|Why Joe likes Mike|
Written by Bjoern Hartig (Contact & Archive) on April 22, 2009
Joe Posnanski is by far my favorite baseball writer because he has both a sense for the factual side of baseball, the hard, cold numbers, as well as for the narrative side, the stories, the emotions. You could say that he understands that the RBI may not be the most meaningful stat in baseball, but also knows that driving is the run in the moment that creates excitement. Okay, that sounded better in my head, but there is a reason why I am not a well paid sports writer. Anyway, Joe recently published a story about his new favorite player on the Royals, first baseman Mike Jacobs, that is a must read:
I think everyone here knows how I feel about Mike Jacobs. It's fair to say that Jacobs not only has a few baseball traits that drive me mad, but he is that actual archetype of a player I cannot stand. He doesn't walk or get on base. He's utterly limited defensively. He doesn't help you on the bases when he actually gets there. He's next to worthless against lefties. He strikes out a lot. A lot. When the Kansas City Royals traded for him this offseason, well, that was my fourth-least favorite move by general manager Dayton Moore.
The reason I have come to like Jacobs and to root for him ... well, I guess it started on what was supposed to be Opening Day in Chicago. The game was snowed-out, and so the Royals had a voluntary workout. Jacobs was there, and it was cold, it was windy, few players were outside. He went to home plate even though there was no pitcher. He dug into the batter's box. He swung at an imaginary pitch. And he hit an imaginary home run. He ran around the bases with his arm in the air, like Tom Berenger in Major League. Now, as someone who loves baseball and Major League and the ridiculous, I can't help but appreciate that.
And so, I started watching Jacobs a bit more closely. And suddenly, involuntarily, I found myself rooting for him. Like I said up top, I don't know exactly why. But I think it's because of this: There's a certain thrill in watching a Mike Jacobs at-bat. He seems -- and I have to say "seems" because I have never asked him about this -- he seems to understand exactly what's happening around him. There's something in his body language, in the joy he seems to get out of baseball, in the way he holds his bat ... he seems to be saying to the pitcher:
"You know, I know, everyone here knows that I have some holes in my swing. And you know, I know, everyone here knows where those holes are located. I'm not going to hit the good fastball up and in. I'm not going to hit the sharp breaking ball. I'll probably chase a pitch when behind in the count -- let's face it, I can't really help myself, those pitches really look good. So, yeah, let's be perfectly honest here: If you throw good pitches, you're probably going to strike me out. And if you're left-handed, you don't even need to throw especially good pitches, you're probably going to get me.
"Actually, BUT -- it's a big BUT ...
"But if you make a mistake, I'm going to freaking hit the ball 700 miles."
Sure it's fun to watch Albert Pujols hit and watch Johan Santana pitch, but I'm just not sure how close you can get to that sort of genius.
The weird thing is that my opinion about Mike Jacobs as a baseball player has not changed at all. As a baseball evaluator I still see all his weaknesses outweighing his strengths. As a GM, I would not have traded for him. But as a baseball fan ... I just enjoy the heck out of watching him step to the plate, kill or be killed. The other day he faced Cleveland's Jensen Lewis, and he took a high fastball for a ball, and then watched a 90-mph fastball go by that was right in his wheelhouse, I mean the perfect Mike Jacobs pitch -- 90 mph, just above the knees, outside but caught too much of the plate. That's the sort of pitch you only get once, and you could see Jacobs grimace for a second as if to say, "Man, that was it."
Two pitches later, stunningly, Jensen Lewis threw that exact pitch again. This time it was 87 mph. And this time Jacobs did swing. He jumped out of his shoes to swing. And he hit it 700 miles to center field. It clanked off the railing out there, bounced behind a wall, an absolute mammoth shot. Will he do that enough to make himself a valuable player? Maybe not. But, yeah, it will be fun every time he does it.
Great writing, I'm sure I will root for Jacobs the next time I see him at bat.