Mike Hessman has done two things in a professional career that dates to 1996. He's hit home runs — and he's struck out. (Getty Images)
Detroit — I’ve always thought “what if” about Mike Hessman.
Maybe you have, too.
He won’t now, because the window to do so has long since closed, but I’ve occasionally wondered what he would have done with a chance to play every day in the majors.
And about how many home runs he might have hit.
Hessman will be 36 in March, so it wasn’t surprising when he was left off the list of the Tigers’ spring-training invitees this past week — after signing a minor league deal last month.
It’s a list that is often intriguing — a melting pot of young and old, of futures and pasts, of guys holding on and kids with dreams.
Not that it’s ever a major announcement, but this year’s collection didn’t disappoint as a crock pot of candidates — what with prospects Devon Travis and Robbie Ray being on it as well as journeyman Trevor Crowe, whose first season as a professional ball player was 2005.
Too old now for his future to be significant, Hessman wasn’t on the list.
He won’t be an invitee to spring training.
He won’t get a chance at the chance that’s always eluded him. The Tigers are well stocked at all of his positions, first base, third and designated hitter.
He might not even get that little chance to get one more big league at-bat.
And maybe hit one more big league home run.
One more time
That’s what I wish for Mike Hessman — one more big league home run.
If he hits more than one, fine. But for a player to have paid his dues as long as this big-swing, 6-foot-5 slugger-looking slugger has, rounding the bases one more time would be a nice reward.
Hessman has done two things in a professional career that dates to 1996. He’s hit home runs — and he’s struck out.
Boy, has he struck out.
But let’s start with his home runs. He’s hit 389 of them in the minors, including 279 at the Triple A level.
The minor league record is 484 — which Hessman won’t get to. But the 11 more that would put him at 400 are possible.
He’s hit home runs his entire career, including in his second at-bat as an Atlanta Brave in 2003.
And actually, he’s already hit more than 400 because in addition to the 389 in the minors, he hit six in his one season in Japan and has had 14 in the majors.
The 14 in the majors were in 223 at-bats, the last of which occurred in 2010.
In 78 at-bats in 2007-2008, he hit nine home runs as a Tiger.
So, you see, the ratio has always been impressive wherever Hessman has played — majors or minors.
Whiff of despair
Strikeouts, though, as long as we’re talking about ratios? They have been his downfall.
In the minors, he has struck out 2,155 times. As a major league stat, that would be the fifth highest total ever; only six big-league hitters have ever struck out 2,000 times or more.
But Hessman has never been mistaken as a high-average hitter. Even in the minors, his career average is .232.
In the majors, he’s hit .188.
So his real claim to fame — other than winning a bronze medal with the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 — comes down to this: All-or-nothing hitter that he is, he is still at it.
He’s still playing baseball because he loves the game and wants to play it as long as anyone will have him.
Hopefully something nice will happen for him before his career ends.
I hope he gets to feels the pride and satisfaction of rounding the bases again in the big leagues, thereby renewing our curiosity one last time about how many he might have hit. . .
If a team had ever just said to him, “we need your power, big guy. Unpack and stay a while.”