No ballplayer strives for the title of professional pinch hitter, but I must say, this role could easily be the best job in all of baseball – if not the world.
You get more off days than on days, the pressure rarely exceeds that of a game-winning at-bat and although you’re not an everyday guy, you’re not the bullpen catcher either.
Plus, the job pays pretty well too.
This week Mark Sweeney decided to end his 14-year career spent primarily as a pinch hitter.
He’s played for seven different clubs, collected (175) pinch hits -2nd All Time- and made $5.3 million bones doing so.
Not a bad gig.
Now retired, Sweeney, 39, is playing the role of coach on Joe Torre’s staff in L.A.
And coincidentally, Sweeney joins a Dodgers’ coaching staff which already includes the all-time leader in pinch hits, Lenny Harris (212), and the third career all-time pinch hits leader Manny Mota (155).
How does that happen, I don’t know?
But my guess is this threesome probably has to work harder at coaching than they ever did riding the pine for seven and half innings.
Another Sweeney, Mike (not related), is still playing out the string in Seattle.
He’s younger, 34, than Mark, but hasn’t played in more than 126 games in a single season in the last seven years…and 74 during the past three seasons – all due to injuries.
Yet, eight long seasons ago (2000) Sweeney smashed 29 HR, knocked in 144 RBIs, posted a .333 avg. and sported a remarkable .407 OBP .
He was 26-years-old then, and the season prior (1999) he put up 22 HR, 102 RBI; in (2001) 29 HR, 99 RBIs…and this was all accomplished playing in god-awful Kansas City, mind you.
Heck, there was even a stretch where he played in 171 consecutive games, and surprisingly that was only broke due to a suspension (charging Jeff Weaver) and not injury.
So, I always figured it was just a matter of time before the super-talented hitter ditched K.C. ending up a Yankee or a Red Sox or even a Met.
However, all the injuries cost him the chance to cash in, both in the wallet and the win column.
And now, after 17 MLB seasons, all that’s left is a pinch hitting role with lowly Seattle.
Sure, it’s not an everyday thing, but it’s not bullpen catcher either.