10 Newly Signed Players Who Have Yet to Win over New Fanbase
The joys of signing a brand-spanking new contract can quickly subside due to a luke-warm start to the season.
A lucrative contract is only worthwhile when the on-the-field production is present, and for some newly signed players, the transition to a new team has come with a price.
Whatever the reason may be—a new park, a new hitting coach, the pressure to perform or simply an early season slump—the thought of winning over hundreds of thousands of loyal fans can weigh heavily on a player's psyche.
It's easy to play well as a hometown favorite. Sometimes it's reaching that recognition which proves challenging.
Here are 10 players with new teams fighting for acceptance.
Placido Polanco, 3B
2012 Team: Philadelphia Phillies
2013 Team: Miami Marlins
Along with fellow former Philly Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco agreed to join a depleted Marlins squad in 2013 when he signed a one-year, $2.75 million contract.
Pierre and Polanco were brought in as tested veterans to mentor and lead a young Miami team in the first of many transition years.
It's astonishing, however, that the 37-year-old Polanco was able to pull in nearly $3 million after a 2012 season in which he struggled with back pain, allowing him to play in just 90 games. His three-slash line in 2013 reflects poorly on his obviously diminished abilities: .243/.310/.278.
After the deconstruction of the Marlins at the hands of owner Jeffrey Loria, who can blame Polanco or the unenthusiastic fan base for an overall lack of motivation?
Delmon Young, Outfield
2012 Team: Detroit Tigers
2013 Team: Philadelphia Phillies
A completely revamped Phillies outfield, rid of Shane Victorino (Boston), Hunter Pence (San Francisco) and Juan Pierre (Miami), now has the flexibility of utility outfielder Delmon Young.
Granted, having started the season on the disabled list due to offseason ankle surgery, Young hasn't had the opportunity to win over Phillies fans quite yet. It will be an uphill climb, especially as he fills the role of fourth outfielder along with Laynce Nix.
Young signed a one-year, $750,000 contract this past offseason, and despite his defensive shortcomings, which were candidly mentioned by GM Ruben Amaro Jr., the 27-year-old can provide some pop at the plate. He cranked 18 home runs and 74 RBI as the Detroit Tigers' starting left fielder last year.
With a few more weeks of baseball under his belt, Young should win the raucous Philly fans over.
Maicer Izturis, 2B
2012 Team: Los Angeles Angels
2013 Team: Toronto Blue Jays
A smaller, unrecognized part of the new-look Blue Jays was the addition of second baseman Maicer Izturis, who signed a three-year, $10 million contract last November.
The 32-year-old spent the last eight seasons with the Los Angeles Angels as their primary second baseman. Other than his three home runs in 2013—which already eclipsed his total from last year (two)—Izturis' .217 average is as much a part of the Blue Jays' underachieving start as anything else.
It's difficult to win over fans when your team enters the 2013 season with such high expectations, yet sits in last place in the AL East and seven games under .500.
The Jays have won four in a row, so if the chemistry continues to form, Izturis should become a nice complementary piece in the lineup.
Carlos Pena, 1B
2012 Team: Tampa Bay Rays
2013 Team: Houston Astros
The Houston Astros and their fans are going through an identity crisis: a new league, a new logo and a young, untested team.
For 13-year-veteran Carlos Pena, however, it's more of the same: a low batting average, high strikeout rate and the ability to clobber one over the fence when he does make contact.
Pena has a .206 batting average over the past three seasons but has a proven track record as a power hitter, which brought him to Houston. It's also what could help him leave, too, as a trading chip come the August 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
For now, he'll work on raising his .234 average and lowering his 27.7 percent strikeout frequency. That just might please the handful of Astros fans paying attention this season.
Stephen Drew, SS
2012 Team: Oakland Athletics
2013 Team: Boston Red Sox
After beginning the season on the disabled list due to a concussion, Stephen Drew's absence allowed farm-grown talent Jose Iglesias to win over the Boston faithful.
Drew drew heavy criticism after a horrific April in which he hit .154 and struck out in nearly one-third of his plate appearances.
The brother of former Red Sox J.D. Drew has stepped on the accelerator as of late, hitting .321 during May, including three home runs and 12 RBI. His grand slam on Wednesday helped power the Red Sox past the Rays, 9-2.
