In honor of last week's Hall of Fame announcement, we have a very special edition of Former Nats Greats today. The latest inductee is the first Former Nats Great to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Without further ado, the newest honoree is...
Congrats to you, Carlos. This year you had your first (and only) shot at the Hall of Fame this year and you received a whopping 0 votes...
Lets take a look at his 16th and final season in professional baseball, the only one played with the Washington Nationals.
The year was 2005, and the Nationals were just moving to the District and Omar Minaya had just finished his firesale of Les Expos. Our system was nearly empty and, though we had no idea who was going to fill out the lineup, Jim Bowden liked Baerga and signed him to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training (See: Reclamation Project).
Not surprisingly he earned a job on the 25-man coming out of Spring Training and became one of the bench players. Baerga rarely played in the field, playing only 38 of his 93 games in that capacity (11 at 1B, 7 at 2B, and 20 at 3B); most of his appearances came in a pinch hitting role. This, I have found, is a very good thing considering his UZR/150 was embarrassingly bad for each position he played in the field. 3B was -3.8. 2B was -26.6. 1B was -28.6. Needless to say I am very thankful that he was a bench player...
Here are his total numbers for that magical 2005 season:
158 AB, .253 AVG, .653 OPS, 40 Hits, 2 HR, 19 RBI, 7 BB, 17 K, 8 HBP, -0.1 WAR
Looking at those numbers, 2 stats jump right out at me. First, that he was hit by a pitch 8 times. Here he was, in the very twilight (Team Carlos) of his career, and he felt that it was most helpful if he keep his bat on his shoulder and just lean in to take one for the team. Besides, you know that your best playing days are behind you when 7 years prior (1999) is labeled "Decline" on your Wikipedia page. Next eye-catching stat, his -0.1 WAR. He was essentially a middle-of-the-road, average player while he was in DC, exactly what you would expect from a spring training invitee.
While looking through the game log for his best/worst games in a Nats uniform, I found a few more interesting tidbits. Such as, although he started the year with the club, he didn't get his first multi-hit game until June 9th in a 4-3 win against Oakland where he went 2 for 3 with a double. And after that game he would only get 5 more multi-hit games all year, only 1 of which was after July 23rd.
July 8th win vs the Phillies - 2 for 4. 3 Runs. 3 RBI. 1 HR.
Tie - July 7th and July 24th - Each game - 0 for 5. 0 BB. 0 K.
Every now and then when I'm lucky enough to see Nationals Classics pop up on my TiVo channel guide I hold my breath and hope that its a 2005 game featuring Carlos Baerga so I get a chance to see him haul his 37 year-old butt down to first. You gave us endless entertainment while you provided the definition of a Replacement Player.
Although your bust will not ever hang in the Plaque Gallery at the Hall of Fame, I can promise you that your bust will sit in a place of honor in the hall of the Former Nats Greats.