Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Our capable crew
First Base - My friends and I had an idea during the ALCS last year. We know that Kevin Millar puts up decent numbers. His .297/.383/.474 line for 2004 was a lot higher than I expected. His 37.6 VORP is fourth among AL first basemen. His 6.43 RC/27 is also good enough to rank fourth among AL first baseman. Maybe it was his horrible first half. Or maybe he runs his mouth off too much to be taken seriously. Whatever it is, it's hard to believe that he puts up decent numbers. Every time I see the guy at the plate he seems to make an out. So it only makes sense that Millar performs great when my back is turned. Last year during the playoffs I took to either closing my eyes or leaving the room every time Millar was up to bat. He's not an elite firstbase masher and he does have a few issues on the defensive side of the field, but for the money we're paying him (about $3 mil this year) he more then gets the job done. He showed up to camp about 20 pounds more then he was last year and he is at the age (33) where his skills are going to start to fade, but a .290/.375/.490 line isn't out of the question.
The Sox also have more options as a backup to Millar then they did last year. Defensive whiz or not, I can't get behind anyone that hits .238, especially not when he plays first base. So I wasn't all that sad to wave good bye to Doug Mientkiewicz. Dave McCarty is fighting for a job this spring and here's hoping that he doesn't get it. The man I'd like to see on the bench backing up Millar is Roberto Petagine. There wasn't much made of his signing and his previous numbers aren't all that great but his performance in Japan was pretty impressive. He's getting on in years at the age of 34, but he has good plate discipline and plenty of pop. Obviously no one is expecting him to hit 37 home runs or put up a .446 OBA (his averages in six years over in Japan), but he should be a great guy to have coming off the bench. He also put in 80 games in the OF in 2003 so he has a little versatility in him.
The other options at first include Kevin Youkilis and possibly Ramon Vazquez. Of course there's always David Ortiz when Terry Francona feels that defense won't really matter. I already mentioned that I'm a pretty big fan of Youkilis and I really hope the firstbase plan works in spring training. Vazquez is a very versatile guy and played a few games at first last year, so in a pinch he could be put there.
Over the course of the year I think we can expect better production at first. Millar may dip a bit, but that will be made up by Petagine and Youkilis backing him up instead of McCarty and Mientkiewicz. The Sox don't have the typical big slugger hiding away at first, but they do have a capable squad for a really good price.
Hank Aaron, in his prime, stood exactly six feet tall, weighed one hundred eighty pounds. If you saw him up close on the street, you’d say he looked like a very fit average size human being, not like one of your basic modern ballplayers with a butt out to here and a chip on his shoulder the size of a cow turd and forearms that make him look like a circus geek.
Hank Aaron’s swing matched his attitude. Crisp. Elegant. Dignified. When he smashed a home run, which was often, he did not stand at the plate, like Barry Bonds does, and admire the ball in its trajectory. Hank ran the bases like the rule book said. Hank was into the integrity of the game. The one thing he wasn’t into was himself. Some people think baseball needs more Hank Aarons and fewer Barry Bonds.
I disagree. Baseball does not need Hank Aaaron's dignity. Nor does it need his integrity. Baseball's been getting along fine without either. If you wanna know the truth, nobody connected with baseball cares about dignity or integrity anymore.
Time was, though, when almost everyone cared. A popular film underscored how much people cared. "Field of Dreams" was the name of the film and it was released in 1989, one year prior to what I like to call baseball’s Steroid Era. In the movie, James Earl Jones delivers an impassioned speech in which he says, regardless of the times, you could always count on baseball to be a standard for decency, dignity, excellence and doing the right thing. It was a powerful moment.
But that's all over. In the 90’s, baseball went from whore to pimp to crackhead without batting an eye. Whore, because baseball stood there and winked knowingly while the owners and players conspired to sex up the game. Pimp, because basball stood there and winked knowingly while the owners and players screwed the fans out of a World Series in 1994. Crackhead, because baseball stood there and winked knowingly while the clubhouses morphed into drug dens.
Barry Bonds is gonna to break Mister Aaron’s record. But lemme tell you this. It won't mean a thing. No one, except the most out of touch fan, will take that man’s numbers seriously. Thanks to steroids, everyone’s gonna put a mental asterisk beside his mark. And it’s too damn bad. But that’s what you get when you’re so into yourself that you’re out of touch with the game and the fans.
And it’s not just Barry Bonds. Take Randy Johnson. Five Cy Young Awards. Just traded to the Yankees. First thing he does in New York? Roughs up a newspaper camera man. You’d think he’d be delighted to have his picture in the paper so his numerous fans could delight in the Big Unit’s handsome visage. But no.
You want more out of touch? Two years ago, I was at a Cactus League game in Arizona. Diamondbacks and the Angels. After the game, a hundred or so kids lined up at the fence to get autographs. When who should come walking by but multi-millionaire Curt Schilling? Doesn't even flash the kids a smile. Just walks on by like they don't exist. And I’m thinking, "You sorry sack of shit! You and Barry and Randy and all your fat-ass overpaid overweight circus-geek WWF compadres are exactly why no one cares anymore. You can all go fuck yourselves."
Sometime next year, or the year after, Henry Aaron’s career home run record is gonna be broken. Barry Bonds has 703 home runs. Hammering Hank’s record stands at 755. Just do the math.
Then ask me if I care.