Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Will Venable - Obscure Baseball Player

Even when you follow baseball every day with a boundless passion, there are players that remain black holes in the consciousness. If you are an east coast kind of guy, this could happen even more for teams that play on the opposite coast where all the games start at what is 10:00 our time. But even so, most of us know the Dodgers' players and the Giants. They have been on television occasionally. But the Padres? Quick! Name a player on the Padres lineup not named Gonzalez. Yeah. That's right. One of those guys is Will Venable. Whenever this writer hears that name on Baseball Tonight or something, the quick thought is always, "Who?" Oh, and just a random thought: Since the Padres are already sort of invisible, doesn't it hurt the cause for the team to wear camouflage so that you can't even see them?

It doesn't help that the Fan always calls him Max Venable. That's because Max Venable played from 1979 to 1991 for various teams. He was a utility outfielder of unspectacular variety who had a decently long career despite batting .241 for his career. He was like your garden variety Hairston. But thinking Max Venable isn't that far off because Max is Will Venable's dad.

Another problem is that Venable reminds this writer of the word, "Venerable," which evokes an old guy. But Will Venable isn't an old guy, he just evokes one. Well, the Fan has had this dark spot for too long so it is time to figure out who this Venable guy is. The Fan figured he would take you along for the ride.

William D. Venable was born (according to his Wiki page) in 1982. The Fan already mentioned that he is the son of William McKinley Venable. Yeah, that's Max's real name. He went to Princeton, so he must be a smart guy. He is the 25th guy from Princeton to play in the major leagues. Didn't know that. He was just as good a basketball player as he was a baseball player at Princeton and he made the All-Ivy League team in both sports twice. Didn't know that. He graduated with a degree in anthropology, so at least Venable can understand how baseball players are influenced by their social organization and culture.

According to his Wiki page, he preferred basketball to his father's sport and that's why he chose Princeton. That's the sad thing to the Fan. When the Fan was a kid, every kid dreamed of being a baseball player. Now no kid dreams that way and instead would rather be a basketball or football player. The Fan's theory for that seems to be that the NBA seems more urban and hip and guys like Shaq having rap songs helped build that mystique. The NFL also seems more hip with the longer hair and tattoos long before Manny and others brought it to the MLB. But to get back to our topic, Venable wanted to be a basketball player.

Venable didn't even play baseball his freshman season at Princeton, so that shows you that baseball was a distant second in his priorities. But if you add up that he was great his junior and senior years in baseball combined with the fact that he was only six foot, two inches tall, and the writing was on the wall that baseball was where his future was.

After his junior year at Princeton, he was drafted by the Orioles in the 15th round. But he went back for his senior year and another good Princeton season moved him up to the 7th round of the 2005 draft with the Padres. After signing with that team, he hit the fast track to the majors. He was the Padres minor league player of the year in 2006.

Venable fared a little worse in tougher competition in 2007 and seemed to regress a bit through some injuries. But in the fickle finger of fate intervened in 2008 as a guy named Hairston (hehehe) got hurt and had to go on the disabled list. The Padres turned to Venable. He ended up in 28 games for the Padres and managed to hit league average (no small feat on that team) and played the outfield with good range (though RTOT indicates with some lack of success). Now he is a fixture in the Padres lineup.

He has only played in about half of the Padres games this year and has played all three outfield positions, but after a retched start by Brian Giles, he has become pretty much the every day right fielder. He has nine homers and has posted a line of .271/.339/.468, good for a 121 OPS+ which is very respectable indeed. Despite a small sample size, right field seems to be his best position and his range factor is well above league average there as well.

So who is Will Venable? Well, he seems to be a pretty good player, who at 26 should be coming into his peak years. Heck, he has to be better than Giles. The Fan had a blind spot for the guy and maybe you did too. But now we both know a little more about him than we started with.


eyebleaf said...

These guys are amazing; good at all sports. They have so many options.

Josh Borenstein said...

"Since the Padres are already sort of invisible, doesn't it hurt the cause for the team to wear camouflage so that you can't even see them?"


I took notice of Venable and Everth Cabrera when the Cubs played the Padres. I like both of them.