Friday, March 25, 2005

Big Surprise

With just over a week to go before the start of the 2005 baseball season, the Boston Globe passed out some grades based on players' performance to date. You can read the whole report card here, but I'll just point out two comments that really caught me by surprise (end sarcasm):
Kevin Millar: He was the fans' choice, and team's choice, to stay in Boston over ball-hog Doug Mientkiewicz, who was traded to the Mets. Millar is an integral part of the idiot fringe, important friend of Manny Ramirez, and new buddy of David Wells. Not known for his defense at first, he showed up a little heavy this spring, attributing it to the addition of muscle from a vigorous offseason weight training program. So far the extra weight hasn't paid off. Millar has been slow to take the extra base when given the opportunity this spring, and the added muscle hasn't given him any more strength at the plate. In 29 spring at-bats, Millar has just two extra-base hits and one RBI (a base hit against Cincy this past Tuesday night), and is batting .241.
OK, let me get this straight. There are fans out there who prefer Millar to Mientkiewicz? Are these the same people who actually think "Listen Up" is funny? And look, I understand everyone's good at something, and that "something" for Millar is acting like an idiot. But does that mean he deserves to start because he nails the part of the buffoon?

Remember Carlos Baerga? They guy who spent 2002 in Boston and whose sole job was to be the goofy guy who passed out hugs during the game. Well, that's Millar without the glitz. If he wants to be the village idiot, he should do it from the dugout, where the damage he can impart will be minimal. As is stands, he's currently the starting first baseman who showed up to work 20 lbs. fatter than when he left 10 weeks ago; can't run to second base on ground rule doubles, and is batting .241 with only two extra base hits in 29 at-bats. Oh yeah, he still can't catch either -- apparently a very important part to successfully playing first base. And here's another surprise, Millar was given a C- in the Globe article, the second-worst grade among the starters.

Which leads me to this:
Mark Bellhorn: Bellhorn is known as a guy who typically either strikes out (10 times in 31 at-bats this spring) or walks (5 in 31). While he won’t be confused with Pokey Reese, he has made some nice plays in the field this spring. But so far, Bellhorn has had only one breakout game at the plate against the Devil Rays in St. Pete, where he hit two RBI doubles after working the count. If Bellhorn can't improve his 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, or his .161 spring average (just 5 hits and 8 total bases), look for the surprising Ramon Vazquez to get a few chances to start at second base this season.
Stop the presses! Bellhorn is "know as the guy who ... either strikes out or walks"?!? Very interesting. And let me just state for the record, that my Little League career was chocked full of mediocre play and disappointment after disappointment, but the fact that Bellhorn is striking out more than 30% of the time even bewilders me. I mean, that's north of Rob Deer territory without the Rob Deer benefits (namely a moustache, a mullet and a few bombs). And here's another little nugget that many of you may have overlooked: Bellhorn isn't as good a fielder as Pokey Reese. Yep, that's news to me too.

As far as I can tell, my buddy Desmond is the only remaining member of the Mark Bellhorn fan club (which I guess makes him the president), so I'm sure he'll have some thoughts about why Bellhorn isn't as bad as a lot of fans make him out to be. And he's right when he says that Bellhorn had two (here and here) really big games in the ALCS, but is that enough to make up for a season of me being frustrated watching him kick balls all over the infield like he's Maradona trying to make a comeback circa 2005? And the only reason I don't spend more time wondering why he's a starter is because he plays next to the only person on that team that actually makes Bellhorn look not half bad (notice I didn't say "good" or "decent," but "not half bad") out there. Millar the circus monkey strikes again. In addition to being the team idiot, team fat guy, and team sous spokesmen (behind the self-appointed Curt Schilling), Millar is also the "guy you stand next to when you want to look better" guy too. So I guess he is good for something. And one more thing -- Bellhorn actually got a lower grade than Miller (and the worst grade on the team): D

But there is good news. Every other starter got no worse than a B- (Except for Renteria, who was given a C. But I'll take a Renteria C any day of the week over a Millar/Bellhorn C-/D -- that and he's new so he doesn't count), and Manny even got an A (and as soon as he gets his parents to sign off on his report card, Theo can put it on his fridge). And in case you're wondering, the Globe will take a look at pitchers today.