clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The semiotics of longing for Yuni

The existence of a market for Betancourt signifies his suitors' outmoded approach.

Let's begin our passage down the dark halls of the horrible with a simple statement.

Yuniesky Betancourt is a human being -- and a particularly adorable one at that.

He's just not a particularly good baseball player. It's not indictment on his value as a person.

His brow-furroughing survey of reality is no more pathetic than yours or mine. His brain is the same milky storm of accidents as ours, and his legacy as creature that walked around inside the bubble surrounding this hunk of stardust will probably be more relevant than anything I can hope to achieve in my life.

It's just that ... he really isn't good enough to play Major League Baseball.

The inadverbial miscarriage of his career would seem to be a pretty insurmountable obstacle for him to overcome.

Apparently, it isn't.

The market for Yuniesky Betancourt has been well-reported, often accompanied by the audible laughter of the author -- and that makes sense. He's been one of the worst players in baseball during his career, not to mention one of the worst Betancourts of all time. Yet, somehow, teams still want to sign him.

But what does the remaining interest -- as baffling as it is -- mean?

Author's note: I'm sure you're wondering why anyone would spend any more time on this subject. Two reasons: One, I don't have anything better to do. And two, this isn't really as much about Yuni as it is about the teams that have -- or still -- consider him a Major League Baseball player. If you don't want to read about his shortcomings again, I don't blame you, but it's kind of obligatory to the point for me to at least skim over the details. Please skip the next section if you''re well versed in his deficiency.


Author's note: This is the section I was referring to.

Quickly, he's never been good or even average offensively.

Source: FanGraphs --Yuniesky Betancourt

And despite being touted as a "slick fielding" shortstop early on (one writer compared him to Omar Vizquel!), he is far from good defensively. He's posted a stunning -74 defensive runs saved (!!!) in over 8,000 career innings at short.

He started out as a "charming" clubhouse guy. Then, he became an American -- which is to say, he gained weight and people began questioning his work ethic.

So, he's not good with the bat or the glove, and you can't exactly call him a grinder -- unless, of course, this is the reference.

Author's note: This is the end of the section I have now referred to for a third time.


Betancourt has spent time with four major league clubs in his career. The Mariners, Royals (twice), Brewers (twice), and briefly, the Phillies.

So what's the common thread?

None of these teams are actively using analytics. And none of them have had consistent success under their current general managers. These organizations continue to give work to radically unproductive players, almost rebelliously.

If they could just let him go, Yuni could move on to the Mexican League -- his first home outside of Cuba -- or Japan, and continue his career at a level of play that might suit him a little better. As it stands now, they simply refuse to take advantage of all the information available to them.

It's almost like an inadvertent punishment for both sides.

As it stands now, his former teams -- and any team stubborn enough to consider him now -- will probably struggle to be as consistent as their malleable competition. Happy accidents happen -- like the invention of baseball, or the planet Earth, for that matter -- but rigidly fighting against progress is a good way to lose.

Sabermetrics isn't a militant nerd-coup that will capture and hegemonize baseball.

It's just more detailed information to be used as an appendage to traditional evaluation of performance -- another link in the evolution of stats.

It's been worse.

And it'll get better.

But in the end, the nebulous history of baseball stats --and what they tell us about players like Yuni -- will probably end up looking a lot like the history of everything else.

Sometimes, things change hard, but looking back, it seems crazy that they could have been different than they are.