Drew may not have won over Red Sox Nation yet, but if he continues this torrid pace, the $9 million the Red Sox sunk into him won't sting as bad as it did in April.
Jeff Keppinger, 2B
2012 Team: Tampa Bay Rays
2013 Team: Chicago White Sox
When the Chicago White Sox signed Jeff Keppinger to a three-year, $12 million dollar deal in December, they believed they were getting a utility infielder who hit .325 in 115 games for the Tampa Bay Rays last season.
So far the utility infielder part has remained true.
Keppinger is batting .183 on the season, and before Thursday night's game against the Los Angeles Angels, his on-base percentage matched (.185 entering Thursday). After 140 plate appearances, the 33-year-old drew his first walk of the season, becoming the last major leaguer to do so this season. Consequently, it resulted in the winning run of Thursday's 5-4 victory.
Keppinger's cold bat is not winning any fans over, and neither is his low OBP. Maybe he just needs to walk it off.
Melky Cabrera, Outfield
2012 Team: San Francisco Giants
2013 Team: Toronto Blue Jays
The story of his 2013 season could be changing for Melky Cabrera, who entered the year with much speculation and a target on his back.
After being assessed a 50-game suspension for PED use and his subsequent attempt to cover it up, Cabrera was given a second chance by the Blue Jays, who signed him to a two-year, $16 million deal.
A slow start in which he hit .241 through March and April has switched to a red-hot bat. Cabrera is hitting .413 over the last two weeks, including a four-hit performance against his former club, the San Francisco Giants, to up his season average to .284.
If the Blue Jays keep winning, Cabrera will be an important piece at the top of the order.
Michael Bourn, Outfield
2012 Team: Atlanta Braves
2013 Team: Cleveland Indians
Michael Bourn was well on his way to winning over the hearts of baseball fans in Cleveland before a lacerated finger placed him on the disabled list.
Before the injury, Bourn was hitting .333 with two home runs and a .975 OPS. Since his return on May 10, the center fielder is hitting just .250 through seven games.
Given some time to get back in the swing of things, Bourn shouldn't have any trouble leading an Indians team with a high ceiling and a chance to make the playoffs.
Without enough playing time, though, Bourn needs to dazzle his new fan base before he's won them over.
B.J. Upton, Outfield
2012 Team: Tampa Bay Rays
2013 Team: Atlanta Braves
It goes without saying that B.J. Upton is not living up to the five-year, $75 million contract he signed this past offseason with the Atlanta Braves.
What makes B.J.'s painful start even worse is when it is compared to the play of his brother and teammate, Justin.
While B.J.'s three-slash line clocks in at .141/.235/.237 along with his three home runs and six RBI, his brother's line impresses at .285/.403/.639. Justin's league-leading 14 home runs are just an added bonus.
B.J. Upton has seen his batting average steadily drop since the 2007 season and begin to hover around .240. At the same time, his strikeout totals have increased along with his home run totals.
He has struck out (51) 2.5 times more frequently than he's collected a hit (19) and has been caught stealing (three) as many times as he's successfully stolen a base (three).
The Braves are hoping his numbers don't lag at this pace all season. If they do, the organization, and the fans, won't be pleased.
Josh Hamilton, Outfield
2012 Team: Texas Rangers
2013 Team: Los Angeles Angels
The highest-profile acquisition of the 2012 offseason was the five-year, $125 million contract Josh Hamilton signed with the Los Angeles Angels.
Notwithstanding his brilliant performance in the Head and Shoulders commercials, Hamilton has yet to impress with his new squad even though he remained in the same division and is facing the same pitchers.
And if the Angels were hoping for a superhuman month of May like Hamilton produced in 2012 (.344, 12 HRs, 32 RBI), the slugger is running out of time.
So while the Angels sit just four games ahead of the last place Astros in the AL West, Mr. Hamilton is sporting a three-slash line of .210/.258/.347—extremely unimpressive for a player of his caliber.
There's no doubt that the former Ranger will find his stride soon enough. It's just a matter of how long Angels fans will hold out before the boos begin raining down.
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