The Daniel Robertson Problem

Everyone loves an underdog story, so much so that there’s no need to explain why. It’s understood. In sports, the underdog story is usually about a team or player who doesn’t look like it should be successful, beating the odds. Books and movies are made about underdogs. In the area of baseball nerd books alone, there’s Michael Lewis’ Moneyball and Jonah Keri’s The Extra 2%, about lowly teams outsmarting the league to beat the odds and be successful. Just about every great baseball movie is an underdog story, from Major League to Rookie of the Year to Bull Durham to The Sandlot.

The Padres are a consistent underdog. Maybe the biggest underdog in baseball. They rarely have the necessary talent, the financial means or the front office acumen to compete with the rest of the league, and when somehow they are able to be competitive, it’s a delightful surprise. Many of the reasons why they’re an underdog are the fault of the people who have run the franchise, but I don’t want to get into that right now.

The biggest underdog playing right now for arguably the biggest underdog franchise is Daniel Robertson. While four members of Padres Public, Brady from Lobshots, and Megan Olivi were out in the right field bleachers  delightfully shooting the shit during the FSSD broadcast Wednesday (thanks for the shout out David!), I was falling in love with the guy wearing number 92 and starting just to the bloggers’ right, in right field.

I knew of Daniel Robertson before he went 2-4 with a triple, single, and a couple very nice plays in the outfield. I knew he was drafted the same year as once highly touted prospects Jaff Decker, James Darnell, and Logan Forsythe. I knew that he had risen through the system while playing on several excellent Padres minor league teams, like the 2009 Ft. Wayne Tincaps who won 100 games and the Midwest League Championship, and the 2011 San Antonio Missions team that won 94 and the Texas League Championship.

I also knew he was short. I knew that he is listed at 5’8” online but that, even with cleats on, he’s probably more like 5’6” at the most. I knew that this was what makes Robertson an underdog. Being a 33rd round draft pick after playing 4 years of college ball isn’t what made him an underdog. He’d been one long before that.

After lettering for 3 years playing both baseball and football at South Hills High in San Antonio, Texas, Robertson didn’t get any division 1 scholarship offers. He started his college baseball career at Concordia University, Irvine (CUI). A short drive from the UC Irvine campus, the Eagles baseball team plays in the NAIA Division 1, along with schools like San Diego Christian College (my sister’s alma mater) and Cal State San Marcos. Robertson excelled so much at CUI that he transferred to Oregon State in his senior year, started 50 of 52 games for the Beavers, and was named to the All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention team.

Had it all ended there, that would have been a great story to tell his grandkids someday, but not only did the Padres draft Robertson in 2008, he keeps performing well and they keep promoting him. He competently plays all 3 outfield positions, has consistently hit .300 with a .370+ OBP, and he’s stolen at least 18 bases a year.  He played the entire 2012 season for AAA Tucson, and he’ll start the season there again in 2013. Robertson is now 27 years old and knocking on the door of the major leagues.

Here comes The Daniel Robertson Problem. I want to root for Daniel Robertson. How could you not want him to be on the Padres? It’s a great story, and watching him play baseball is exciting and heartwarming. The problem is that for Robertson to be anything more than a September call-up for the team, something will have had to have gone terribly wrong.

If Robertson played SS, he’d be in the majors right now, be it for the Padres or someone else. Unfortunately, he plays in the outfield, and there just aren’t a lot of opportunities for a player his size to get a chance in the majors. The Padres have plenty of guys who can play outfield already on the 40 man roster, and 2 on the 25 man roster, Will Venable and Chris Denorfia, that can play CF if Cameron Maybin misses time this year.

Fellow 2008 draft pick and frequent Tucson to San Diego Southwest Airlines flyer, Blake Tekotte, may have been traded to the White Sox in November after being DFA’d, but that’s just one obstacle Robertson has to overcome. Carlos Quentin will likely miss time this year, but converted outfielders Kyle Blanks and James Darnell provide more offensive potential than Robertson and are much more likely to take Quentin’s spot on the big club if he needs another likely DL stint.

If Robertson is called up, it likely means that the Padres have three injured outfielders at the same time. The likeliest are Quentin, Maybin, and Blanks. It’s actually fairly possible. Maybin has a chronic wrist issue, Quentin his bum knee, and Blanks has been prone to injury throughout his career. And it’s not like Venable, Denorfia, and Guzman are immune to injury issues either. However, this circumstance would be disastrous for the team, and as fans we’d likely be looking at another losing season approaching 90 losses or more if we see Robertson out there roaming the outfield.

