Ryan Freel: For real?

April 28, 2009 |

I tuned in to MASN’s pre-game show before the team took on the LA Angles Tuesday evening. I’m just a glutton for punishment in that way. Rather than the standard homer-ish fare, I was subject to a brief interview with Ryan Freel, who was more than a little miffed with being placed on the disabled list and being held out of his scheduled rehab start.

Freel not-so-subtly hinted that he would like a trade now that it is clear that he has no role with the Orioles.

It’s a fact that Ryan Freel, who was a part of the Ramon Hernandez trade this offseason, will not have many opportunities to play. The Orioles are clearly in rebuilding mode, so they’ll want to see what prospects like Lou Montanez and Nolan Reimold can do. And if Ty Wigginton ever gets on track, Freel will be lucky to find his way into the lineup more than once a week.

But you know who shouldn’t be complaining about this? Ryan Freel. Here’s a few more facts about Ryan Freel.

Fact: Before going on the DL, Ryan Freel was hitting .133 with 2 hits in his first 20 plate appearances this season.

Fact: Ryan Freel hit .216 in Spring Training, with 20 strike outs in 74 at-bats.

Fact: The Orioles tried to make Freel their backup shortstop by giving him regular reps at SS this Spring. Freel didn’t have the range or arm strength for the position, forcing the O’s to carry Robert Andino.

Fact: Ryan Freel only played in 48 games in 2008 and 75 in 2007. He took multiple trips to the DL because of recurring concussions.

If anything, Freel should be thanking the Orioles for giving him some rest. He has a history of head injuries, which could cause irreversible damage later in life. Further, an extended rehab assignment may help him speed up his bat and work his way out of his slump.

Rick Dempsey and Roch Kubatko would have you believe that Freel is complaining because he is “a competitor” who “just wants to play.” But that is bunk. You know it. I know it. Hell, I’m sure Dempsey and Kubatko know it, too.

Freel is a 33 year-old injury-addled player on the decline who is just hoping to put up good enough numbers to catch on with another club next year. His attitude has nothing to do with being “a competitor” and everything to do with being a “me-first” player. Freel is set to make $4 million dollars in 2009 whether he is a part of the team or not. He’s making it clear he’d rather take his $4 million from the O’s and go elsewhere.

Freel thinks he would be more valued elsewhere. Where? Show me a major-league club just dying to pick up a .200 hitter with injury problems. I’m not saying it’s too late for this guy to turn it around, but at this point the Orioles would be lucky to get a low-level prospect in return for Freel. At his current value, he doesn’t have a spot on an MLB roster.

If he doesn’t like his role with the club, Ryan Freel should talk to the last guy who was unhappy with his diminished role with the team. His name is Jay Gibbons, and he just signed up for a second stint in the independent Atlantic League where he’ll be playing in beautiful Newark, NJ.

Maybe Gibby can give Freel directions to Bears Stadium from the Turnpike.