Mark Christian Bellhorn (born on August 23, 1974 in Boston, MA) is utility infielder for the Cincinnati Reds.
Bellhorn was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 37th round of the 1992 draft out of high school, but did not sign. He attended Auburn University, and was ultimately drafted after his Junior year by the Oakland A's in the second round in the 1995 draft.
Mark made his major league debut in 1997 for the A's against the Detroit Tigers on June 10th. In his first at-bat, he singled back to Tigers' pitcher Willie Blair. The next day, he notched his first of many career walks and strikeouts against Tigers' pitcher Felipe Lira. His first career home run came almost two weeks later when he homered off of then-Seattle Mariner, and future Red Sox teammate, Derek Lowe. On August 21st, Bellhorn went 4-4 with a home run off Steve Avery as the A's beat the Red Sox 13-6.
In 2002, as the Cubs were decimated by injury, manager Don Baylor started playing Bellhorn as a super-utility man, giving him starts at all four infield positions. Bellhorn answered with his best season, posting a .258/.374/.512 season with a career-high 27 home runs.
That winter, Baylor was fired and replaced by San Francisco Giants manager Dusty Baker. Baker moved Bellhorn in and out of the lineup, frustrated by his high strike out rate. Bellhorn never got his bat going, and was buried at the end of the bench after suffering a shoulder injury. He was traded to the Rockies for Jose Hernandez in June, and for the year slugged under .300 as he battled shoulder problems. Despite the lack of power, Bellhorn posted a higher on base percentage in 2003 than Nomar Garciaparra (.353 vs. 345 for Nomar). This drew interest from Theo Epstein, as the Red Sox GM purchased Bellhorn from the Rockies for $500,000 during the 2003-2004 Winter Meetings.
Red Sox Career
Bellhorn's Red Sox career started with some controversy, as he battled slick-fielding Pokey Reese for the starting second baseman position for the 2004 campaign. During spring training, Bellhorn struggled, hitting only .200, striking out 16 times in 20 games, all while Reese showed his normal great defense. Toward the end of spring training, there was a rumored Bellhorn for Kelly Wunsch swap, which would have put Mark in the South Side of Chicago. Once the extent of Garciaparra's injury was clearer, Bellhorn won the second base job outright, and held it, even when Nomar came back in June.
Once the season started, he struggled to make contact, batting only .194 in April while striking out 21 times in 84 PA. His OBP for the month, however, was .402, thanks to 22 walks. Over the course of the season, Bellhorn started making more contact and hitting for more power while maintaining his walk rate. By the end of the year, Bellhorn was hitting .264/.373/.444, leading all AL second basemen in OBP. Mark accomplished this feat for comparatively meager pay ($490,000), increasing his value with respect to other second basemen (compare Alfonso Soriano's .324 OBP and $5,400,000 salary in 2004).
Nevertheless, many fans still complained about his strikeouts. Although his high OBP meant he did not make substantially more outs than his teammates, his critics insisted that he was hurting the team by not putting the ball in play more often. Mark, who seemed well aware of his limitations as a hitter, mitigated any damage from his high strikeout rate in two ways. First, by not putting the ball in play as often as other hitters, Mark avoided hitting into costly double plays. Second, Mark appeared to change his approach depending on the situation. Of his 177 strikeouts, only 63 came with men on base. In 36 PA with a man on third and fewer than two outs, Mark struck out only four times while hitting for an OPS of 1.269 and collecting 31 RBI. Indeed, he hit much better overall with runners on base (.955 v. .694 OPS).
Frustration among Bellhorn supporters due to constant criticisms such as, "He strikes out too much" and "He should put the ball in play more" gave rise to the phrase, "Who died and made you Mark Bellhorn?"
Mark also lead the 2004 Red Sox in P/PA (4.15), BB/PA (.142), and had the second highest PA/GDP (77.5), making him an ideal #2 hitter.
