Go to the 2005 page on Baseball Reference for your favorite team. There will be at least one guy you forgot. Maybe you remember the guy's name, but there's no way you can remember what he looks like, what his swing was like, or how he ran. Some players come up for a brief spell, get a couple dozen at-bats, and disappear into the ether.
Then there are players who have short careers, but whose memory is burned into your frontal lobe. There isn't a Giants fan alive who has forgotten about Eugenio Velez. There isn't a Dodgers fan alive who wouldn't like to forget him.
|2011 - Eugenio Velez||24||30||2||0||0||0||0||1||2||7||1||0||.000||.063||.000|
I was going to describe Velez as having a nondescript career, but there he goes, being descript. Thirty at-bats in 2011. Nary a hit. If he keeps it up, he's close to the record for a non-pitcher. That record belongs to Hal Finney, who batted 35 times for the 1936 Pittsburgh Pirates without getting a hit. Velez needs a) at least five more at-bats without a hit, and b) to not play very much until the end of the season. If he keeps playing, he just might get a hit and ruin everything.
If you're not Giants or Dodgers fan, you might not have heard of him until just now, but he's amazing. He's fast, but he can't run the bases. He certainly can't bunt. You might think Steve Carlton holds the all-time record for pickoffs with 144. You'd be wrong. Velez has about 167 (rough estimate). He can't play second base or the outfield, which makes him like a Jack Cust, but one who is routinely stuck at second base, or in the outfield. When Velez plays baseball, Hunter Pence stops to say, "My word, that Velez fellow is gangly and awkward."
There are other factoids that add to the legend. His middle name is Vancomper, which is awesome. He is quite possibly the most successful minor-league Rule 5 draftee ever, which is something you should note the next time you're curious to know who your team picked in the minor-league Rule 5 draft. And he's the kind of player who can wear a "San Francicso" jersey all game without anyone noticing.
Oh, heck. These words are useless. Let's look at a .gif made by Chad Moriyama:
What we have here is Velez a) doing some weird glove-flip in b) an attempt to throw out a guy who c) is six inches from third base, but he d) throws the ball over everybody before e) crashing into an umpire. It took me a while to realize it was an eight-second .gif that looped. I thought I was watching a 63-minute video of every play Velez has ever been involved in. This .gif is as Velez as possible. It's a shame that the camera cut away right before he was picked off while playing the outfield.
So the purpose of this article is twofold. First, I'd like to point out that Eugenio Velez has had 30 at-bats this season without a hit. That's extraordinarily hard to do. If he gets six more at-bats this season without getting a hit, he'll set a record for a non-pitcher. This is noteworthy stuff. But second and most important, I want you to think who your Eugenio Velez is. Who is the one player that you will never forget, even though he is the footnote to a footnote's footnote in the history of baseball? There has to be that one guy who sticks with you.
Velez is my guy, and as odd as it sounds, he'll always be one of my favorite baseball players, even if he might be the most frustrating baseball player I've ever watched. He's baseball, that guy. He's the unpredictability and playfulness of baseball condensed into a single player. He's pure baseball, for better or for worse. Usually worse.