Wilson Valdez, hitting his only home run of 2011. Let us make this man our king! MVP! MVP! MVP! (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)
Today is a big day, everyone, and I'm sorry to interrupt it. I know you're all preparing for the massive homecoming parade, and decorating your "Welcome Back MVP!" cakes. But we here at The Good Phight couldn't let the return of Wilson Valdez to his REAL home ballpark go unheralded.
Ok, so almost none of that is true. At least I hope not, because if you're actually decorating a cake like that, please seek help.
What is true is that tonight, Wilson Valdez returns to Citizens Bank Park for the first time since he was traded to the Reds in January. He rode into town in 2010 on a wave of "I'm sorry, I don't have any idea who that is." and in just two short years became... well, what he became depends on who you ask. But he was certainly talked about. By everybody. At length.
It's not like Valdez was brought in to be a starter -- he signed to a minor league contract prior to the 2010 season. It was the never ending litany of Phillies injuries that gave him the chance to win over our hearts. He was brought up from Lehigh Valley when Jimmy Rollins injured his calf, and hasn't smelled the minors since. In 2010, he played 111 games for the Phillies mostly at shortstop and second base. I remember noticing his cannon-like arm in the infield, and also noticing that he couldn't actually hit very well. Improbably, he hit .258/.306/.360, but also grounded into 20 double plays.
Surviving the torrent of "VALDEZ FOR EVERY DAY SHORTSTOP" is something we should all be proud of, dear readers. We all bear those scars, and we should wear them like badges of honor. We survived.
Valdez began the 2011 season as a stand-in at second base for the injured Chase Utley. In 99 games, he played a combination of second base, third base, and shortstop, and batted .249/.294/.341. Those are... numbers, right there. (An OPS of .635! What's not to love!) But of everything Wilson Valdez did during his time in Philadelphia, he will remembered for his actions -- no, wait -- heroic actions on the night/early morning of May 25-26, 2011.
In the 19th inning of the Phillies' six hour Bataan Death Game against the Reds, Valdez pitched one scoreless frame in relief and picked up the win, becoming the first player since Babe Ruth to get a win on the mound while starting the game in the field. That's... OK, that's actually pretty cool.
Despite his seemingly endless versatility (three infield positions AND pitcher!), the Phillies traded him to the Reds in January 2012 for lefty reliever Jeremy Horst. How has the trade worked out? I'm so very glad you asked. In 56 games with the Reds, Valdez has "hit" .205/.232/.227. (Hit may be not be the right word. You don't hit for that line as much as you flail into it.) On the other side of the trade, Horst was called up at the end of June when Chad Qualls was shot out of a cannon/DFAd and Joe Savery was optioned back to AAA. In sixteen games and 17 total innings, he's given up three hits, two earned runs, seven walks, and racked up 20 strikeouts for an ERA of 1.06. To say that's a good return for Valdez is a huge, huge understatement.
These next four games are going to be tough. If you for some reason fall into the "COME BACK WILSON I MISS YOU SO MUCH" camp, it will be hard for you to see him playing for another team. Also, you should get that massive, bleeding head wound looked at because it's probably impairing your judgment. If you fall into the camp that hates Wilson Valdez, you will have to tolerate everyone who loves him constantly bitching about how bad the trade was and how great he was and how much he would have helped the team. (Which: no, no, and probably not in any significant, season-changing way.) And if you're like me, someone who appreciates Valdez for what he was but in no way misses him, you'll have to tolerate everyone in the first two camps fighting until you've had enough and your ears and eyes start bleeding.
However, if someone tries to make a correlation between Valdez leaving and the Phillies shitty season, we should all band together to root out that person and their associates, and then rise up to begin the bloody revolution that will someday lead us to the promised land of rational baseball thought!
Welcome back, Wilson.