What do we know? As it turns out, not much. I will say that anyone who plays at the major league level is so far advanced over anyone else that it’s like comparing my writing ability to Jon Weismans’. The worst guy in the majors is so much better than any of us ever were. Think about that for a minute.
When a hitter is in a slump or pitcher just can’t find the strike zone, we fans only look at the results, but fail to consider the underlying circumstances (if they can even be known). For example, Eric Stults lost his mother to cancer. In most cases, this is not an “overnight” thing, but something that can consume several years. By all accounts, Eric was close to his mother, so when he knew she was sick (and maybe no one else knew) how did that affect his ability to pitch? “He’s a professional – he gets paid to produce.” HE’S A HUMAN BEING!
What were the dynamics surrounding Manny Ramirez when he was suspended and after his suspension? He’s a proud person who was humiliated. I believe that his problems last year were more “emotional” than physical. I don’t condone what he did (the steroids), but part of me feels sorry for him because he’s never had to deal with anything like this, and as an elite athlete, he’s ill-equipped to handle it. He’s a professional – he gets paid to produce.” HE’S A HUMAN BEING!
James McDonald seems to get that “deer-in-the-headlights” look when he suddenly walks batters with two outs. He’s young, inexperienced, and who knows what is going on in his life? Not me. Not most reporters! But, boy-oh-boy, he can pitch when he throws strikes! He’s a professional – he gets paid to produce.” HE’S A HUMAN BEING!
What about Chad Billingsley? He’s newly married (I won’t even go there) and he had a broken leg and he’s very young. I mean, there are so many possible distractions and issues in his life that I could write a book about it. He’s a professional – he gets paid to produce.” HE’S A HUMAN BEING!
Rafael Furcal had back surgery before last season and was never the same in 2009. He was friends with Andruw Jones (who had to leave due to illness – the Dodgers were sick of him)and who knows what else was happening in his life, in addition to rehabbing his back. It takes time to come back all the way from that – even when you think you are OK, you aren’t… mentally! In addition, Raffy has his best years in “even years” – look it up – that bodes well for 2010. He’s a professional – he gets paid to produce.” HE’S A HUMAN BEING!
When I think about what goes on in my life – my kids, my wife, my business, my health, my parents and in-laws (actually, I have no parents and in-laws anymore as they have all passed, so maybe that’s easier in some ways), but you get the point – we all have a lot of “stuff” in our lives. So do ballplayers. He’s a professional – he gets paid to produce.” HE’S A HUMAN BEING!
All of this gives me pause, because the power of the human spirit is incredible! I have hope (and tangible evidence from others) that Eric Stults, Manny Ramirez, James McDonald, Rafael Furcal and Chad Billingsley could actually harness their vast talent (initially or again) and put up some great numbers. In fact, I will go on record that there will be no “middle ground” with Manny – he will be very good… or very bad! I am betting on the VERY GOOD part, like .310/37/124. That would play well in the middle of our lineup!
I name these five players, because I think they are in a unique position – they are all poised for breakout (or comback) years in 2010! If that happens, LOOK OUT! This could be a very SPECIAL season.