So that is why I’m personally rooting for Robertson to succeed this year, but I’d like to see him do it as much as possible while remaining in the minors. No offense dude, because I think you’re great and what you’ve accomplished is excellent, but I’m rooting for the Padres to win a lot of ballgames, and if you’re on the field, chances are they aren’t.

If you want more of me, I’m on Twitter @The_NV. I tweet a lot. The Vocal Minority posts on Mondays…usually.

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  • I think Robertson can be better than Denorfia. And he is cheaper. With Liriano missing a year, it could create an opportunity for him to compete for a roster spot next Spring.

  • charlieg

    Robertson will give you more heart and guts than the rest of the Padre outfield combined.

  • Dennis Roach

    I coached Daniel before he entered High School at South Hills High School in West Covina CA, not San Antonio, Texas. He is a great guy along with his dad Michael, though he is short in stature he makes up for it with his high energy and his level of skills he possess.

    • Keven Robertson

      Really who is this guy he needs to get his geography lesson..he don’t know him at all..i know him Daniel that its..I watched him since he was 2 this kid was blessed and he deserves his shot..never injured healthy and fast..look at his stats any pro team if they were really wanting the love of the game player thus kid is it…signed your are here for a reason buddy do what you do best..fore the love of the game not a high paid injured whim ppps oh my leg hurts i can’t play i will just stay and get paid warming the bench..can them injuries are not a paycheck talent is God bless you Daniel in Jesus mighty name I pray

      • Dennis Roach

        Well start by do you even proof read your post? Guess not, maybe you should retake an English class because you’re grammar rates at a third grade level. Also if you know Daniel so well as you say, then ask him about me! He will tell you and set you straight better yet ask Michael his dad, since Michael was my assistant Coach when Daniel played for Covina Pirates for Pony baseball. If you like Email me! I will give you phone numbers addresses and even the people lived with. So back off.

      • Mark

        You may need a grammar lesson as well,starting a sentence with your comment wasn’t exactly correct,example of your grammar,Well start by,or do you mean we will start by,that’s the proper way so who is third grade at this point, ? and Keven knows Daniel,he is Daniel’s uncle,along with myself,If you want to judge someone by there grammar,then you might want to put down your crack pipe and pay attention,If you piss Keven off he may hunt you down,rip your effing head off and crap down your throat,Daniel is a great player by his own submission,not ours,we all know what he is capable of,So just leave it at that,You want to fight someone you just might get your attitude adjusted,so backing off will never happen.

    • Nathan Veale

      Hi, thank you for reading this post from last spring. I like Daniel too, that’s why I wrote about him. I’m sorry I got Daniel’s high school information incorrect. I believe I got bad information from Oregon State’s website while researching.

      • Dennis Roach

        Hi Nathan, no worries, I know this article is from last year. Great article about Daniel, he is so deserving of a shot in the majors. Thanks for the reply.

  • Keven Robertson

    Hello .yea i was jammin when i wrote that..typos all over the place..i agreed with your writings it was the other guy who was dissing my nephew…i watched him play since he was little and Mikes my brother awesome dude…the padres can,, can the outfield put Daniel in and put in get guys that are loving the game…again it wasn’t your comment i disagreed it was the old man who said if he plays padres will lose. Well the aaa team had a better record than the pros..have a blessed day

  • Adam

    I played with Daniel at CUI. Great guy, we had 7 different players that I can think of drafted off that team. He was the only one of them that I thought was special enough to have a shot at the big leagues. He’d be a great 4th Outfielder for any team, would love to see him get called up this coming season at some point.

  • Keven Robertson

    To all who read my post my spelling,, maybe i spelled some words wrong but my comment if you were reading was intended for the old man who made competes that padres wouldn’t win games if he was on the field..and i wish i could meet him in person…to make comments about a quality player its un heard of but maybe he had lost money being like Pete rose on his own team..ha ha ha ha…anyway Daniels my nephew and a phenomenal player i really feel he its getting cheated…but that’s me..any way i remember you at may God continue to bless you…take care

  • Nathan Veale

    What the hell is happening here?