The clichés range from he's weak (for not retaliating against the Philadelphia Phillies a few years ago) to he's gutless to he doesn't have the mental capacity to be a "winner," all of which are unfounded and tired.
I don't believe any of those. Billingsley has been a quality pitcher for the Dodgers. He isn't the ace many prospectors expected him to be, but he's a quality No. 3 starter in the majors -- and the Dodgers have missed him dearly this season.
The 2013 season wasn't supposed to go this way for the team with the highest payroll in baseball history. The team once had eight viable starting pitchers on the roster. By mid-May, the Dodgers had nine pitchers start a game for them, and that doesn't count Aaron Harang who was traded to the Colorado Rockies (and subsequently the Seattle Mariners) before he could make a start for the team.
Every single starter outside of Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu has suffered some type of injury -- some of which have been more serious than others. Billingsley is no exception. He suffered a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in August and attempted to rehab through it. He made all of two starts before he decided to have Tommy John surgery, putting him out until the middle of the 2014 season -- the last year of his contract.
Billingsley was one of my favorite prospects coming up through the ranks. As a former first-round draft pick out of Defiance, Ohio, Billingsley drew praise for his stuff, makeup and pitchability. He was quite a capable No. 3 starter and would look awfully good in a rotation that includes Kershaw, Ryu and Zack Greinke. Instead, guys like Stephen Fife (who's been really good this season) and Matt Magill have been forced into action.
Now, I'm not saying Billingsley's health is the reason the Dodgers are still in last place (32-42, 8 1/2 games back). But if you play the law of averages, Billingsley would be producing well this season. That has one of two benefits: either he's throwing well and is a mainstay in the rotation or the team is about where it is and he's a valuable trade chip on an otherwise thin starting pitcher trade market this season.
Teams like the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates are in the market for starting pitchers. Billingsley would have been a perfect fit for any of those teams. Instead, he's recovering from surgery and those teams will inquire elsewhere for starting pitchers.
The best would have been a healthy Billingsley contributing to a winning Dodger team. The next-best option would have been to flip him for a third baseman or prospects. Sadly, neither of those will happen.
Despite being polarizing (fair or not) to the fan base, I miss ya, Bills. But you have nothing on Hee-Seop Choi or Jonathan Broxton when it comes to being polarizing. When you look up the definition of polarizing, you get Choi and Broxton headshots.
The Dodgers could use a guy who has a 3.65 ERA, 1.36 walks plus hits/innings pitched, 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.67 fielding independent pitching. Those are Billingsley's career numbers. Those numbers would also be attractive to other teams.
Dustin Nosler has followed the Dodgers from Northern California all his life. He's the founder of Feelin' Kinda Blue, a Dodger blog. He also co-hosts "Dugout Blues," a weekly Dodger podcast. Find him on Twitter @FeelinKindaBlue.
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