I opened Bleacher Report this morning, as I always do, to find the featured article on the Los Angeles Dodgers page blaring the headline, "10 Reasons Why Andre Ethier Won't Win the Triple Crown in 2010". You guessed it, I had to open it up to read further with both my curiosity and emotions perking up.
The article was in a slideshow format with each slide another reason it would be impossible for Ethier to win a Triple Crown this season. I was simply going to comment on the article but could not control the urge to make a more finite argument to the opinions that oozed out of the authors keyboard.
I'd like to start with this disclaimer. I have read a number of Jon Schuman's Bleacher Report offerings and have enjoyed them all. In short, I hold Mr. Shuman's literary talents in high regard; however, I am writing this to refute his knowledge of the game of baseball and how it has changed since 1967 when Carl Yastremski last hit for the Triple Crown.
I don't blame Jon for this lack of insight but I do understand it. Jon wasn't even born the last time the feat was accomplished so how can one expect him to have a grasp of what it takes to do it? It would be like me writing about Honus Wagner or Ty Cobb with any degree of accuracy when all I have to reference my opinions are statistics. Baseball is much more than simple statistics. Heart is a major factor that cannot be perceived by a batting average or an RBI total.
Unfortunately, I am old enough to have seen Carl Yastremski in 1967 and Frank Robinson in 1966 and both were great players. The other side to the coin is that they were also very different in the way they played. As different, in fact, as they are to Andre Ethier.
The article begins with the injury sustained to Ethier's pinky last Saturday. I have to dismiss this as a reason for failure because while it may lower his ultimate totals slightly the extra rest he gets will be every bit as much a plus in the form of rest as it is a detriment.
He continues with the fact that Andre is too streaky. While I agree that that has been the case I will point out that every year those streaks have been less and less dramatic. He also adds speculation on the impact Manny Ramirez has batting behind Ethier and the low walk totals put up by Ethier in past seasons. Having a bat like Manny's behind a hitter isn't a detriment, it's a bonus. Ethier will not be walked as often as some other sluggers because he will be getting pitches to hit instead and not be pitched around. Had Yaz or Robby had a Mickey Mantle hitting behind them do you think that would help their numbers or hinder them?
Fine, let us compare shall we:
Frank Robinson didn't accomplish the feat until his 11th season in the Major Leagues and it was his very first year in the American League where many of the pitchers didn't have a book on him yet. His homerun total that year was 49, a full ten homeruns more than his previous high. His winning batting average was .316 compared to his lifetime average to date was only .302. Only his RBI total of 122 was lower than the previous high of 136 he had managed prior.
Carl Yastremski is a closer comparison to Ethier. He was in his seventh big league season when he posted 44 homeruns, up from his previous high of only 20. He drove in 121 runners compared to his old high mark of 94 while his batting average of .326 was up over 30 points from his .292 lifetime mark at that point.
Andre is only in his fifth season. Last year he had a total of 106 RBI, a total that has gone up EVERY season he has been in the show. He has hit over .300 twice already in his short career, (.308 in 2006 and .305 in 2008), in spite of the aforementioned streakiness. His high water mark for homeruns was just last year when he smacked out 31 dingers another total he has increased in EVERY one of his big league seasons.
Mr. Schuman also pointed out that competition the likes of Albert Pujols and Mark Reynolds may be Ethier's undoing. I can only say that the likes of Al Kaline, Micky Mantle, Harmon Killebrew, Frank Howard and more competed with Robinson and Yastremski, as well, but ultimately failed to stop those hitters from their achievement.
Like I said, both of these Hall of Fame hitters were great players but I had the opportunity to see them both live and in person. Personally I think that they would do well to be compared to Andre Ethier and not the other way around.
I will stop short of saying Andre Ethier will definitely win a Triple Crown this season, but I know for a fact it would be foolhardy to count him out without a shred of the most important evidence of all.
I mean how is heart measured exactly? Anyone who has been watching the last couple of years can tell you that when Andre comes up with a game on the line you don't want to be the fan who bet against him.