The first time I saw Dayan Viciedo in person was in Zebulon, N.C., where he went 3-for-5 for the Birmingham Barons on Aug. 12, 2009. It should've been a 4-for-5 night, but an indecisive Christian Marrero turned a line-drive base hit into a 7-5 fielder's choice.
He blistered the ball three times, including wallbangers to left-center and right field, and the sound of his contact reverberated around the stadium. I was sold on his bat. Not so much on his glove (he played third, and couldn't really move), but that kind of contact could play anywhere.
Or maybe I just had a knack for catching his early-career highlights. I happened to be at Nationals Park for his major-league debut, which also featured his first hit. Later in the season at U.S. Cellular Field, I witnessed his first big-league homer. Every one of those triumphs over his first two seasons were worth celebrating, since the Sox dragged their feet on calling him up while Ozzie Guillen euthanized the team with lethal doses of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios.
The high points were fewer and far between over the next three seasons, which trivialized that battleground. Still, I couldn't bring myself to dislike him. As a guy who writes about the White Sox more than anybody else, I have a natural affinity for players who make the days different.
Viciedo did that, and in a couple different ways. That tremendous bat speed occasionally worked for him, and the sound of that great contact distinguished itself from just about everybody else's, no matter whether he lashed the ball to left...
... or center ...
... or right.
It just didn't work for him nearly enough. Three different hitting coaches took cracks at him, and yet he still took a steady step back every year.
Meanwhile, he became just as infamous for his ability to give up round-trippers to left center ...
... or down the left field line ...
... or right field (OK, that's only three bases):
When a team commits to a teardown and reconstruction over two long years, these goofs make losses worth writing about. This should have been the cover of the 2014 media guide:
The only upside to down years is that it allows a guy like Viciedo to use those meaningless-in-the-big-picture plate appearances to forge a productive approach. That doesn't necessarily mean discipline, either. It would've been one thing if he zone judgment was his only real flaw, because the occasional happy hacker can be useful.
The problem was, while he swung at all sorts of pitches, he could only reliably drive one -- thigh-high and over the outer half. A guy can have limited plate coverage if he's selective. Likewise, he can diminish discipline's importance by covering everything. If a guy can't do either, he better be able to play some defense. Viciedo couldn't meet any of the above descriptors, and the Sox grew too ambitious to wait on him. In came Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera, leaving Viciedo nowhere to play.
Still, Rick Hahn tried a Viciedo-like approach by tendering him a contract when demand wasn't there. In the hashtags of Adam Eaton:
Hate to see Tankie go. Great on and off the field. Wherever he ends up he'll be just fine.. #SwingHard #JustIncase— Adam Eaton (@AdamSpankyEaton) January 28, 2015
Alas, a trade partner never surfaced, despite numerous attempts by "sources" to drag the Mariners into it, and even after they designated him for assignment. So they requested his release, and they'll be on the hook for $733,000 of his $4.4 million salary, and maybe more if Viciedo's camp files a grievance. Based on the leaguewide lack of interest, I imagine his next salary won't make up the difference.
Watching those examples of all-field power above, it seems like he'll tempt somebody into giving him a few hundred plate appearances. The Sox had a hard time letting go of that potential, and there are some Sox fans who still believe. It's worth watching to see where he lands, and if he ever figures it out. I'll always want to be able to believe in that kind of contact, even if the Sox couldn't spend another year waiting on it. If he starts the year in Triple-A or Japan, it'll show just how generous the definition of "playable" became here.
Jackin’ Dayan Viciedo released by White Sox. Oh, yeah, life goes on.— Dave Brown (@AnswerDave) February 4, 2015