Friday, August 16, 2013

No Slumping For Old Men

Now batting, Alfonso Soriano

Here we go again.

It's late in the season, and the Yankees are eating contracts. Big, fat, overpaid veteran contracts. It's a strategy they've used for years, hand in hand with their habit of picking up scrap-heap ex-All Stars in spring training.

And like clockwork, the guys hit. And hit. And hit.

Think about it. Ichiro was bored and old in Seattle, a slap hitter who couldn't leg out those infield hits anymore and wouldn't take a walk. Eric Chavez - a professed lover of Ghost Recon - had single-handedly sunk the A's budget for years, with his spun-sugar knees and back made of butterfly wings. Travis Hafner? Vernon "Worst Contract In The Game, Non Ryan Howard Division" Wells? Lyle Overbay? Andruw Jones? Please. All of these guys had forks sticking out of their backs. They were more done than a steak in a blast furnace. Then they got to the Bronx, and suddenly they remembered how to play baseball again.

Now it's happening again. Alfonso Soriano alternated between "mediocre" and "decent" in his years with the Cubs, but he rarely got as far as "good". The rebuilding Northsiders shipped him to Yankee Stadium for some spare parts, and he suddenly turned into Gipsy Danger (pre-final-fight-with-Category-5-kaiju-Gipsy Danger, that is). 18 games. 7 homers. A slugging percentage of .620.

Maybe it's playing in Yankee Stadium that revitalizes these guys. Maybe it's the oft-referenced ghosts, or the fact that these guys suddenly find themselves on a contender when previously they played for, well, the Cubs. Or maybe the Yankees have better facilities, or better coaches, or something. Nobody else gets these results off the discard pile, though.

It's actually kind of fun to watch, assuming you weren't a fan of the team that one of these last year's models used to play for. I can only imagine how infuriated Mariners fans familiar with the dented and dinged Ichiro of his last couple of years at Safeco might react to his gliding around right in Yankee Stadium, a renewed spring in his step. For the rest of us, though, it's fun to see the guys we used to love make one last victory tour. Andruw Jones in his Yankees years looked like about three of the guy he was with the Braves, but let it pass - it was a pleasure to see him rediscover himself, if only for a while.

Meanwhile, the wheel turns. The Indians cut loose Mark Reynolds, the slugging whiff machine who hadn't hit anything but Lake Erie-spawned gnats since April. The Yankees picked him up. .215 BA. 123 strikeouts. A 94 OPS+, buoyed up by that one big month. A bat deader than a singles' bar for prog rock fans.

Thursday, the Yankees picked him up.

Tonight? A 2-run homer.

Here we go again.
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