A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nelson Cruz

So I’m thinking about my baseball jerseys and how ridiculously old they are. I’ve got a Mark McGwire jersey that I never wear (2 T-shirts that are destroyed as well, but I’ll wear them on vacation and sacrifice them to the baseball gods in a campfire), a Pedro Martinez Red Sox jersey (from 2000 – complete with permanent pizza stains – damn you drippy juices!), a Curt Schilling Red Sox jersey, a Big Papi jersey, and I also have Papelbon and Matsuzaka for the Sox (a Beckett T-shirt as well). I have a Cardinals no name jersey that I wear upon occasion to support Phat Albert and an Ichiro jersey as well, but in thinking about that, I realize I don’t have any truly new school baseball players, so I decided to start thinking about who my top 10 young players are. For the purpose of discussion, we’ll say 2004 or later so that I can include Joe Mauer and his .346 batting average.
So in listing 10, that would leave Tim Lincecum and Jason Heyward as an obvious second and third choice. After that, I’m going with Nelson Cruz. This guy is just sick. He’s got an OPS over 1.200. He’s also got 7 homeruns and 17 RBIs plus a .327 batting average. In addition, he’s already getting intentional walk respect. How can you argue with that? Of course, he plays in Texas – where everything is bigger. Apparently, anyone can hit in Texas, the key is doing so when you leave there.
On that note, former Texas Ranger and catching great Ivan Rodriguez is leading the national league in batting at nearly .450. Can you say, “what the hell?” Surely, he’ll come back down to Earth, won’t he? Or is this Ted Williams hitting .388 in 1957 with 1 good year, 1 all right year, and 1 terrible year left to play? God, wouldn’t that be a story if a guy who was pretty much left for dead could resuscitate himself – if not for the dogging rumors that would swirl about Rodriguez digging back into his ‘roids box that Canseco alleges him to have owned.
Past Cruz though, I would look at Dallas Braden as a potential up and comer on the list of great young pitchers. I can’t put him up with Lincecum and Jair Jurrjens YET, but if he throws a fastball at Alex Rodriguez after he trampled on his mound yesterday, then he will quickly move to Bob Gibson / Walter Johnson territory for me. That’s truly legendary and the stuff of myths by the way. That said, I don’t know if I want to put him on the list just yet. Guys like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Dan Uggla, Ryan Braun, and Hanley Ramirez are still more solid in the pecking order.
But all the same, with so many young Marlins, Devil Rays, and even a Red Sox 2nd chance replacement out there, I could be persuaded to go a lot of ways towards liking baseball as much in 2010 as I did in 2007 (1998, that’s a different story).

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