Every March, there’s some college basketball team that climbs on the back of some player and makes a run deep into the tournament. It happens nearly every year and probably always has, but it’s burned into my memory with the Kansas Jayhawks’ championship run behind Danny Manning. Now known as “Danny and the Miracles,” Manning simply carried an inferior team to the top. Baseball has similar runs from time to time–Orel Hershiser’s amazing run through the 1988 season comes to mind. But as the Giants essay in BP04 shows, General Manager Brian Sabean and Assistant General Manager Ned Colletti are expecting more from Barry Bonds, even as he becomes less likely to be able to deliver. Bonds’ homers may defy gravity, but there’s a point where his body will no longer be able to defy age.
There aren’t many places to hide on a baseball field surrounded by 40,000 spectators, but one place you can enjoy relative anonymity is the coaching box. Most season ticket holders would have a hard time naming their team’s third base coach, never mind the casual fan.
So it isn’t necessarily a good sign that Cubs third base coach Wendell Kim is already well-known in Chicago after having spent just a year there. An even worse sign is that most Cubs fans know Kim best by his nickname: Wavin’ Wendell. Kim’s reputation for sending runners to their deaths at home plate preceded his arrival in Chicago, and it’s only grown since he’s been there.
Of course, reputations can be unfair, and reputations about baserunning in particular are difficult to check, since baserunning numbers don’t show up in the box score or the stats page. So who are the teams who make the most outs at home plate, and elsewhere on the bases?
Was Jody Gerut really that much better than Hideki Matsui? The Dodgers are inviting a number of fresh faces to training camp in ’04. And the Mariners don’t have many options off the bench…to say the least. All this and much more news from Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Seattle in your Friday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.
This is one of my favorite spring columns. Like any baseball fan, I love arguments over the relative merits of players and how teams should be aligning their talent. And each spring, those arguments get played out on fields across Florida and Arizona. This March brings a fresh batch of players dueling for playing time. I’ve picked out some of the more interesting ones for today’s column.