In Memoriam…? Doug Slaten

As my ‘About’ attests, I am a fan of the lefty reliever specialists, LOOGYs, if you will. As some of you may also know, I have been a hardcore Doug Slaten follower, as he has journeyed through the back roads of the backends of various bullpens. I have my reasons, as I will touch upon shortly, but for the moment, I would like to salute Doug for some great fond memories. I would also like to thank him for his game worn Nationals away jersey, and his locker plate:

\m/

Slaten, a recent DFA victim by the Pirates, has done what many a lefty has done in the game, and that is come in, get the occasional lefty out, and in general, grease the wheels for a win; he has done so in yeoman-like fashion. No frills, just get outs. His stay with the AAA Indianapolis Indians this year was awe-inspiring numbers-wise, giving up a solitary run all season, but also damning of his place as a AAAA player, as we can gather from his MLB numbers. Yet, to carve out a 7 year career as a lefty with middlin’ at best stuff is impressive, and it is with this post I applaud Doug for his work, dedication, and persistence in getting this far as a professional pitcher.

A 17th round draft pick back in 2000, Slaten bounced around a number of California junior colleges – Glendale CC, LA Pierce JC, and El Camino CC – until bouncing some more, this time around the minors, culminating in a Southern League All Star nod in 2006. Overall, Doug flew under the radar, and for all intents and purposes, was destined for bullpen work. While never a prospect, it must be noted that a 7 year career out of a 17th rounder is more than anyone can ask for. Ponder this – in 2000, 7 LHPs were drafted in the 1st round, with the top 3 picks (#4, 9, and 10) never making it to the bigs. Of the other 4, Sean Burnett has had the most decorated career – as a lefty short reliever.

Hindered by injuries, his pitching repertoire, and the ceiling of his talent, Slaten’s career has nevertheless fascinated me, and I unabashedly follow his trajectory. I see what could’ve been for my own baseball career, as a lefty reliever with iffy stuff, that just got hitters out while bouncing around the California junior college and NCAA ranks in his day. I never made it – injuries, and a simple ‘no’ to an offer for a tryout made an abrupt, but euthanasic end to that life chapter – but you always tend to find yourself in others that did. While Doug and I are more enantiomeric than mirror images, there is that arrogant, narcissistic notion that creeps into my thoughts on occasion that makes me feel like I somehow blazed a trail for him, being a few years older, and having shared some cursory baseball career parallels. Of course this is total BS, but fandom and rational thought are things that will never be twinned or made to agree.

I leave you to peruse the baseball URL of your picking to further investigate Slaten, and his career, whose nadir didn’t make it much past sea level in terms of altitude. I hope you look into the numbers, and look at them not so much in sympathy, but more as a Rosetta Stone of dedication, hard work, and unbridled passion of a game that is littered with instances of fractions. Only a fraction make it to the bigs, and fractions of seconds determine the difference between weak grounders, and home runs, as well as nasty sliders, and unintentional BP fastballs.

The fractions summed up to a whole number for Doug, and I hope he can tack on another one.

Year 8.

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