It's that time of year again, and all of the MLB Community Leaders are beginning to get into full-swing as the upcoming season nears.
As an Orioles' fan, I can only marvel at the feats that 25-year old Nick Markakis has accomplished in only two full seasons with the O's.
In both seasons, he had a .300+ batting average, 20 or more homeruns.
In 2007, he reached the 100 RBI-mark for the first time in his young career, and in 2008, he showed off his defensive prowess, as he led the American League with 17 outfield assists.
Many Blue Jay fans have the same sort of praise for right-fielder Alex Rios, as he is blossoming into a superstar in Toronto.
This leads to the argument I was presented with:
"The Blue Jays can’t really afford to compete with the rest of the AL East with their payroll and the Orioles have been attempting to rebuild for a few years now. But there a few bright spots on these squads and they are in the outfield. Which right fielder would you rather have, Alex Rios of the Jays or Nick Markakis of the Orioles?"
Ahh, the classic debate. I love times like these.
Here, though, I must stand up for my squad by choosing Nick Markakis.
How can one argue against this phenom?
Last season, he hit .306, with 20 homeruns, 87 RBI, 106 runs scored, and ten stolen bases. If anything, this was a different type of hitting season for Nick, as he seemed to focus more on contact rather than pure power.
To better explain: In 2008, his batting average increased from .300 to .306 and he raised his on-base percentage from .362 to .406; however, his RBI total lowered by 25 and his homerun total decreased by three
Just think how great he will become when he puts it all together.
The advantage that he brings to any team not only comes with a bat; a glove is also thrown in.
As previously stated, he led the AL in outfield assists with 17. Let us also not forget the numerous diving grabs made while covering the ground in right field at Camden Yards.
With him on defense, everyone seems to benefit. Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones had this to say:
"Playing next to Markakis is a joy. You know what he's gonna do, you don't even have to worry about him. I don't move him or anything; he just goes out there and plays right."
In other words, what he brings to the table is...well...everything.
In fact, the Orioles organization was so high on him, they awarded him with the second-largest contract in team history. He now goes into the 2009 season riding on a six-year, $66.1 million extension.
Some fans believe that this might affect his play. Markakis begs to differ.
"From my point, I don't think I have anything to change besides just working harder and getting better at things and just go out there and continue the way I'm playing. When I go out on the field, it's 100 percent whether we're down ten runs or up ten runs. It's still a ball game for nine innings, and you go out there and play hard the whole game."
Some encouraging words from the newly-signed stud.
So, to better answer the debate question:
His skills cannot be matched, and people are just beginning to see exactly what he is capable of.
What he brings to the Orioles franchise, though, is much more than just a man with talent.
He also carries the future of a losing team on his shoulders.
He is the sign of hope for all Baltimore fans.
He is Nick Markakis.