Mark had an even worse start to the 2005 season, hitting .229/.325/.357 in April, and eventually he was dropped to the #9 spot. While his road numbers improved, he struggled at Fenway in the presence of booing from fans (.550 OPS at home, .788 away). Bellhorn was placed on the DL on July 18th, which would keep him out until after the trading deadline. The Red Sox acquired second baseman Tony Graffanino from the Kansas City Royals while Bellhorn was rehabbing his wrist in the minors. After hitting .216/.328/.360 overall, when his rehab stint was up, he was designated for assignment, and eventually signed with the New York Yankees as a free agent.
Bellhorn will be best remembered for his performance in the 2004 ALCS and World Series. In Game One of the 2004 ALCS, Mark ruined Mike Mussina's bid for a perfect game with a double in the top of the seventh inning, sparking a five run rally. But by the time Game Six began, Mark had collected only four hits, no RBIs, and had struck out 14 times. Despite loud calls for Pokey Reese to replace Bellhorn, manager Terry Francona stuck with Mark, and it paid off. With two outs in the fourth inning, Bellhorn hit a three-run home run off of Jon Lieber, who had held the Sox to one run in 10.2 innings that October. The shot would provide all the runs the Red Sox would need that night. Mark also put the finishing touch on the Red Sox's historic comeback. In Game Seven, after Pedro Martinez's two-run relief appearance in the bottom of the seventh woke up the New York crowd, Bellhorn silenced them permanently by leading off the eighth inning with a ringing home run off the right field foul pole.
Three days later, he broke a 9-9 tie in the Game One of the World Series with another loud right-field pole-shot off of Cardinals reliever Julian Tavarez, after Jason Varitek reached on a one-out error by Edgar Renteria. The next night, with the Red Sox leading 2-0, Bill Mueller and Bellhorn hit back-to-back doubles off of Matt Morris in the fourth inning, ultimately providing the winning margin for the Red Sox in the 6-2 Game Two victory.
Overall, Mark hit .191/.397/.447 in the postseason, and .300/.562/.700 in the World Series, leading the team in both OBP and SLG.
Post-Red Sox Career
After the Yankees signed him, Bellhorn played sparingly, hitting .118/.250/.294. He signed with the Padres in the offseason, hitting .190/.285/.344 after a hot start. The Cincinnati Reds signed Bellhorn to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training on January 23, 2007. The Reds called up Bellhorn from Triple-A Louisville on July 31, 2007.
- Fond of EZ-Mac and Miller Lite.
- Bellhorn was a favorite of one SoSHer in particular, who received a treat from his wife whenever Bellhorn hit a homerun. The game threaders never failed to point this out during games.
- Was the first National League player to ever homer from both sides of the plate in the same inning when he did it against the Milwaukee Brewers in the fourth inning on August 29, 2002 as a member of the Chicago Cubs. He homered off of starter and ex-teammate Andrew Lorraine and then off of Jose Cabrera. The game was started for the Cubs by Matt Clement. Bill Mueller also homered for the Cubs.
- On May 28th, 2006, Bellhorn hit the longest home run in Petco Park history at 438 feet, off Mark Mulder.
- Mad Cow
- The Great Bellhornio
- The Human Questec Machine
- June 1, 1995: Drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 2nd round of the 1995 amateur draft. Player signed June 24, 1995.
- November 2, 2001: Traded by the Oakland Athletics to the Chicago Cubs for Adam Morrissey.
- June 20, 2003: Traded by the Chicago Cubs to the Colorado Rockies for Jose Hernandez.
- December 16, 2003: Sent to the Boston Red Sox by the Colorado Rockies as part of a conditional deal.
- August 19, 2005: Released by the Boston Red Sox.
- August 30, 2005: Signed as a Free Agent with the New York Yankees.
- October 14, 2005: Granted Free Agency.
- December 22, 2005: Signed as a Free Agent with the San Diego Padres.
- January 23, 2007: Signed as a Free Agent with the Cincinnati Reds to a minor league contract.
- Baseball-Reference.com - Career Statistics and Analysis