On Monday, Texas Rangers catcher Austin Hedges was a guest on Chris Rose's podcast. He told Rose that Eric Hosmer was the best player leader he's seen in the big leagues. Then he went on to blame, "nerds" for Hosmer's career falling apart.
Hedges and Hosmer were teammates from 2018 to 2020 with the San Diego Padres. Hosmer was a clubhouse leader on an eight-year, $144 million contract, while Hedges was a defensive wiz who struggled at the plate. Hedges was traded to Cleveland during the 2020 season as part of a blockbuster trade that landed Mike Clevinger in San Diego. Hosmer was moved at the trade deadline in 2022. Hedges thinks he knows the reason.
While lauding Hosmer's leadership skills, Hedges said the way the first baseman was treated in San Diego was "terrible." He claimed his work in the clubhouse was worth wins, "but if your OPS isn't sexy enough for some of the nerds, then you're just not a valuable player."
Here he is discussing Hosmer:
So, there's a few things to unpack here. First, it's not shocking Hedges is down on OPS -- or any statistical measure of value. His career OPS is .568. In 2023, his OPS is .454. He's always been an excellent defensive catcher, but he's garbage in the batter's box.
Second, if Hosmer wasn't making nearly $20 million a year, his OPS might not have mattered as much. As it was, during his first four seasons in San Diego, Hosmer slashed .264/.323/.415, for an OPS of .738. In 2022, the season he was finally traded, in 90 games he slashed .272/.336/.391 for an OPS of .727. He was a below average offensive player making a ton of money.
Hosmer was also awful in the field at first base. The fact that he won four Gold Gloves during his time with the Kansas City Royals is all the evidence you need that the voting system is massively flawed. He won those Gold Gloves on reputation alone. Hosmer was awful at digging balls, costing his teammates countless errors. He made boneheaded decisions and missed easy plays routinely. His fielding was so bad it was meme'd to death.
Here's the thing: yes, being a leader in the clubhouse is absolutely important. Keeping a team in a good place mentally throughout a grueling MLB season is difficult. Having players to run the clubhouse and keep guys in check is a big deal. But if that same player repeatedly costs the team on the field, it negates any positive impact behind the scenes.
Aside from being a liability at the plate and in the field, Hosmer refused to change his approach. An extreme ground ball hitter, he never embraced trying to lift the ball to create more valuable contact. His average launch angle in his first season with the Padres (2018) was -1.5. Yes, a negative launch angle. It jumped to 8.7 during the COVID-shortened 2020 season and, guess what? He had his best season with the franchise, slashing .287/.333/.517 (.851 OPS). Then it was back to bad as his launch angle was at 3.3 in 2021 and 3.1 in 2022.
At some point, clubhouse leadership isn't enough. Players have to lead on the field as well. Hosmer couldn't do that in San Diego and it's why the Padres dumped him. Then the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs did as well. He's sitting at home right now and not on a major league roster and "nerds" aren't to blame for that.