This morning I was looking for some quick ideas and came across this story, which brought back a fond memory:
I made a mistake on April 17, 1988, when the Kansas City Royals were in Detroit to play the Tigers. George Brett, the Hall of Fame third baseman, crushed a 1-2 fastball in the fourth inning over the roof in right field. He was only the 15th player to clear the roof since Tiger Stadium was rebuilt 50 years earlier.
I might have been the only one of the 18,292 in attendance that Sunday not to see Brett’s majestic blast. I only heard it. A distinctly loud crack echoed through the lower-deck reserved seats, awakening me from a midafternoon slumber. What I saw was Brett, striking a pose to admire what I had missed — a towering drive that news reports said landed near a lumber yard nearly 450 feet from home plate.
I admire Wayne Kamidoi for admitting that he fell asleep during a baseball game. I've done that a couple of times, both during incredibly humid games -- one in Boston, the other in the Bronx -- but it's still embarrassing to admit. I do have a vague memory of seeing Brett's titanic blast on television, but it's just as likely that I was listening on the radio and caught the highlight later.
Actually, Brett's probably not the greatest example of a player you had to see every time, because he was far more likely to drive a double into the gap than launch a homer into a lumber yard. We always wanted to watch him because we loved him, not because we expected something spectacular.
Kamidoi brings up the 25-year-old story about Brett to introduce Miguel Cabrera, another player whose at-bats shouldn't be missed. Hey, no objection here. But I'm bringing Kamidoi's story because yesterday someone asked me to name the greatest hitter in baseball today.
The answer's easy, or it's not; depends on your definition of "hitter."
If you're counting baserunning and fielding, it's so obviously Mike Trout that if you have a different answer I'm yanking your Hall of Fame ballot forever. But if you're not counting baserunning and fielding -- if all you're counting are the things that happen when the guys are in the batter's box -- then we can talk. Because it's pretty damn close between Trout and Cabrera. Pretty, pretty, pretty close.
Looking just at various versions of Batting Runs or OPS+ or whatever, it's essentially a tie over the last two seasons. Granted, Trout didn't play in the first month of 2012 ... but Cabrera obviously wasn't himself in the last month of 2013. So that's basically a wash.
I'm still going with Trout, because we don't know if Cabrera will be fully recovered this spring. But nobody should be shocked if Cabrera is a better hitter than Trout in 2014. I will, on the other hand, be semi-surprised if a healthy Trout isn't the best player in the American League. Again.
What will really be hilarious? If the Seraphs aren't in the playoffs and the MVP goes to somebody else. Again.