I like Ryan Church, and think he has the potential to be a staple on this team for years to come. It's hard to find outfielders with great range, an incredible arm, decent speed, and a solid bat. Church is also relatively inexpensive; he's still arbitration eligible for the next three years before he can land a big free agent contract.
I've also been one of those who believes that Jerry Manuel has unfairly singled him out and has been ruining his season. Whether it was a personality conflict or a "doghouse" for errant play, Manuel seems to have been on his case since spring training.
Church's treatment from Manuel seemed unusual since he seemed to be the type of gritty, tough player the team was lacking and he could become a clubhouse leader. After all, he was one of the only players to speak out in the last week of the season about the lackadaisical locker room.
Initially, I thought Manuel was attempting to motivate Church, but the more he made moves that seemed detrimental to Church, I began to believe that Manuel simply had no faith in the outfielder.
When Church was hitting over .300, he was benched and, once he started to struggle, Jerry buried him at the bottom of the lineup, along with constantly pinch hitting for him in critical situations. Church thrived last year in the two hole, if they really wanted to get him going that's where they'd hit him.
But maybe I got the whole situation wrong; this just might be the Cliff Floyd situation all over again. When Willie and Jerry took over in 2005, Cliff Floyd was coming off the worst offensive year of his career in which he played over 100 games.
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