Browsing posts from September, 2012
Believe me when I say Alfonso Soriano should win a Gold Glove this season.
It’s hard to fathom considering Soriano’s reputation for poor defense, but statistically he’s well within the running, if not leading the way for the award.
Only three National League left fielders have started more games than Soriano (117) this season: Matt Holliday (128), Ryan Braun (123) & Carlos Gonzalez (119).
Braun, however, is the only player to have more Total Chances (+33), Putouts (+30) and a higher Range Factor (1.97) than Soriano (1.82).
Arizona’s Jason Kubel does hold an edge in outfield Assists (11) to Soriano’s (9), but it’s Alfonso who has helped turn more Double Plays (4) than any of his competition.
Oh yeah, Soriano also remains the lone player yet to commit an error.
WILL VOTERS RECOGNIZE SORIANO?
Whereas I doubt the manager and coaches (who vote on the award) are willing to favor Braun since he sidestepped his steroids suspension, Kubel appears Soriano’s best competition.
Car-Go, meanwhile, has been splendid roaming one of the largest outfields in baseball at Coors Field, and Martin Prado remains a dark horse candidate in Atlanta. But neither has separated themselves ahead of Soriano.
Perhaps the best news for Soriano, knowing how much the managers and coaches enjoy sticking with past winners, is that reigning Gold Glover, Gerardo Parra, is all but eliminated since being demoted to a fourth outfield option (behind Kubel, nonetheless) for Kirk Gibson’s Diamondbacks.
WHY SORIANO’S MOST DESERVING
It can’t be ignored Soriano’s range is limited by his bum legs, even playing in Wrigley’s small outfield. But unlike years past, Soriano has shown a willingness to rub shoulders with the ivy covered brick wall and run hard to field balls hit into the corner–in addition to making all the routine plays.
There are, unquestionably, better athletes manning left field in the National League who field the position with more pizzazz and more style points than Soriano earns, but that doesn’t necessarily make them more worthy of the Gold Glove, either.
And if you’re someone who believes the bat plays just as an important factor as the fielding statistics in winning the Gold Glove, Soriano has that wrapped up, too.
That’s why I’m convinced it’s Soriano’s Gold Glove to lose over the final five weeks of the regular season. Just talking about it seems weird enough, but imagine if he wins…
That means it’s entirely possible the Cubs would field two Gold Glove Award winners (Soriano/Barney) on a team with, or near, 100-losses. I wonder if that’s ever happened before?
Minutia aside, don’t be caught by surprise if Soriano wins gold. He’s played his tail off this season while reaching a level defensively most of us thought he wasn’t capable of or willing to achieve.
It probably won’t be any easier to comprehend if a Gold Glove does come Soriano’s way, but there’s no denying he’s earned the honor–as head-shaking and unbelievable as it will be.
I was surprised to see Mark Bellhorn gracing the cover of my Cubs ticket to last Wednesday’s game against the Brewers, a spot typically reserved for Cubs greats such as Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and the likes.
Bellhorn did have a productive season with the Cubs in 2002 hitting .258, 27 HR & 57 RBI, and yes, he’s the same guy who hit a home run from both sides of the plate in the same inning at Miller Park–the first player to do so in National League history.
His 27 home runs mark the most ever for a Cubs switch-hitter and he’s also the first Cub to homer from all four infield positions, which is seemingly grounds to get a cover shot on a Cubs season ticket in 2012.
My most vivid memories of Bellhorn, however, are of his days playing with the Boston Red Sox. More specifically, it’s of his two clutch home runs against the Yankees during the 2004 ALCS–a three-run shot off Jon Lieber in Game 6 and a solo blast ricocheting off the foul pole in Game 7.
THE DOUBLE FLAPPER
Bellhorn was also most recognizable during his career for wearing a double earflap batting helmet, and to the best of my recollection, he may have been the last Cubs player to do so.
This is where I’m asking for your help. Has there been a Cubs player since Bellhorn who has worn a double earflap batting helmet?
Forgive me for bringing up the name Aaron Miles, but he may be a candidate, although I don’t remember him wearing one–or getting a hit for that matter.
No other Cubs come to mind, but something tells me I’m forgetting someone…drop me a line in the comments section if you know of another Cubs player to wear the double earflap batting helmet since Bellhorn did in 2002.
