“…and I’d like to thank my first major league hitting coach, Kevin Seitzer, who not only taught me about the importance of crushing a hanging curve, but also how to love.”
Alright, so I’m not sure why Eric Hosmer will be talking about Seitzer teaching him how to love in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech 25 years from now, but I know for a fact that he’ll be giving a Hall of Fame speech 25 years from now. He can’t not. This city needs him to blossom, to become the greatest thing since sliced Brett. No pressure.
But in a game that’s all about inches, it’s often prudent to move in baby steps. And the first tender footed movement can be made by Hosmer taking his rightful place as the AL’s 2011 Rookie of the Year.
If only my impassioned pleas were enough.
Why He Should be Rookie of the Year:
Hosmer has built his candidacy by looking like a really good major leaguer this year, regardless of tenure. He looks polished at first base and bona fide with a bat in his hands. Numbers are boring, so I won’t assault you with the super-geek stats (and frankly, his Wins Above Replacement figure is average, at best), but it’s hard to ignore .295/19/78, an OBP of .337 with an OPS of .807. Those are the numbers—deemed relatively antiquated by New Order stat fans like Rany Jazayerli—that voters look at. And Hosmer’s numbers look just fine.
How fine? Compared to the Angel’s 1B Mark Trumbo—arguably Hosmer’s biggest offensive competition—he looks like Pete Rose. Trumbo (who’s 4 years older, it’s worth noting) has an impressive 29 homeruns this year, but he’s batting a robust .254 with an OBP of .291. And although he’s got nine more RBI than Hoz, it has taken him 23 more games to do so.
Projected over a full season, Hosmer pans out as a .295/24/100 hitter. There isn’t a team in the league who wouldn’t take that. And again, these are the rookie year numbers of a 21 year old kid. As he matures, and his experience grows, he reckons to be one of the most feared hitters in the game. Trumbo might be something or he might be nothing. To be honest, I detect faint notes of Jack Cust, a journeyman DH with great power numbers unable to keep a lineup spot because of his inability to get on base or hit anything other than a homerun
Why Hosmer Shouldn’t be Rookie of the Year:
The Royals have been down this road before.
In the beginning, God created Lou Piniella. In 1969, Sweet Lou ushered in a new era of Kansas City Baseball for the expansion Royals by taking home Rookie of the Year honors. After a successful major league career, he became an even more successful manager, and blah, blah, blah.
You know the rest.
Next came everyone’s favorite PBR swilling, uncle-cum-ballplayer, Bob Hamelin. In 1994’s strike shortened season, ‘The Hammer’ hit .282 with 24 dingers. Impressive. The cherubic, bespectacled slugger (I had the same eyeglasses in middle school, so I felt a strange kinship) hit seven homeruns the following year, and a measly nine the next. He kicked around with the Tigers and the Brewers for a spell, and quit unexpectedly in the middle of a minor league game. Rumor has it, his spirit still haunts the abandoned ballpark in Toledo. Or he’s a minor league scout for the Blue Jays organization, I’m not sure.
Hamelin begat Carlos Beltran, who, well, you know… he’s Beltran. Though his career hasn’t necessarily been Hall of Fame caliber, he certainly cemented his above-average legacy much more than our next ROY winner, Angel Berroa.
Berroa, who came to KC as a result of the disastrous Johnny Damon trade, took home the honors in 2003, but not without controversy. It was widely argued that Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui had a better season, but Matsui was far from a traditional rookie, having played several previous seasons in his native Japan. Strangely enough, a similar concern wasn’t expressed for another questionable statistic: Berroa’s genuine age (it’s worth noting that he was actually two years older than initially thought when he was acquired from the Athletics—not really a strange occurrence from a country where birth certificates are about as believable as Marcus Bachmann‘s sexual preferences).
The next few years with Angel were hellish, and KC eventually flipped him for Tony Pena Jr. That’s right, THE Tony Pena Jr.
Oh, and don’t forget about the ‘honorable mentions.’ Mike Aviles came in 4th in 2008’s voting. He’s gone now, playing third for the Red Sox. Brian Bannister and Joakim Soria placed in the top 10 in 2007. At last check, Bannister was fleeing the earthquake in Japan (no joke- he quit his Japanese team after nuclear meltdown fears) and Soria was struggling, but still with the Royals. The same can’t be said for 2004’s top 10 finishers, Zack Greinke (Brewers), John Buck (Marlins) and David DeJesus (A’s).
And I’d be remiss without mentioning the legendary Mark Quinn who finished 3rd in voting in 2000, injured himself Kung Fu fighting with his brother, and disappeared into that weird wasteland where former professional ball players go to die.
So the bottom line is this: statistically, we just don’t have much luck with Rookie of Year winners. The law of averages would say that if Hosmer wins, he’ll either be:
A) Worthless in less than two and a half years, or
B) Traded for prospects
Why He Won’t be Rookie of the Year:
Because God hates Kansas City. Because at some point in the past, we were drunk at a party and we hit on God’s girlfriend. But hey, we didn’t know. We were a little wasted. She looked really good from across the room. The D’Angelo was pumping, the lights were a little low… God was in the kitchen doing a keg stand. And dude, it’s not like he was even talking to her all night. If Robbie hadn’t pointed it out to you, you wouldn’t have even known that she came with God. So we fucked everything up that one night years ago, at that house party in Amherst.
And so we’re cursed.
And this means, that in all likelihood, Hosmer won’t win. No, our scrappy little city will be overlooked in favor of the sexy picks from bigger markets—Trumbo in LA or Ivan Nova of the Yankees (16-4, 3.62 ERA).
And we’ll weep. But we won’t be surprised.
Why I WANT Him to Be Rookie of the Year:
Kansas City needs this. After finally getting a modicum of recognition with Greinke’s Cy Young win, we promptly lost it in yet another gut-wrenching trade. The Chiefs are routinely miserable, we can’t land a basketball or hockey team, and the Big 12 is more fragile than a 15 year old Labrador’s hip. As a long-suffering city with terrific sports fans—shut the fuck up, Cleveland, it’s bad here, too—we deserve it. We’ve cried and puked and vomited and laughed (albeit deliriously) for countless years as we watch our teams fail to make even the tiniest ripple, and our best players find success elsewhere.
For once—just for once, goddammit—I want to talk to a friend in another city and not have them say, ‘who?’ when I ask if they saw ______’s homerun on Sportscenter. We had that momentarily, but Greinke took it with him when he left. Five years from now, I guarantee that a majority of casual baseball fans outside of the KC area will have no idea that he played here; it’s just what happens when you’re this inconsequential.
Hosmer winning Rookie of the Year is a step in the right direction. His Hall of Fame speech will be a giant leap for all of Kansas City.