com)

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One Comment on “Juan Pierre Isn’t Happy”

  1. Phil (ugueth urbina is burning) Says:

    Most outs in baseball, overrated, etc.


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