On Wednesday, Sept. 28, the entire country, nay the world, witnessed the culmination of the greatest collapse in the history of baseball.
People all across the globe sat in bewilderment in front of their TVs, stared blankly at their computer screens, clicked furiously on their phones to constantly refresh — all in a state of panic, writhing in agony as this futile record was broken.
I’m not talking about the Boston Red Sox blowing what was a nine-game wild-card lead on Sept. 4 to miss the playoffs.
I’m talking about Eugenio Velez, Major League Baseball player for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It was a gutsy call, but Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly put in Velez, a second-baseman/left fielder, as a pinch-hitter in the top of the 8th inning.
With a batting average of .000 after going hitless in all 36 of his season’s at-bats, Velez had one more shot to get that first hit, something most every other player in Major League Baseball did 25 or 26 weeks ago.
And the world waited.
With a surprisingly good eye, Velez takes the first pitch, a four-seam fastball outside. Ball one.
He swings and misses at the second pitch, another fastball. Strike one.
The third pitch is a cutter and he takes a rip — and makes contact. The ball goes soaring — all the way to the second baseman, who fields the routine grounder and throws the ball to first.
And just like that, Velez cements himself as perhaps the worst hitter in baseball history.
His final stat line in his 34 games played is as follows: zero hits, 11 strikeouts, .000 batting average.
It’s actually kind of amazing; Velez broke a 75-year-old record in a sport dominated by tradition and records. The most at bats by a non-pitcher without getting a single hit was 35, recorded by Hal Finney back in 1936 with Pittsburgh. Now, Eugenio Velez will get his name in the record books with his 0-for-37 season.
He’s actually gone hitless in his last 46 at bats, if you go back to his 0-for-9 finish in 2010. That streak breaks the 0-for-45 record shared by three other players.
It is hard to put into words just how bad Velez was this season.
Velez is so bad that he makes Jeff Mathis look like Ted Williams, and Billy Ashley look like Willie Mays.
Velez is so bad that despite his 663 career MLB at bats, when he’s up it’s like watching a minor league player. I take that back — that’s not fair to minor league players.
Velez is so bad that if I was on the Dodgers, my batting average would probably be higher than his. And I have still yet to advance past the 50 mph zone at the batting cage. You can’t really bat any worse than .000 though.
Velez is a lot like his teammate, MVP-candidate Matt Kemp, only if Kemp couldn’t hit for average, couldn’t hit for power, couldn’t throw, couldn’t field and couldn’t run. Other than that, they are almost identical.
I was thinking that the .100 batting average mark should be named the Velez line, just as .200 is the Mendoza line. Only, Velez was nowhere close to .100. He would have had to somehow squeeze out five consecutive hits, a stretch seemingly impossible for him.
You see, besides the fact that Velez is arguably the worst hitter of all time, he’s also bad at everything else. The guy has decent speed and would often come in to pinch run, but he only had one steal in 2011. He has decent athleticism, but about as much range at second base and left field that Bengie Molina would have. Or David Ortiz.
I feel kind of bad ragging on the guy, especially now that the season is over. Never mind. I’m totally fine ragging on him. Maybe if he had gotten one hit — a bloop single, a grounder between short and third, a bunt single — I wouldn’t be taking my frustration over the Dodgers’ ownership out on Velez.
Before this season, Velez was best known for his days with the Giants, when he ran onto the field one time wearing a jersey that spelled San Francisco “San Francicso”.
Looking back, that was probably the high point of his career.