The Commish Online                                                                                
Doc Brown Awards
May 30, 2003

Every year, there are a few players whose names are mentioned on a highlight show sometime in the middle of the season that make you say, "Is he still in the league?  No way!  I'm sure he retired or just couldn't land a job anymore.  There must be some kind of mistake!"  You are convinced that Al Martin is now a third base coach somewhere, only to find out that you were thinking of Al Newman.  Martin is still swinging the stick for the Devil Rays.

There are only two explanations:  either you absent-mindedly stepped into Doc Brown's DeLorean, set for 1997, or all the Baseball Tonight highlights of home runs and strikeouts have caused you to forget about the middle men that keep the game alive as you skip the boxscores the next morning in favor of that must read article on Ben and J.Lo.  Don't worry.  You are not alone, so we have compiled a list of the top ten players that surprise us when we see their name on an MLB roster in 2003, otherwise known as the Doc Brown Awards, because we must have gone back in time to see these names.  They aren't necessarily the oldest players in the league, nor are they the worst.  They are just ten players whose current job status comes as a shock to the avid baseball fan.

10. Tom Gordon - Chicago White Sox
Gordon had success in the 90's, Steven King wrote a book about him, then he had major arm surgery, only to reappear in a Cubs uniform.  A couple DL stints and a late season trade to Houston later, we just assumed he retired, but in the world of the watered down majors, Gordon is now blowing late inning leads for the White Sox.

9. Jesse Orosco - San Diego Padres
Most people are familiar with Orosco's ridiculous longevity but are always convinced that the previous year was his last.  This is the first year in some time that Jesse is actually struggling to get the job done (7.63 ERA in 15+ innings), and since he's 46, surely this will be his last year.  Right?

8. Pat Hentgen - Baltimore Orioles
Appearing in only 22 games since signing with the O's in 2001, you can't fault those who thought Hentgen retired.  Heck, he's only won 3 more games the past three years than Nolan Ryan, so he's almost retired already despite his existence on Baltimore's roster.

7. Darren Bragg - Atlanta Braves
Bragg is a career part time player who couldn't keep a job, yet here he is, backing up the outfielders on the team with the best record in baseball.  Bragg started in '94 and has never hit more than 9 home runs in a season, but his decent fielding skills have kept him on a roster every year.

6. Tom Prince - Minnesota Twins
Wait a minute - wasn't Tom Prince a backup catcher for those late '80s Pirates' teams that had Bonds and Bonilla?  Yes, and now he's a backup catcher for the Twins, 15 years later.  Oh, and by the way, his career average is a less than robust .209, so he must call one heck of a game to be sticking around this long.

5. David Cone - New York Mets
Cone actually came out of retirement this year, despite being downright brutal since the ball dropped in 2000.  Nothing indicated that he would have success again, but the Mets convinced him and his 40-year old ailing body to pitch again.  Bad move.  He won't be on this list next year because he will be sitting home, thanking the good lord that he quit just in time to keep his career ERA under 3.50.

4. Ron Gant - Oakland Athletics
It only seemed natural that when David Justice retired, Ron Gant should have followed him out the door.  Gant has remained consistent with his power and mediocre batting average over the years, enabling teams to acquire him and his known quantities.  This year, Oakland is giving him a second look, but his days may be numbered.

3. Steve Avery - Detroit Tigers
Avery's baseball existence in 2003 comes as a real shocker because he has been out since 1999.  He tried unsuccessfully to rehab his arm in the Braves system for a couple years, but never regained enough arm strength.  He finally seems healthy and, at only 33, might stick around a few more years.

2. Carlos Baerga - Arizona Diamondbacks
Another guy that was out of baseball for a couple years, everyone gave up on Baerga only to find out years later that he can still produce.  He forced his way into some at bats with Boston last year and is doing the same thing with the Diamondbacks in 2003.  Hitting .297 with some decent run production, Baerga will give Bob Brenly something to think about when all of his infielders are healthy.

1. Dan Plesac - Philadelphia Phillies
Dan Plesac?  No chance.  He retired about 4 years ago, sometime around when Paul Assenmacher hung it up.  Nope.  Plesac, in his 40's, is still getting lefthanders out with the Phillies.  His numbers the past few years actually look better than his mid 90's stats.  With his average innings per years topping out at just slightly more than his age as of late, Plesac might be giving a team 50 innings of work when he hits the half century mark.  Have left arm, will travel.  Just ask Jesse Orosco.

Notes and Predictions
Closer by committee and starter by committee
With Byung-Hyun Kim joining Tim Wakefield on the Red Sox pitching staff, Boston possesses the most versatile staff in baseball, which should help ease the necessary "rests" Pedro's arm has needed the past couple years.

Battle for fourth
With Pittsburgh getting healthy, look for Cincinnati's late inning magic to dry up as the Pirates pass them in the standings around mid June.

Turnaround in sight?
The White Sox will be over .500 by the All-Star Break and will pass the Royals as they start their midseason player auctions.

Sticking to my guns
Going through their worst stretch of the season (3-12 in mid May), the Yankees find themselves just a half game behind Boston, which is why I still believe that the Yankees will win the division but the Red Sox will go further in the playoffs.

Less in store for Mora?
Melvin Mora is hitting almost 100 points above his career batting average and his OPS is a whopping 1.059 (career .753 OPS).  Beware the law of averages, because Mora's current numbers best Barry Bonds' career numbers, and MM is no BB.