Sad news for fans of 35-year-old utility players today, as the Astros released David Newhan. I haven't been able to confirm the rumor that he was stretching his hamstrings like a ballerina on the dugout rail when he got the news.
I liked David Newhan well enough when he played in Baltimore, which admittedly has a lot to do with the unreal blazing start he had in the summer of 2004. He arrived as a 30-year-old journeyman with 63 major league games to his credit, but played 95 in that first year with the O's. He earned his playing time by hitting over .400 for his initial five weeks with the team. Overall he hit .311 with 15 doubles, 7 tripes, and 8 home runs and 54 RBI. He played at all four corner infield and outfield positions and always seemed to be hustling, stealing 11 bases and only getting caught once. His father Ross was a well-known sportswriter, which added a bit of warm fuzziness to the story.
But David never recaptured that initial magic. He was frustrated by a lack of playing time early the next season (four starts in April), and spoke up. Regardless of his recent success, it might not have been smart to play the squeaky wheel when he was still largely a fringe player (one who was struggling to hit his weight in the here and now). Though Newhan got more playing time as the season went along, it coincided with a downturn in the team's fortunes and a rash of injuries, and it didn't do him much good either. His average plummeted to .202 and his status with the club seemed shaky. Though he did return for a third season, a reasonably strong start was derailed by a broken leg suffered while running the bases. David missed four months, and that all but brought his time in orange and black to an end.
Newhan spent 2007 and 2008 in the National League, where his versatility may have been better utilized. But he hasn't come close to matching his red-hot summer of 2004, and he had an awful Grapefruit League run with the Astros this March (.182 with no extra-base hits). Apparently, he wasn't happy that he first heard that he was out of the backup shortstop competition by reading an article on mlb.com. If that's true, I'd have to agree that manager Cecil Cooper could've handled things better. But David's 35 now, and his spring numbers were awful. Considering that he couldn't crack a team that's prepared to go forward with Geoff Blum as its starting third baseman, I wonder if he'll be calling it a career soon.