On Pending Free Agents: Daryle Ward
So far this off season, we've taken a peek at Kerry Wood and a gander at Ryan Dempster, but we haven't even afforded a glimpse toward pinch hitter and bench player extraordinary Daryle Ward. Ward, who is 33, has spent the past two seasons leaving an ass dent on the Cubs bench that nobody could possibly forget, or fail to notice. Last season, in '07, Ward would've been the toast of the town, except he then would have been tempted to eat himself. He batted .327 in 110 at bats with 3 homers, 19 RBI, and an impressive 13 doubles. This year was not his year, though.
In 102 at bats, Ward hit 4 homeruns and had 17 RBI, which compare with his previous season, but he hit only 7 doubles and batted a meager .216. Fans were asking themselves for months about why Lou Piniella failed to cut the guy, as he was clearly not delivering the kind of offensive clout you look for in a pinch hitter. But maybe Lou was just playing the odds. Ward only batted .160 after the break, but 5 of his 8 hits were for extra bases, including 3 homers.
Actually, what we are most likely to forget is that Ward basically spent the season as a walking, semi-running cripple. He went onto the DL on May 18th thanks to a bulging disc, and while he returned healthy his numbers dropped off tremendously soon thereafter.
It's conceivable, then, that Ward will return in 2009 as a healthier and more productive ballplayer. However, realistically, he's not coming back to Chicago. The Cubs don't have a need for him, especially since he wasn't exactly a defensive asset even before his aching back attempted to make a break for it. Besides, the Cubs have the smallest clubhouse in baseball, and that translates into a mediocre buffet table. Ward will look toward greener pastures.
But, hey, let's appreciate the guy. He's just one of dozens to don a Cubs jersey for a couple of years who, three or four years from now, we'll find ourselves saying "wait, when was he a Cub?" In the long run, Ward isn't memorable, but he sure was fun to watch, if only to see if his bulbous ass would swipe the first baseman whenever he rounded the bag in a sprint for second.
Who then, will next year's Pinch Hitter be? I'm thinking Hoffpauir, but don't be surprised if Hendry finds somebody else with a little more experience.