Everth Cabrera: A Beacon of Hope in San Diego's Dismal '09
Like a certain group of men who made it to the moon, the San Diego Padres celebrate 40 years of history in 2009.
Unlike those celebrated space men, the Friars' history has been more of a tragedy than a celebration, a history of doomed aspirations and frustrated dreams.
Truth is, in a sport that is considered America's pastime, where name recognition is everything when conjuring up images of heroes like Ruth, Williams, Mantle, and Aaron, Americans today are more likely to recognize Buzz Aldrin's sister-in-law's hairdresser than guys like Nate Colbert or Eric Show.
This year has been no different than at least 30-35 of San Diego's previous seasons, in that the team is mired in the bottom of its division, with virtually no chance to make the playoffs.
The single ray of hope (not to be confused with the copious rays of sunlight) glistening on downtown San Diego is the team's change of ownership, which will attempt to import a successful model already employed in Arizona.
For it to work, a blend of cheap, established talent and budding youngsters will be key, and thus San Diego's scouting personnel will have to rely on signing more Everth Cabreras and less Matt Bushes.
Cabrera, a Rule V pickup acquired from the Colorado Rockies, has truly been a steal for San Diego.
Despite a career-long defensive background at second base, Cabrera was asked to play shortstop at the major league level in 2009. Being thrown in the deep end has yielded a floating Cabrera more than a sinking one, as the Nicaraguan has only four errors in 32 games in the middle infield.
Cabrera has looked at times as if he's been playing at short for 10 years now, turning double plays with ease and regularly using his speed and superior glovework to make spectacular diving stops.
He's proven to be no slouch with the bat, either.
Thought of as a light-hitting middle infielder valued more for his speed and defense, Cabrera has responded to critics by being solid at the plate, driving in 11 runs and walking 11 times while striking out on 22 occasions.
While the Padres gave up power when replacing Khalil Greene with Cabrera, they've gained speed (three triples, seven stolen bases), remained pat on defense and improved on having a much more stable, calming presence in the dugout.
After coming back from an injury that sidelined him for the better part of the first half, Cabrera has returned to claim his spot as the team's starting shortstop from Luis Rodriguez, who had filled in with ease following Greene's injury in 2008 and Cabrera's in 2009.
His continuity in the San Diego lineup for now, is a mere formality from here to the end of the season. Cabrera's poise and talent have been gracious surprises for a team that has had few bright spots aside from Adrian Gonzalez's monstrous first half and the emergence of Heath Bell as a top-tier closer.
Certainly San Diego's new ownership group, lead by Jeff Moorad, are impressed with the youngster, who embodies the team's growing philosophy of plundering South and Central America as well as the Caribbean for talent.
The Nicaraguan's makeup and talent point to a lengthy stay in San Diego, a city that seen shortstops the likes of Greene, Garry Templeton, Tony Fernandez, and of course, the Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.
Hold on, Everth, don't put a down payment on that house in La Jolla yet.
The Padres traded Ozzie Smith, remember?
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