Hall: 'I still consider myself the best 3B in the league'
Brewers infielder Bill Hall emerged from a closed-door meeting with his bosses on Saturday and insisted that he hasn’t given up on turning around his dismal 2009 season.
“I still consider myself the best third baseman in the league,” Hall said.
He’ll get another chance on Sunday, when the Brewers mark the season’s unofficial midpoint against left-hander Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. Manager Ken Macha said he intends to start Hall at third base in Milwaukee’s final game before Major League Baseball’s All-Star break, which will be broadcast nationally on TBS with Chip Caray and Buck Martinez on the call.
Hall, who enters the first-half finale hitting .198, would not say much about his Saturday afternoon sit-down with general manager Doug Melvin, assistant GM Gord Ash and Macha. Asked what they talked about, Macha was also mum.
Hall was clear on two points: He has not asked to be moved out of Milwaukee, and the Brewers have not asked him to go to the Minor Leagues. Because he has more than five years of service time, Hall owns the right to refuse such an assignment.
“It wasn’t a bad meeting, it wasn’t a good meeting. It was just a meeting,” Hall said. “We talked about baseball. It was just a discussion.”
Hall has had a first half to forget. He began the year as Milwaukee’s starting third baseman but has fallen essentially to third on the depth chart by batting .198 with five home runs and 18 RBIs. He started 23 of the Brewers’ first 26 games, but since then has made just 25 starts in 61 games while batting .124.
Casey McGehee and rookie Mat Gamel have handled most of the starts since then, with Hall relegated to starting against left-handers. Now even those numbers are on the decline; Hall hit .306 against southpaws last season, but this year he’s hitting .231.
“There’s kind of mixed feelings, I guess,” Hall said. “Obviously, I haven’t played well, but I’m not getting to play very often, either. The lefties I’m facing aren’t exactly easy. [The Mets’ Johan] Santana. [The Giants’ Barry] Zito had been dealing. [The Cubs’ Ted] Lilly is an All-Star. When you don’t get any other at-bats during the week, it’s tough going out there to face guys like that and trying to get some hits.”
Make no mistake: Hall does not see his production as acceptable.
“I have to figure something out,” Hall said, his eyes reddening, “some way to fight through that and try to be productive when I do get a chance to play.
“I’m here,” he added. “I’m working every day, I’m keeping my mouth shut. I have to find a way to produce when I get in there.”
Hall’s decline is in its third season. He was the Brewers’ club MVP in 2006, when he filled-in for an injured J.J. Hardy at shortstop and batted .270 while leading the Brewers with 35 home runs. That season earned Hall a four-year, $24 million contract that bought out his arbitration years and one season off free agency.
More than a year remains on that deal. Hall is making $6.8 million this season and is due $8.4 million in 2010. If the Brewers release Hall, they would owe him the remainder of that salary.
Hall does have value off the bench because he is a quality defender at second base, third base and shortstop, and can also play the outfield if needed. But Hall, the longest tenured player in the entire organization (he was the Brewers’ sixth-round Draft pick in 1998) isn’t sure where he fits on the team at the moment.
“I’m still trying to do things to help this team win,” he said.