Aerus Betts

Allow me to begin with a number or three. These numbers are: 13.8, +122, and +6. In order, they are the defensive wins above replacement-level player, total fielding zone runs above the league average right fielder over 10 seasons at the position, and total fielding zone runs above the league average second baseman in a hundred games at the position.

They belong to a man who has the total WAR (64.5) that's considered almost 4.0 WAR above the level at which a baseball player qualifies himself for the Hall of Fame, assuming nothing else on his resumé might compromise or negate his case. A man who now consents to play shortstop for the Dodgers full-time, and whose departure from Boston may have hastened that formerly proud team's current malaise.

Markus Lynn Betts (no tasteless jokes, please about the middle name which is also the legal first name of an antique legend named Nolan Ryan), nicknamed Mookie, is moving from second base to shortstop because the Dodgers' intended shortstop, Gavin Lux, has a problem or three throwing longer distance than he does from second base.

Betts has been known as the Mookie Monster for the things he does with a bat. He's not exactly a benign presence with a glove on his hand pursuing a batted ball in the field, either. By the time he retires as a player, he may earn a nickname for the things he has done and will do with his glove and throwing arm.

"The Roomba" will not do, since Betts is anything but robotic. "The Shop Vac" will not do, either, since Betts is neither rumbling nor obese. "The Hoover" belongs to the late Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, even if Betts beats, sweeps, and cleans batted balls with similarly effortless-looking performances.

"Aerus Betts" sounds about right. The Aerus is an elegant tank vacuum, once known as the Electrolux, before that Swedish company pulled out of the United States, leaving its two American plants' staffs from the top down to buy the plants and continue making the correct Luxes under the Aerus banner. Betts in the field is that kind of elegant and that kind of effective.

That former Swedish parent now makes vacuum cleaners about which "hideous looking" and "hideous sounding" are almost compliments. Betts is neither hideous looking nor hideous sounding, except maybe to an opposing pitcher who's just fed him a pitch to hit transoceanic. Or, to an opposing batter inspired to swearing after a sure base hit is turned into a split-second out. By the time Betts finishes the coming regular season at shortstop, he may well accomplish two things at once.

Thing one: he may remind people of the acrobatics they've missed since the Wizard of Oz (Ozzie Smith) went from the field to the Hall of Fame, though unaccompanied by the game-opening cartwheels and back flips. Thing two: he may remind people older than myself of a too-often-forgotten Yankee jack-of-all-trades.

The late Gil McDougald wasn't the kind of star that Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and Mickey Mantle were. He was merely a fair hitter and a fielding whip at the infield's three toughest positions. He finished his distinguished career in double figures for defensive runs above his league average at third base, shortstop, and second base alike. Betts has the opportunity to finish in double figures at right field, second base, and shortstop.

It may not shock Dodger fans or anyone else if, some time before he retires, the Dodgers decide Betts might be a better third base option than whomever they had going in. Betts is that kind of versatile and that kind of selfless.

Too many players making themselves comfortable somewhere on the field react as though being offered a castor oil on the rocks when asked to do likewise somewhere else. Ask Betts to move from one position to the other gets nothing but "Put me in, Coach." So far. He's played five out of nine field positions in his major league life so far. Three more even once apiece may not be unthinkable before he's done.

No manager has yet asked Betts to pitch late in a lost-cause game. This may be a combination of both certain wisdom (the Dodgers are not frivolous about their pitching, especially when their pitchers incur injuries) and lack of opportunity.

Last season, the Dodgers played 64 games which Baseball Reference classifies as blowouts (BR considers a blowout a lead or deficit of five runs minimum) and won 45 of those. They also won 10 games in which they scored in double digits — and advantages of 9 runs or more. Betts didn't turn up on the mound once in any of their 19 BR-defined blowout losses.

Would you be shocked if manager Dave Roberts, trying to survive the last inning or two of a very rare Dodger blowout loss in the making, looks toward his Mookie-of-all-trades and asks, "You got an inning in you to throw up there?" You might be shocked only long enough to hear Betts say, "Put me in, Coach."

Heard of the eephus pitch? Betts might have an Aerus pitch to serve an unsuspecting batter. At this point, nothing he does upon request or otherwise would surprise just about anyone paying close attention.

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