Friday, December 17, 2010

Hudson

Orlando Hudson announced today that he will sign a contract with the Padres. According to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, it's a two-year deal for $11.5 million. My initial reaction is, pretty good move, but there are personal reasons at work for me. Hudson is one of the more engaging ballplayers I met as a beat reporter. He realizes baseball is entertainment. He has fun with it. He has fun with life. He percolates with energy. Best of all, in his time with the Diamondbacks, he was an entertaining performer whose spectacular defense alone made him fun to watch.


Now 33, Hudson has declined since his best years with the Diamondbacks. He is still a pretty good player, but not the dynamic performer he was.

Here is some information I gathered on his performance last year with the Twins:

* Hudson was steady but not quite what the Twins were hoping for when they signed him to a one-year deal. Two injuries set him back. He injured his surgically repaired left wrist on May 30 when he collided with center fielder Denard Span. In late July, he strained a right oblique.

* One scout described him as “Slow Dog.” (Hudson's nickname is O-Dog.) That's a bit strong. His speed remained at least average. He's merely not as fast as he used to be. That's typical for a player getting into his 30s. Sometimes he irked the Twins by doing odd things, such as trying to bunt for a hit with a runner on second and no outs.

* An athlete's performance will apply spin to how his or her distinctive behaviors are interpreted by media and fans--and Hudson is an example of it. When he was one of the best second-basemen in the major leagues, his bubbly personality was viewed as a positive source of energy. Now that's he's a pretty average player, his non-stop chatter is more likely to wear on folks. You hear people say things like, “That’s why he keeps bouncing from team to team.” The Padres are his fourth employer in four years and third in the National League West. For the young Padres, I think his chatter and savvy will play well. Hudson can become a mentor to Cameron Maybin.

* If the Padres succeed on attempts to sign first baseman Derrek Lee, the right side of their infield should be good defensively.

* Hudson is a "gamer" who will not coast with a two-year deal. He's still a good fielder who should be a decent No. 2 hitter.

* My expectation is that Hudson's defense will be close to excellent. The infield surface at Petco Park is second to none. Arizona's infield played much faster, but Hudson's first-step quickness and smart angles allowed him to flourish there. He'll think playing defense in San Diego is a breeze, relatively, although he's not as quick as he used to be.

* San Diego's ballpark is brutally tough on left-handed hitters. Hudson, a switch-hitter with subpar power, can ill-afford to allow his swing to lengthen, which can happen when hitters try to gain extra power to compensate for the ballpark. As the 2010 season unfolded, I thought Matt Stairs improved at using the opposite field.

* The Arizona-fication of the Padres continues. Hudson was with the Diamondbacks when Jeff Moorad, Tom Garfinkel, Josh Byrnes, A.J. Hinch and Kevin Jarvis were part of Arizona's front office. In his days as a player agent, Moorad represented Hudson.

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