Finally I get to wrap up the 2005 third baseman in this edition while also going a little further back than normal to a name I absolutely do not remember but found a weird quirk in his two stints with the Dodgers.
There’s so many impressively bad performances from that 2005 season, and yet this last third baseman is impressive given the fact that he actually rebounded to have an impressive year in 2006 unlike many of the others.
Coming off of a .216/.287/.473/.760 line with the White Sox in 2004, the Dodgers signed Valentin to help play third with Adrian Beltre gone. A shortstop for much of his career, he’d slowed down enough by age 35 to not be used as the primary guy there (where the Dodgers also needed some offensive help).
Honestly, he wasn’t truly terrible before a knee injury knocked him out for about three months in the middle of the season. I’d expected to see worse when I ran the dates, but Valentin slashed .194/.364/.358/.722 with a 97 wRC+ and a 18.2 BB% during the stretch where he did help out quite a bit.
(A completely unrelated aside, I forgot how great Jose Cruz Jr. was at the end of 2005. In 46 games and 178 PAs, Cruz was worth 2.2 WAR, a 145 wRC+ and a .928 OPS.)
When he returned, it went pretty poorly for the final two months. A 37 wRC+ and a line of .150/.292/.188/.480 in 96 PAs left Valentin as a pretty huge failing by Paul DePodesta, and he was among the many problems in the Dodgers’ lineup. Amazingly, Valentin’s -0.4 UZR at third was third-best among the seven guys who played at the position in 2005, with the previously mentioned Oscar Robles bringing up the rear at -1.9.
With all that said, Valentin moved to New York for 2006 and rebounded with a .271/.330/.490/.820 and a 106 wRC+ across 432 PAs. Naturally in seven games against the Dodgers during that season, Valentin managed to go 7-for-24 with three doubles and a home run with 4 RBIs. Nothing amazing, but he had literally eight extra base hits for the Dodgers in the previous season.
(Note: I did skip one of the third baseman from 2005 because I didn’t feel like bringing up his baseball career was worth it when he had a constant history of domestic violence.)
I did not remember who Luke was before writing this and stumbling upon a weird quirk of his quick career. He played for the Dodgers in 1998 after being claimed off of waivers from the Yankees the previous September, and was the subject of this profile on ESPN sometime during his year in Los Angeles:
Having appeared in exactly one game in 1996 for the Yankees, and only as a pinch runner who came around to score, Luke never stepped to the plate in New York. He then spent the first two months of 1998 as the Dodgers’ pinch hitter and occasional starter at first base, left field and right field. That stint went pretty well, with a .286/.313/.494/.806 line before he was designated for assignment as the Dodgers needed to make room for another pitcher, having been carrying just 10 at the time (seriously, what?) according to a very old LA Times article.
Cleveland claimed him off of waivers and he recorded two hitless plate appearances for them before being designated for assignment. The rest is likely pretty obvious, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be writing this much about him.
The Dodgers claimed him right back, and he proceeded to play in another 69 games with 176 PAs from mid-June to September. It didn’t work out quite as well for the 27-year-old, with the line dropping to .213/.278/.425/.703, though he did have a two-home run game for the Dodgers in St. Louis and a five-RBI game in San Diego.
That ended his career with the Dodgers, as Luke signed with the Angels ahead of the 1999 season, but he played in just 18 games and recorded 32 PAs in the majors. A Southern California native, I suppose it was pretty nice for Luke to be able to play for both teams in his career.
Luke’s career pretty much ended there, which still seemed surprising given some of the other careers I’ve looked through doing this. With no stats in 2000, a short run in indy ball in 2001 (in Long Beach, actually) and stints with Triple-A Durham and in Mexico during 2002, Luke wrapped up his playing career.