] -- Oh, the one that got away. As much as we've been patting Jim Bowden
on the back, and as good a job as he did cobbling together a piecemeal team that surged late to 73 wins, he didn't exactly push every
Under the "transactions" banner in most newspapers came this almost unnoticed line: "February 7th 2007: Carlos Pena was signed by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to a minor league contract."
Now, I did noticed it, but didn't give it much thought. Pena, after all, has tried, and failed, in five different cities in less than four years. No one thought he was any good. His best year was .241-27-82 with the Tigers in 2004. He was signed by the Yankees in April of 2006 to a minor league contract but was released shortly thereafter. Pena then signed - yes, another minor league contract - with the Red Sox in August only to be released shortly thereafter yet again. So most believed that he wouldn't even make it to opening day with the Devil Rays.
Well, not exactly.
Pena became Tampa's starting first baseman and had a monster year. He batted .282-46-121 with 103 walks and a 1.038 OPS. Defensively, he was just as good, garnering a .993 fielding percent, committing only 8 errors all season long.
And he did all this on a league-minimum contract.
Look, I'm not saying that Jim Bowden
didn't do a great job; he most certainly did. But man, how much better would this team have been with Carlos Pena? Put Pena at first and make Dmitri Young the #1 pinch hitter on the team and you'd have to believe that the Nationals would have won five or six more games with those 50+ additional RBI's
. Now, I realize the Dmitri just won the "Comeback Player of The Year Award," and that's wonderful for him and for the team and for the city. But Pena won
the AL CPOTY, and Dmitri's .320-13-74 would have come in a distant second to Pena's .282-46-121. Don't get me wrong; I love Young, and I love his big smile, but statistics don't lie. Pena had the more amazing season.
I hope that someone needles Jim Bowden
about the one that got away over the winter. Actually, the two that got away if you count Brendan Harris' .286-12-59, .343 OBP
, also with the Devil Rays. I think he just might have been the preferred guy at short this year.
I'm just sayin