Chuck 'n' Duck

"I'm a very optimistic person. When you're optimistic, the good opportunities, good fortune, good everything will come with it." - Jae Seo Chuck 'n' Duck: the New York Mets from an Eternal Optimist's P.O.V.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

You're a Shining Star

New Yorkers have a reputation for wanting to be the biggest. They take pride in living in the Capital of the World, and therefore always want the best. They want the best restaurants, they want the best nightclubs, they want the best hotels. And they always want the best sports team.

Because of that, they typically want the best players to fill those sports teams. And, because 85% of people who follow sports team follow them fairly casually, when names like "Alfonso Soriano" pop up, they go, "Oh, he's supposed to be really good. The Mets need a second baseman, they should get him."

But watching the Angels over the past couple nights -- you know, the team that beat the Best Team in New York in five games -- my eyes couldn't help but wander over to second base, where Adam Kennedy plays. He's by no means the best player in the American League, AL West, or his own team. He's not drafted in the Top 100 or even the Top 200. He's not even well known enough to be Number 1 on Google's "Adam Kennedy" search -- that credit goes to a London-based real estate agent.

But Kennedy hit .300 this year. He played a Gold Glove caliber secondbase. His teammates are in love with him. He always plays hard. And he's considered one of the most clutch players in the American League -- .339/.374/.409 with runners on, .330/.374/.409 with runners in scoring position, .286/.364/.347 with runners in scoring position with two out. And, with a man on third and two out, he's 8 for 16. .500.

Of course, the Angels minor league system has a couple solid second base prospects coupled with some top shortstop prospects that will probably need to switch somewhere else with Orlando Cabrera in their spot for the next three years. And when these guys are talked about, it's usually with the thought process that Adam Kennedy doesn't exactly have the goods to be holding them up.

And though he doesn't light up the room with his talent, what Kennedy does bring to the table is intangibles. He's like a Ty Wigginton who can hit and field. He plays every game all out. He's gritty and always a threat wherever he is on the field. You see, playoff teams are littered with these guys. Look at the teams that have made the postseason, and are continuing on. They've got Adam Kennedys at second. David Ecksteins at short. Brad Ausmuses behind the plate.

It's proof you don't need the brightest star in the galaxy in order to succeed. The Mets have proven this over the past four years with the Mo Vaughns, Roberto Alomars and, yes, even Pedro Martinezes and Carlos Beltrans not bringing the team to a postseason berth. You can go to the Yankee route and keep throwing big money at players in the hopes it'll inch you ever closer, or you can go and utilize the little guys. The guys who'll hit .290 - .300, grind it out every game, and play solid ball.

The Mets don't need an Alfonso Soriano to hit 30 HRs and grab winter backpages when it comes along with subpar defense and yet another sub .300 OBP in the lineup. An Adam Kennedy addition wouldn't be nearly as splashy, that's a given.

But would it make the team better?

Perhaps you can ask the Angels that.