Friday, August 13, 2010

Operation Bum

That Derek Bell hit .173 with the Pirates in 2001 is enough to qualify him as a bona-fide Burgh Bum. Yet his failure to flirt with the Mendoza Line is not what leads many to consider him a Bum. (Editor's note: the Mendoza Line is baseball's ultimate mark of mediocrity. The Mendoza line for batting average is generally set at .200, and named after longtime joke Major Leaguer and former Pirate Mario Mendoza, who frequently hit below the mark. Future Bum of the day? Stay tuned.)

All told, by the time he arrived in Pittsburgh, Bell had carved himself out a career as a solid big-league outfielder. He was, however, becoming closer and closer to reaping his AARP benefits, like many Bucco free-agents in the 2000's. He had won a World Series with Toronto in 1992, when Canada's Team defeated the heavily-mulleted Philadelphia Phillies. Bell went on to play for San Diego, Houston, and the Mets before arriving in Pittsburgh. In Houston, he was the lesser known of the "Killer B's" along with Jeff "Buff" Bagwell and Craig Biggio. Bell hit and fielded well, but did offer the occasional glimpse into his impending fall from grace. Case in point, he decided to choose the comeback game of Houston skipper Larry Dierker to air his displeasure with playing time. Dierker, who'd made a courageous recovery from a heart-attack in the dugout, was welcomed back by this mustached malcontent pissing and moaning about hitting sixth.

Bell came to Pittsburgh essentially because no one else wanted him, a fact he promptly validated with his paltry batting average in '01. Problem was, in Bell's eyes, a veteran--even one who hit .173--shouldn't have to compete for his job in Spring Training. What Bell told reporters that spring would become his legacy:

"Nobody told me I was in competition. If there is competition, somebody better let me know. If there is competition, they better eliminate me out of the race and go ahead and do what they're going to do with me. I ain't never hit in spring training and I never will. If it ain't settled with me out there, then they can trade me. I ain't going out there to hurt myself in spring training battling for a job. If it is [a competition], then I'm going into 'Operation Shutdown.' Tell them exactly what I said. I haven't competed for a job since 1991."

Operation Shutdown remains in effect to this day. Bell bailed from Spring Training shortly after, earning his release, and has been out of baseball ever since. He was last sighted in 2008 when he was arrested on possession and paraphernalia charges. In 2006, he was also arrested after police found crack cocaine and a warm crack pipe in his car during a routine traffic stop. He couldn't sniff the Mendoza Line, but boy can he sniff the white line. Hoooooooo.

Bell akso bears an uncanny resemblance "Super Troopers" character Arcot Ramathorn, ironically a law enforcement figure (above left).

FACT: Bell pitched an inning of mop-up duty as a Met in 2000, where he lit up the radar guns with pitches that mostly failed to top 50 MPH. We've seen harder throws in the carnival games at Kennywood. The Pirates ended up paying him $4.5 million to NOT play for them. The Super Genius himself, Mark Madden summarized the incident saying, "Derek Bell becomes the ultimate Pirate: Lives on a boat and steals money." What a bum.

The Best Damn Sports Show Period even made fun of the bum!(6:50 mark)


  1. Thank you for posting this clip! I've wanted to watch it again since it first aired!

  2. Jays beat the Braves the 92 World Series, not the Phllies.