SANTO ONE OF FIRST PLAYERS TO INTRODUCE EARFLAP
Interestingly, it was Santo who pioneered the earflap after returning from a left cheekbone fracture in 1966–the result of being hit by a pitch.
As more and more players adopted the single earflap look only a few donned the double earflap style, which was mainly used by switch-hitters.
My guess is less than a handful of current players sport double earflap helmets and of those that come to mind: Shane Victorino, Orlando Hudson, Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo are four of them.
For curiosity sake, I’d also be interested to learn of any other major league players that should join this list (double earflaps are mandatory in the minor leagues).
Let’s see what we come up with naming other double earflappers for the Cubs or elsewhere around baseball!
Remember the Cubs thrilling comeback win against Colorado in late May of 2008? I know many of you do and probably just immediately thought of Mark DeRosa’s dramatic 2-R HR.
For those of you with a foggy recollection, let me jog your memory a bit. The Cubs trailed 9-1 after five innings, but rallied for a 10-9 victory behind home runs from Henry Blanco, Kosuke Fukudome, Jim Edmonds, and the blast off DeRosa’s bat.
This wasn’t just a tremendous comeback in Cubs history, it was a staple win that legitimized the first place Cubs as the best team in the National League (Ah, now you remember!).
I bring this particular game up because it reminds me so much of the Cubs dramatic come-from-behind win on Thursday against Milwaukee; a game in which Chicago trailed 9-3, then tied the score 9-9 in the sixth only to enter the bottom of the ninth down 11-9 before scoring three runs to cap off a 12-11 victory.
The dramatics were eerily similar to 2008, with one exception being the Cubs scored all 12-runs Thursday without the benefit of a home run.
But as my good friend @jdgershbein (he’s as true-blue a Cubs fan as they come) reminded me, there’s one big difference between these two comeback games–the 2008 victory actually meant something.
WILL ANYONE REMEMBER?
Thursday’s win, as memorable as it should be, will most likely be forgotten in a season that’s on course to be remembered as one of the worst in franchise history.
I bet a significant portion of Cubs fans are still unaware this comeback even happened. Probably more don’t even care to know. But that’s the cost of doing business for a team playing 30-games below .500.
Thursday’s game was played in front of a crowd of less than 20,000 (and much fewer stayed to see Soriano’s walkoff hit 4:09 minutes after the first pitch) whereas the comeback win against the Rockies was finished out in front of a packed house at Wrigley Field.
That win four-years ago is exactly the kind of ‘memorable experience’ every baseball organization hopes for–the type that keeps its fans wanting more—and precisely what Thursday’s game was not.
DOES THURSDAY’S WIN MEAN ANYTHING?
The comeback against Colorado capped off an (18-11) month of May for the Cubs, gave them a five-game winning streak (which stretched to nine-games) and enthralled even the most fringe Cubs fans to pay attention to the team on a daily basis.
Thursday’s win, however, won’t share the same effect for the masses. But it does tell those of us sticking with the team through the bitter end a thing or two about the character of these young Cubs and their manager.
Most notably, the Cubs never gave-in despite playing out the string against another underperforming team, in front of another underwhelming home crowd.
Dale Sveum, to his credit, never threw-in the towel as evidence by his five pitching changes and substitution of what appeared to be a lackadaisical Bryan LaHair in favor of Alfonso Soriano.
The young guns of Castro, Rizzo, Vitters, Jackson, Valbuena and Castillo battled start-to-finish. Their young enthusiasm helped spark the play of veterans David DeJesus and Soriano.
”Those young guys don’t give up,” said Soriano.
While the effort is appreciated and does give the club something to hang its hat on this season, we can only be certain the Cubs will waste more ‘memorable games’ even with the most promising possibilities of the Cubs fielding a competitive team by 2015.
But when the Cubs do blossom from pretender to contender, and I’m confident they will, we’re sure to see many more unbelievable come-from-behind wins like Thursday’s. That, after all, is what good teams do–win crazy games and win a lot of them.
Only then, however, most Cubs fans will immediately think back to a late May game in 2008 when the Cubs rallied from down 9-1 to beat the Rockies.
Meanwhile, Thursday’s game will have already become a faint, if not forgotten, memory, just another meaningless win in a season filled with seemingly 100 unmemorable losses.
And to that I say, what a shame.
*Fun side note. The losing pitcher for the Rockies in the 2008 comeback win? Now current Cubs reliever, Manny Corpas