In 12 games this month, Orlando Hudson is hitting .216/.225/.216. He's struck out 12 times and walked only once. He's grounded into three double plays and collected zero extra-base hits.
Normally I wouldn't put much thought into a short slump of this nature, especially since Hudson's month of August was quite good. Yet, I can't help but be reminded of the way his '09 campaign ended.
The second baseman had been a key contributor to the Dodgers' outstanding season. He was an All-Star, in fact. Yet, as the season winded down and Los Angeles nursed its lead in the NL West, Hudson increasingly started to find himself on the bench in favor of Ronnie Belliard. Hudson, who claimed to be perfectly healthy, was held out of the lineup several times in the final weeks of the season and then didn't start a single time in the playoffs. His team played eight postseason games and Hudson made a total of four plate appearances, all as a pinch-hitter.
The situation mystified everyone, including Dodgers fans. Joe Torre is one of the game's great managers, a man who has masterfully guided many teams through the playoffs and who has a solid reputation as a player's manager. He said little about the decision to bench Hudson, but surely one would think there was more to it than the fact that Belliard was riding a hot streak.
It would seem that Torre is not the only one with a rather low opinion of Hudson. It's taken the second baseman until February to get signed in both of the past two offseasons, and he was only able to come away with relatively inexpensive one-year deals while similarly productive counterparts signed more lucrative contracts.
There's a reason that Hudson fell in the Twins' lap late in this past offseason. Every other team had passed on him, despite the fact that he was an All-Star and Gold Glover last year.
For much of this season, it's been hard for me to understand why the league is so sour on Hudson, but the past few weeks have opened my eyes a bit. I don't really hold the low batting average against him, but it's evident from his horrendous K/BB ratio that Hudson's plate approach is in shambles. He looks lost in the batter's box and on Thursday night he made a foolish base running error that was emblematic of his late-season struggles
What's more -- and I'm not the only one to have pointed this out -- is Hudson's demeanor in games. He hardly seems bothered by his failures. After striking out flailing at a low breaking pitch, Hudson grins as he walks back to the dugout. He showboats in the field, sometimes to a fault. Sometimes he seems more friendly with members of the other team than his own teammates. For a competitive guy like Torre, I think that's a turnoff.
And judging by the difficulty Hudson has had finding a job over the past couple offseasons, I wonder whether those kinds of things have contributed to a bad reputation. It's certainly not his performance that's been keeping him unemployed until February each year.
To be clear, Hudson was still a great addition and his production over the course of the season is a big part of the reason that the Twins are where they are. And they're playing well enough right now as a team that his late-season disappearance doesn't matter all that much.
I just hope he wakes up in time for the playoffs.