Brian Bocock claimed off waivers

I’d like to write it’s the end of an era, but that’s not true. It’s just the end of an easily identifiable trademark of the current era. Brian Bocock, praise be unto his defense, was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays. I can almost understand the move from Toronto’s point of view – if you ever fall off the Sears Tower, just show off a strong throwing arm and good range and people will try to catch you because, hey, free defensive-minded shortstop.

It’s debatable whether or not the Giants did Bocock a favor by making him the Opening Day shortstop in 2008, or if they hurt his development. I’d go with the former. He got a pay boost for a few weeks, and he got his face on a baseball card, which is something a lot of professional baseball players aren’t going to be able to say. It remains a longshot for Bocock to ever be even a passable role player in the majors – stranger things have happened, don’t get me wrong – but he’ll always have that feeling of standing out in the field on April of 2008 and playing in front of 40,000 people. I’d do some goofy things to have that same feeling just once in my life.

But Bocock will always stand out to me as a symbol of Brian Sabean’s disregard for minor league statistics. It’s not that Sabean ever thought that Bocock was going to be anything other than a light-hitting defensive shortstop; it’s that Sabean thought Bocock could fake it long enough to buy time until Omar Vizquel returned from an injury. Bocock was a shortstop who was just six months removed from hitting .220 in A-ball and was just over a year removed from playing for Stetson University. But he passed over whatever AA or AAA shortstop should have been in place in the event of an emergency – Ivan Ochoa, in this case – to go with Bocock. Why? Not entirely sure, but I can guess:

Because minor league statistics don’t mean anything, Bocock probably wouldn’t hit any worse than utility shortstops throughout the league, but his defense would make him more valuable than any sort of waiver wire shortstop the team could dredge up.

Is that about right? Because when Bocock struggled, the team brought up Manny Burriss, who had done even worse in the Cal League the year before. That move was like trying to put out a kitchen fire with a speech – at no point did it even pass through the orbit of something that made sense…unless you don’t think that minor league statistics mean anything. Like, anything.

Unfortunately, Burriss hit well for his last 100 at-bats, and then he did well in the spring. But that’s a Sabean-related post for another time: "Why Small Sample Sizes Are More Trustworthy Than Large Sample Sizes." This is a post about Brian Bocock: defensive juggernaut, light hitter, lightning rod for inappropriate puns, and metaphor. After hitting .143 in the majors, Bocock hit .163 in AAA. He did boost it up to .241 in his second go-round in the Cal League as a 24-year-old.

In the winter of 2008, Sabean looked at his roster, saw a 40-year-old shortstop penciled in as a starter, looked through the organizational depth chart, and thought, "If Vizquel gets hurt, unlikely as that may be, we can probably make do by bringing up Brian Bocock. It wouldn’t be an ideal situation, but how bad could he be?" He then resumed not thinking about a legitimate backup plan for a 40-year-old shortstop. This is because minor league statistics are useless.

Also, Bocock.

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