I'm not often wrong, despite what my friends, family, boss, and girlfriend all say. But when I am, boy am I ever wrong.
Last year, on Opening Day, I latched onto a rookie third baseman who singled his first time at the plate. All year, I rooted for Blake DeWitt to get more and more at-bats, and he did. I was excited for him to play a full season at second as soon as Kent left, since we now had Casey Blake (a player I've long been impressed with) manning the hot corner.
So when Ned Colletti signed yet another veteran-but-not-star infielder (as glad as I was to be rid of the aging, injury-prone Garciaparra and Kent), I was incensed. I wanted DeWitt, for crying out loud! Continue the youth movement! I don't care if Hudson cost us only $3.4 mil!
It is at this point, even though it's only 11 games into the season, that I feel I should apologize and acknowledge my total ignorance. I really didn't think of Hudson as much more than the pesky second baseman for the rival Diamondbacks, and I thought Blake DeWitt would easily fill the same gap. But I've been watching, and there's a lot more to Hudson than I thought.
I was privileged enough to be at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day. Hudson's cycle is easily one of the most exciting baseball moments I've had the privilege to witness. But there is much more to my newfound respect than that. He has been arguably the most exciting player on the Dodgers so far this year, the way Furcal was the spark for this club last spring before he injured his back.
He's a solid hitter. He's hit a couple early home runs to spark the offense and get the Dodgers on the board. He works the count, at the very least tiring the pitchers, and 11 games in, already has seven walks—each of which brought Manny Ramirez to the plate, giving opposing hurlers two reasons to be nervous—because Hudson is also tied for the team lead in stolen bases with four.
He's a smart fielder. You don't just see Hudson out there taking care of second base. He'll turn to the outfield, several times a game, and help shade Kemp or Ethier this way or that. He makes just about every play look ordinary.
He's a terrific influence on the youngsters. Here's a man who always seems to be smiling when you see him in the dugout. He knows this is a game, and he knows it's supposed to be fun, and he refuses to let any of his teammates forget it--from Manny Ramirez to Brad Ausmus. And he's humble, which leads me to my next point...
He's classy. His first thought when interviewed about the cycle he hit on Monday was "my man Jackie Robinson... was watching out for me." Hudson had no idea that Dodger history was at stake in his first home game. He has also attributed his recent success at the top of the order to the great lineup behind him, and begged fans not to expect him to hit the cycle again because "this is a hard enough game as it is."
And finally, the one thing that blows my mind here, the top reason for my recent man-crush on Hudson...
He's not Jeff Kent in any way, shape or form.
I spent the last couple years decrying Kent's lead feet, his hands of brick, his uncanny ability to see the darkest possible side of every situation and alienate everyone he played with, his inability to stay in the lineup, and the total, utter, stunning disappearance of his ability to hit in the clutch. And that mustache is the kind of thing that gives children nightmares. I can't believe they let him wear that out in public. Only Randy Johnson's 'stache is more terrifying.
So, seriously, Orlando? Dude? Please don't backslide in that direction. We like the change.