Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Marilyn Monroe's Son, Craig

Hey, Craig Monroe is a pretty good jock, but his mom, Marilyn Monroe, was the standout, starring in softball and basketball when she was growing up in Texarkana, Texas.

But when she became pregnant with Craig as a teenager, she gave up her shot at college to raise her son. But she never lost her skills.

Monroe couldn't beat his mom at basketball until he was a high school sophomore. And he was a pretty sweet hoopster, named All-State as a shooting guard at Texas High, where he set a record for most three-pointers in a game.

On the gridiron, he was a star wide receiver and cornerback who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game.

Baseball was an afterthought in school. He was never really a star player, though he did excel in the local summer leagues. But a dislocated shoulder changed his plans.

He went to Texarkana JC, as his bum wing scared away the college recruiters bird dogging him for the other sports, and was debating on which sport to focus on when the Texas Rangers made the decision easy. They took Monroe in the 8th round of the 1995 draft, attracted by his tools and athleticism.

It looked like they may have wasted a pick for the first few seasons of his career as he floundered in the low minors. But he broke out at AA Tulsa in 2000, hitting .282 with 20 homers, 64 walks, 12 steals, and a .506 slugging percentage.

He was jumped to AAA Oakland in 2001, and hit .280 with 20 homers, 10 steals, 46 walks, and a .512 slugging percentage. He worked hard to improve his defense, considered a minus by most scouts. Monroe had the speed and arm, but was clueless running his routes.

Monroe hit .212 in a 27-game, 52 at-bat audition with the Rangers in 2001, with 2 dingers, and found himself on waivers.

The Tigers claimed him, and sent him to AAA Toledo, where he hit .321 with 10 HR and 49 RBI in 99 games. Scouts began to see him as a potential MLB fourth outfielder, and the Tigers as more.

Monroe got into 128 games for Detroit in 2003, hitting .230 with 23 homers and 70 RBI. He put together three pretty good season after that, hitting .293/18/72 in 2004 and .277/20/89 in 2005.

Monroe will remember 2004 for a different reason. That's when he was pinched for wrapping a $30 belt around his waist and trying to walk out of a Florida store without paying for it. His record was cleared after he spent some time in a rehab class.

His 2006 campaign made his rep, as he hit .255 with 28 HRs and 92 RBI. Monroe's grand slam off Javier Vazquez help separate the Tigers from their closest pursuers, the White Sox. He also tied a franchise record by hitting five home runs in the postseason, and was thought of as one of the big-time clutch hitters in the league after that those performances.

But as quickly as it came, it went. Mid-way through the 2007 season, Monroe, who lost his starting job in left field to Marcus Thames, was hitting only .222 with 11 home runs and 55 RBIs in 99 games for Motown. The low light came when he struck out 5 times in a 9 inning game against the Milwaukee Brewers, earning a platinum sombrero.

The Tigers called up minor league whiz kid Cameron Maybin and DFA'ed Monroe, eventually shipping him and cash to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Clay Rapada. He hit .204 with a long ball for the Cubbies in limited work off the bench.

Before the 2008 season, the The Twins acquired Monroe from the Tigers for a player to be named later. They released him in August after 58 games and a line of .202/8/29.

Monroe made $4.7M with the Tigers and Cubs in 2007, and in 2008 the Twins signed him to a one year deal worth $3.82M. It's a pretty safe bet the Bucs inked him for a bunch less.

What does C-Moe bring to the table? Well, his D never improved a lot. He can play the corners, and his youthful speed has long left him, although his wheels are still OK and he has a nice arm.

Monroe is a streaky batter, and the right-handed batter can't hit righties worth a dang. He's hit .276 and .271 against LHP the past two years, and .138 and .194 against RHP, and is a platoon/PH guy all the way. Monroe has struck out a lot (26%) and walked a little (7%) for the past two seasons.

He's still pretty clutch, though, with .283 and .254 RISP averages the last pair of seasons, considerably higher than his overall batting average. So Monroe has a decent chance of sticking with the club, especially if the suits, for reasons known only to them and the baseball gods, plan to team Steve Pearce and Neil Walker together at Indy for another year.

And when Andrew McCutchen debuts, he could give the Bucs a RH outfielder with a little pop to play RF and Nyjer can slide into the LH centerfield role, maybe platooning with McCutch.

It's not a major move, but the pieces fit together for 2009, anyway.


WilliamJPellas said...

Ron, I take it from your comments that you believe we should have Pearce and/or Walker in Pittsburgh rather than Craig Monroe? I would be very glad to take an extended look at Walker---particularly with worse-by-the-moment Andy LaRoche currently at third---but Pearce? I am not a believer in him. I think he's a fringe major leaguer at best. Think for a moment about this: if we had a stronger organization that had larger numbers of legitimate prospects in the upper minors, would we even be talking about Pearce? Personally, I don't think so. Your thoughts?

Ron Ieraci said...

We've got who we've got, Will, and I think there comes a time when you let them play to see what they've got talent-wise. Monroe is just a stopgap. It seems to me that they have "their guys" and then others that can do no right. That's all - I dunno if they're just more examples of Littlefield AAAA guys or not, and we'll never know if they don't get a shot at the show.

WilliamJPellas said...

Fair enough, and I agree with you in principle. I just don't believe in Steven Pearce. That said, he certainly hasn't had much of an opportunity to this point. Andy LaRoche, it seems, has a much longer leash, and that would seem to be an indication---as you say---that holdover Littlefield guys are basically screwed unless their name is McLouth, Maholm, or Doumit.