After a three month hiatus, I’m back! You all have been very supportive of this series (check out past ones here) and I’m happy to keep thinking about former Cubs to profile. It’s been fun.
Join me as we take a break from Lester, The Hot Stove, Theo’s Deer Urine Jokes, and all things surrounding the 2015 off-season. It’s been exciting, I know. But what could be more exciting that looking back at the career of none other than … Felix Pie!
Sure, I guess the Cubs somehow signing Max Scherzer, or trading for Jordan Zimmermann would be pretty exciting. Or even landing a solid outfielder with a good bat would be sweet. But … nostalgia is always a fun exercise (we can think of Pie’s career as nostalgic right?).
As always, we start:
“Hey you remember [insert name]? What the hell ever happened to him?”
Felix Pie. [Sheesh, this is tough for me to write about. I was on the Felix train in the beginning. Choo choo!]
Pie was signed by the Cubs in 2001 as an amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic. He worked his way up through the Cubs minor league system and did have some success. He was a top 50ish prospect in baseball at one point. However, due to a broken ankle and a drop in performance thereafter, Pie didn’t see his first Major League action until 2007 where, fun fact, his first hit came off none other than Greg Maddux.
Pie’s time in Chicago was … tough. But it wasn’t for lack of effort by the Cubs coaching staff. Sweet Lou took a special interest in the development of Pie. I remember Pinella working specifically with Pie on his defense. I can vividly recall watching Piniella and Pie in center field at Wrigley before games. Lou was helping Pie practice battling the sun and dealing with the ivy. The reason for me remembering this was that I was so impressed by Lou’s willingness to help a player absolutely loaded with potential.
You may say, “So? That’s a manger’s job.” And you wouldn’t be incorrect with this thought. But this seemed a bit different in my eyes. And, as memory serves, in the beginning of Pie’s time on the big league roster, Lou was constantly praising Pie’s development. Time and time again, we would hear how Pie was “developing” and how if he “keeps working” he’ll be a “good ball player.” Unfortunately, as we all know, Pie stayed in that dreaded in-between stage that some ball players talk about. The possibly too-good-for-AAA but not-good-enough-for-majors limbo. And with that, Lou started to grow quiet on Pie. And then he was traded.
Pie isn’t the first player that a manager takes special interest. He definitely won’t be the last. But for some reason, Pie sticks out in my mind. Maybe because I wanted him to succeed, too. But I digress.
A particular painful story surrounding Pie and his time in Chicago deals with …his testicle. In March 2008, Pie had surgery on his “man business” in order to, as some reports said, “risk losing it completely.” Unfortunately for him, one of his testicles had been twisted for some time. Doctors tried the non-surgical approach at first (I feel men everywhere leaning over their keyboard and phones in pain), but were unsuccessful. The surgery, as a result, put him out of Spring Training for about a week. (Ouch. Ouch, ouch, ouch.)
Pie’s time in Chicago came to end in 2009 when he was traded to the Orioles for Garrett Olson and a minor league player, Henry Williamson. (Fun fact: Garrett Olson was traded 10 days later along with Ronny Cedeno to the Mariners for Aaron Heilman).
The Orioles also tried their hand in getting Pie to develop into the player that they knew he could be. Unfortunately his time ran out again in 2011 when he was granted free agency after running out of options (in the baseball sense). He bounced around the league signing minor deals with the Indians in 2011, the Braves in 2012, and the Pirates in 2013.
At the beginning of this year, Pie signed a $250,000 contract with the Hanwha Eagles in the Korean Baseball Organization. He finished the season with a slash line of .326/.373/.524 in 119 games. Not bad. That’s a [Ned] Stark contrast from his career line of .246/.295/.369 in MLB.
Pie’s time in the KBO was interesting. During a game back in May, Pie ran in from center field to have a little chat with his own pitcher, Caleb Clay. All he wanted was for him to pitch better. Apparently the story is that he ran in to tell Clay to “throw more strikes.” You can see more for yourself from MLB.com here. Can’t make that up.
After finishing his fairly successful 2014 campaign with the Eagles in Korea, both Pie and the Eagles expected him to return in 2015. However according to a report out of South Korea, it sounds like talks have broken down and the Eagles are moving on. It also sounds like he was a fan favorite. Check out this quote from the Yonhap News Agency:
“In 119 games as the team’s mainstay in center field, Pie batted .326 with 17 home runs and 92 RBIs. He also endeared himself to the fans with some eccentric routines on the field and charitable donations off the field.”
Sorry, Eagles fans! I just wish I knew what “eccentric routines” means. I need more. But it does sound like he tried to be part of the community with the charity work. I dig that.
At any rate, Pie’s time in the MLB can be summed up in one word: potential. Piniella saw it, as did other coaches and managers. Pie, unfortunately for us and him, wasn’t able to quite put it all together.
“Where Are They Now” status: Free Agent! There’s your OF bat, Theo.
I kid. I kid.