Will Ryan Garko's Base-Running Blunder Lead to His Triumphant Return?

Nino CollaSenior Writer IAugust 8, 2008

Ryan Garko is having a Travis Hafner-like 2007 this year. He's quietly knocked in 50 runs this year, but because of a poor batting average and falling slugging percentage, Garko's year has been strongly criticized.

Deservedly so, as Garko has been the biggest culprit of the group of players that failed to step up their game while their core hitters, Hafner and Victor Martinez, are out with injuries.

Why the slump?

What could Garko possibly be doing wrong to be struggling for so long? He came out of the gates in 2008 firing, hitting .317 through April 22 with 11 RBI and 12 walks to only six strikeouts.

Is he simply just a glorified platoon hitter that shouldn't be playing against right-handed hitting?

No, one thing the Indians make sure of before they start a player full time is that he can hit both left-handers and right-handers. Last year, Garko had a better average against left-handers, but he had double the home runs against right-handers. 44 of his 61 RBI came against right-handers, a very lopsided split.

For the most part, those trends are continuing this year, only at a regressed rate. His batting average is higher against left-handers, but he is knocking in more runs against right-handers.

Yet his confidence is shot and it's taken at least three months to admit he's got a problem.

This was the tune Garko was singing to the reporters about a month ago.

"I'm confident in my approach and what I've been doing; I'm the same guy as before. My numbers are just a little different."

Just a little different?

Garko has obviously not been watching his numbers, kind of like the way he wasn't watching his groundball bounce foul as he stood in the batter's box.

What about that, Ryan, how do you explain that one?

"I made a big mistake right there; it’s the first time it's happened, and it will be the last."

You better hope it is the last time, considering that is rule No. 1 when you play under Eric Wedge, who's a big proponent of hustle and play your hardest. Garko did just the opposite.

So what? He wouldn't have been safe anyway.

It's the principle of the thing, especially for a guy who is stinking up the joint as much as he is.

Will Garko get benched longer than the mid-game benching Wedge gave him on Thursday? It was a benching that caused him to play catcher Sal Fasano at first base for a few innings. One that ultimately might have cost the team an out with a sharp groundball double down the first-base line.

I'm sure you could pull out a ton of things in Garko's 2008 year and say, "Yeah, Garko could use this to turn around his season."

Casey Blake's trade, Garko's big RBI night in Texas a few months ago, the day Victor Martinez went on the disabled list, even the day he got benched in favor of Andy Marte.

He never responded when adversity or success prompted him. However, if there was anytime for Garko to prove he isn't a mirage, it would be now.

This would be the ideal time for him to show his worth and break out of this season-long funk.

Take it personally, hold yourself accountable for your failures, and admit you've practically laid an egg this entire season. Don't feed the media garbage about hitting the ball but hitting it to the wrong spots.

The question is though, how will this benching effect Garko for real? He fully expected it the minute he stepped out of the box and headed toward the dugout. Garko is smart, he went to Stanford, he can figure out when he's made a colossal mistake.

Will he actually use this to his advantage? Or will he let it go by like he has every other situation this year?

For everyone else’s sake Ryan, overcome this horrendous blunder and right the ship. Give the Indians a good problem, rather than a bad one. You've proven you have the bat to produce at the big leagues, now let's see you step it up.