It’s a crying shame for Adam Everett that he was not born until Groundhog’s Day of 1977. Time seems to have stopped that day for Everett; he always played in the big leagues as though it were still 1977. That year, shortstops in the National League flailed their way to a .629 OPS, 26 percent worse than league average. Men like Bill Russell, Larry Bowa and Frank Taveras started for winning clubs. The primary (some would say the sole) criterion for selecting a shortstop was his adeptness with the glove.
By the time Adam Everett actually reached the big leagues, Groundhog’s Day was over and change was afoot. Shortstops that season when Barry Bonds broke the home run record hit .709 in OPS, just 12 percent off the league mean. Rich Aurilia had 37 home runs; Jimmy Rollins had 55 extra-base hits.
Groundhog really isn’t a bad nickname for Adam Everett. He will be remembered mostly as the worst-hitting regular of the decade in which he played, and as possibly the greatest defensive shortstop in the last 25 years. He hogged all the grounders on the left side of the infield, and did it with style. Everett could do everything with the glove: He was acrobatic on double plays, could dive to his right and throw out runners from the hole (no one can do that anymore), and bare-handed slow choppers better than any non-third baseman ever. He also ran the bases well and even came up with occasional home runs: 27 of them from 2003-05.
Everett started for the 2005 National League champion Astros, but he never has reached the playoffs again. After arguably the best five-year run of defensive wizardry in the game’s history from 2003-07, Everett (who was six feet tall in cleats and weighed 175 pounds) began to wear down and has not played a full season since. In both 2008 and 2009, Everett played for the losing side in American League Central division tie-breakers. After playing 649 games in seven seasons as an Astro, Everett has played only 197 games in three years with the Twins and Tigers.
In 2010, he batted .185/.221/.247 in 89 plate appearances for Detroit. He looked over-matched at the plate and tired in the field. He does not seem to have much left in the tank. The Tigers could more sensibly retain Ramon Santiago or re-sign Jhonny Peralta than commit to Everett in 2011. Turning to the open market, Everett might find few teams interested even in the NL, despite an uneven shortstop market. Everett could be a utility man in the mode of a latter-day Omar Vizquel, of course, but that arrangement may be unpalatable to him or inefficient for his prospective team.
If you love watching great defensive shortstops, take a moment this winter to raise a glass. Turn up “I’ve Got You, Babe.” And root for history to repeat itself for one more season, somewhere, for Adam Everett, born on Groundhog’s Day.