Daily Dodger in Review: Casey Blake’s injury-riddled season
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CASEY BLAKE, 38, third base
Final 2011 stats: .252 batting average, four homers, 26 RBI, .342 on-base percentage, .371 slugging percentage in 202 at-bats, and eight errors.
Contract status: Free agent.
The good: Well, sometimes you can only stretch things so far. He came out with a successful surgery? He remained great in the clubhouse? He had a decent April (.321)? Sadly, there just wasn’t much there.
The bad: There was just precious little that went right for Blake last season. He went on the disabled list three times (back, staph infection, neck) before finally succumbing to neck surgery. He never really was healthy all season.
What’s next: Before assuming retirement, you’d best remember Blake’s competitive nature and the late start to his major-league career. When he first tried to come back from his neck injury in August, he was still planning on playing next year. If that seemed less certain after his surgery, he still talks like someone who wants to come back. His days as an everyday third baseman are certainly over. But if he can prove he’s now healthy it’s not unrealistic to think a team might take a flier on him as a reserve corner infielder and right-handed pinch-hitter. Even the Dodgers.
Meanwhile, he’s healthy enough to scare the daylights out of kiddies at the haunted house he supports back in Iowa. His new role — Michael Myers.
The take: One of the first things the Dodgers did at the end of the season was to decline their $6-million option on Blake next year at a cost of his $1.25-mil buyout. At the moment, they’re counting on — get excited now — Juan Uribe being their starting third baseman next year.
Blake was always a class act and a solid presence in the Dodgers’ clubhouse. And even if he cost them dearly (losing catcher Carlos Santana in the trade with Cleveland), he still gave the Dodgers three solid seasons at third base. And you don’t need two hands to count those guys.
I would love to see him come back next spring on some kind of incentive-laden contract as a reserve, but at this point it might be best for both parties to move on. The Dodgers need to be able to count on healthy backups, and Blake will turn 39 next August. Maybe they roll the dice and figure that reduced playing time might help keep him healthy, but if not, he’ll be missed.
— Steve Dilbeck