Delino DeShields Jr., right, stole 18 bases in 24 games for the Lancaster JetHawks, third best on the team. But that’s not the whole story.
It’s the go-trade when one is listing the worst deals in Dodgers’ history, and, in hindsight perhaps one of the most lopsided in all of baseball: In November of 1993, the Dodgers sent a young long-relief pitcher named Pedro Martinez to the Montreal Expos in exchange for second baseman Delino DeShields.
Martinez had a 10-5 record and 2.61 ERA as a 21-year-old with the Dodgers, but the concern in the front office was this kid at 5-foot-11 and barely 170 pounds couldn’t hold up over the long haul.
DeShields was a risk-reward prospect who, in four years at Montreal, stole 42, 56, 46 and 43 bases. He also struck out 96, a league-high 151, 108 and 64 times. But Dodgers GM Fred Claire was at a contract impasse with Jody Reed, and needed to do something.
DeShields was the answer. And turns out, the answer to a trivia question.
He lasted three injury, complaint-filled seasons with the Dodgers, stealing 27, 39 and 48 bases and never really playing a full year. His strikeouts: 53, 83 and 124. He left the team as a free agent in 1996 having stole more in contract money than anything else. He ended up with 463 steals in a 13-year career that continued in St. Louis, Baltimore and the Chicago Cubs. He’s currently the manager of the Cincinnati Reds’ Single-A Dayton Dragons, having spent the last four seasons in the team’s minor-league organization.
As for Martinez: 18 seasons and 409 starts in the big leagues, claiming three Cy Young Awards, winning 219 games, being on eight All-Star teams (one All-Star MVP award), five ERA titles, three strike-out titles, with a possible Hall of Fame induction awaiting him.
Are the Dodgers doomed to repeat that by giving away Rubby De La Rosa to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for more than $250 million in contracted players? Some are already wondering that.
But it isn’t the only reason why the name of DeShields has popped up again in Southern California baseball:
The Lancaster JetHawks, the single-A affilate of the Houston Astros, ended the regular season with an 11-5 win at the High Desert Mavericks on Monday. In seventh inning, JetHawks second baseman Delino DeShields Jr. stole second base after drawing a walk — giving him 100 steals between his time with Low A Lexington and Lancaster. A few moments later, DeShields stole third to finish the season with 101, most ever for an Astros minor leaguer.
The 20-year-old DeShields, Houston’s first-round pick in 2010 (No. 8 overall), stole 83 bases at Lexington in 111 games before being called up to Lancaster.
Cincinnati Reds minor-leaguer Billy Hamilton finished his sason with 155 steals with the Single-A Bakersfield Blaze, but wasn’t called up to the big team when rosters were expanded.
The JetHawks (74-66) aren’t done yet. They face Lake Elsinore in Game 1 of the playoffs on Wednesday. The JetHawks have clinched a playoff spot and home field advantage in the South Division Mini-Series. Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) are at The Hangar in Lancaster on Thursday and Friday.
Maybe after that, the Astros call him for pinch-running duties?