Earlier in the season, I attended another game, a certain blown 9th inning lead to Minnesota, perhaps you remember it? Let's just say that I would later, in retrospect, feel bad for those that had to suffer the ride home with me. It didn't, however, go without some representation of productivity, if production is what one could call it. That evening, in a message to my fantasy baseball league and some of my more Royals interested friends, I completely broke down the SS position, with the help of the Bill James Handbook, and, at least to my own satisfaction, demonstrated that a purely defensive minded SS with little to no hitting capability was no longer a viable option in Major League Baseball. In our case, Tony Pena JR. Well, my argument was most certainly not heard by the Royals' organization, but my wishes were granted within a week, as Mike Aviles was called up from Omaha and soon inserted into the starting SS position. And now at SS, I am content. With Aviles, seriously, who isn't at the very least, content? So now I turn my attention to 1B and MR Ross Gload.
You know, for years the experts have been clamoring on about how it is absolutely essential to get certain production from certain positions, one of the bigger productivity hot spots being first base. But I always figured that if you made up for it at other less expected positions (just look at the Yankees), then you could afford some slack elsewhere. The problem is that over the years, we haven't exactly had our version of Posada at catcher, or Jeter at shortstop, or Bernie Williams in center field. So perhaps it's time to examine our first baseman a little closer. Ross Gload, this season, is hitting .259 with 1 HR and 22 RBI in 255 at bats. One home run! One? I can't even remember what sorry pitcher dealt that unforgivable pitch up! One. Alright then, I guess it's time to examine the production of the other first basemen around MLB.
Well, at first I should mention that there are a couple of players at this position that are so mind-blowingly better than Ross Gload offensively, that they aren't even worth a comparison. Like Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols. Well, but then there are Justin Morneau, Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixera as well. And also Jason Giambi, Adrian Gonzalez, Derek Lee, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. And of course, don't forget about James Loney, Carlos Delgado, or by any means, this year's MLB HR leader Ryan Howard. Damn it. I've only gotten started and already 13 teams, almost half of the 30 team league have way, way better first basemen than Ross Gload. This could get ugly.
Then there are Joey Votto and Chris Davis, who while being just recently called up this season, seem to be penciled in as their respective teams' future at their positions and are already demonstrating far superior offensive aptitude than that of Ross Gload. Make that 15 teams, half the majors.
Then there are these players:
Casey Kotchman is hitting .289 with 9 HR and 48 RBI, so he's clearly much better than Gload. Plus, Ross' thing is his defensive capabilities, but he doesn't even have the edge over Casey there, kind of like when (whatever Ivy league school that was) played Stanford in the tournament last year, they just really didn't have an edge in anything at all, on or off the court. Plus he's only 25 and still pretty new to the league so he has time to get much better. That said, Kotchman's never thrilled me, which I only bring up because he seems to be a guy that even younger players get compared to from time to time. If a guy is said to have the potential to be a Casey Kotchman type player somewhere down the line, at first I think, oh, that's all? But then after a moment of reflection, I wonder, wait a minute, we don't even know what kind of player Casey Kotchman's going to be down the line! Is that what scouting has come to? Players are now projected to be something like another player's projection?
Mike Jacobs has 20 HR's this year already, 20. Again, 20. Really, that's not as incredible as I'm making it sound here, but 20 at this point for a Royal, any Royal would be as incredible to me as if our dog learned to use the toilet. Carlos Pena has 15, which would lead our team as well, and he's missed time with injuries. Actually, that guy put up 46 last year! Now we're dreaming. Here's the thing, neither Jacobs or Pena really do much else at the plate offensively, but who cares? I always kind of cringe when someone labels John Buck as being this kind of hitter. You mean the John Buck with 6 HR's? He did hit 18 one season and will probably do it again, but he's not a power hitter; he's an average to below average hitting catcher with occasional power. But my beef's not with Buck, it's with Gload right now, and both Jacobs and Pena are far superior hitters.
And now that it's post-June, Adam LaRoche is too. I really hate slow starters, mostly I think because by the time those guys get it going, the Royals are all ready counting down the days to being mathematically eliminated, planning for next season and seeking to deal off some guys for prospects by the trade deadline. Where were these guys when you needed them? I'm sure it works out for teams that always make late runs, like the A's and the Yankees, but do you think Pirates fans would disagree with me much when it comes to LaRoche? Not a chance. Also not a chance that Gload will ever be capable of putting up the kind of second half numbers that LaRoche does. No contest.
Are Todd Helton and Paul Konerko washed up? Helton's hurt right now, and wasn't playing all that great before he went down. The Colorado web site's depth chart has Garrett Atkins listed at first and third as the starter right now, but which is it? Either way, when Helton gets back, he's still quite a bit better than Gload just on lineup presence alone, not to mention that he has been one of the best hitters in the league. I suspect that three years after he retires, he'll still be a better hitter than Ross Gload. And Atkins? Well, much, much better of course. Konerko is having a terrible season, but he's only 32 and he's had a season similar to this before in 2003 and he bounced back nicely then. Plus, you have to consider that he's still a lineup presence in pitcher's minds, one that Gload isn't, and for good reason, he still has 9 HR's and he's way, way off his normal offensive production. With Gload, what you see is about what you're likely to get, a lot of ground balls that might find a hole if he's lucky, unless he gets some air under it, in which case, won't be for very far. I can't believe I'm even comparing these guys; I feel like an idiot. Tell you what, Helton v Gload, Konerko v Gload: you choose. Now, Helton v Konerko, that's a lot more interesting discussion.
I don't even know who is officially Arizona's starting 1B. I thought it was Conor Jackson, but the team's website lists Chad Tracy there. Either way, Tracy has much better numbers than Gload and Jackson has far better numbers than our boy. I have no idea what direction the first place, below .500 D-backs are going with this, but I'm pretty sure that it's better than what's manning the position back here on the home front.
Lyle Overbay is essentially the league average 1B in my mind. To be league average, that means that the player, in a perfect world, should either be the 30th best starting 1B or one of the better reserve 1B in the league. He's hitting .275 with 6 HR's and 39 RBI's. That's a little better than last season and a little worse than the 2 seasons he had before that. Average. So, it stands to reason that he's about the worst starting first baseman in the league, right? Wrong, the following teams are doing much worse at the position:
The Oakland A's, Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, San Fransisco Giants, Washington Nationals, and of course, the Kansas City Royals. Notice something these teams have in common? They all suck, except of course for the A's whom we all thought would suck and now that they're trading everybody away, will probably suck. Ladies and Gentleman, to win, you must have a first baseman that can hit. Now, most teams, besides these 7, all have one so you need much more than just that, but you gotta have it. And we don't. Or do we?
Ryan Shealy in AAA Omaha is hitting .296 with 15 HR's and 44 RBI. Mike Stodolka is on the same team and hitting pretty well but needs a lot more playing time. Kila Kaaihue is in AA Northwest Arkansas and is hitting, get ready for this, .305 with 25 HR's and 71 RBI! What? Oh, we have no idea what these guys' numbers will translate to MLB as being, but we're pretty sure we know what we're going to get with Gload. He's a perfectly acceptable BACKUP 1B at the major league level. It's time to give someone a chance to prove that they can be a solid starting 1B at the major league level. Just a chance, that's all I'm asking for.