The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Archive for the tag “Cincinnati Reds”

Rickey Henderson Looks Good On the Dance Floor

There’s been a great deal of early season hype about whether or not Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton, who stole over a hundred bases in two consecutive minor league seasons, could match that feat as a rookie this season.  Of course, Hamilton will have to be able to reach first base a reasonable number of times to be able to do so.

Thus far, he is 0 for 2014, having reached base via a base on balls once in 13 plate appearances, without a single safe hit to his credit.  He was also thrown out in his only stolen base attempt.

Still, it’s very early in the season, and Hamilton did bat over .300 in a late-season trial last year, and he hit well this past spring training as well.

Some say Hamilton has the raw speed to steal over 80 bases, if not this year, then certainly in some future season.  That prompted me to research which player(s) was the last to steal over 80 bags in a year.  The answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman, back in 1988.  Actually, Henderson stole 93 that year for the Yankees.  Vince Coleman led the N.L. with 80 steals.  No other player has reached 80 steals since then.

For those of you who remember watching Henderson play baseball, especially when he was on the base-paths, you will remember that there have been few players like him who could create so much excitement in so many ways.  Rickey was never boring.

I have a Youtube clip of Rickey Henderson playing baseball, and another clip a bit below that of a song that I think goes well with Henderson’s style of play.

To match them up, first click on the bottom (Arctic Monkey’s) video (make sure the volume on your computer is turned up.)  Then go up and click on the Rickey Henderson video.  Be sure to click on the mute icon below the Henderson video to the left of the 2:21, or you’ll be listening to two overlapping videos.  Then click on the full screen icon on the far right,  and watch Rickey do his thing.  (The music lasts slightly longer than the Henderson video.)

Sorry about my lack of technical expertise, but I was born and raised in an analogue world.  I hope you enjoy this synthesis of modern music and classic, old video.

 

 

 

 

 

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Eight Break-Out Players to Watch in 2013

If you play fantasy baseball, or even if you just like to read about which ball-players are likely to come through big in the upcoming baseball season, this is the time of year when most baseball fans begin to research the players and teams that interest them.

My goal, then, for this post is to alert you to eight players who aren’t necessarily household names, but who I believe will enjoy significantly productive seasons.  There are, of course, many other players that I could have chosen to write about, but these are the ones who’ve caught my attention thus far.

1)  Jordan Zimmerman:  Nationals – The forgotten man in a rotation that includes, Strasburg, Gonzalez and Haren, Zimmerman produced the fifth best ERA+ (134) in 195 innings last season.  He averaged over 3 1/2 K’s per walk, and is entering his age 27 season.  Likely to receive plenty of run support, while probably reaching the 200 inning pitched level for the first time in his career, Zimmerman could be primed for a very impressive season.  He won 12 games last year, but could win half a dozen more this time around.

English: Ike Davis

English: Ike Davis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2)  Ike Davis:  Mets – Among all first basemen, Davis is one of the likeliest to be overlooked going into the 2013 season.  His low .227 batting average and equally poor .308 on-base percentage tarnish his otherwise impressive power numbers (32 homers and 90 RBI.)  But given his track record, Davis is likely to increase his batting average by around 25 points, and has stated that his goal is to draw a hundred walks.

Even if he draws around 80 walks, coupled with a .260 batting average, his natural power should allow him to at least match, and perhaps exceed, last season’s power numbers.  In an era where 35 homers once again represents a significant total, Davis, now just entering his age-26 season, will be a player that should not be ignored.

3)  Michael Morse:  Mariners –  After a big 2011 season, Morse played just 102 games last year for the Nationals, swatting 18 homers with 62 RBI.  He has since moved on to the Mariners, where under normal conditions, it is often wise to allow someone in his situation to fall completely off your radar screen.  But Morse, still in his power-prime years (he turns 31 later this month), slugged 31 homers, drove in 95 runs, and batted .303 just a couple of years ago.

Also, the Mariners have brought in the outfield fences this year, especially in the power-alley in left-center field (favorable to right-handed batters sluggers like Morse.)  Hitting in the middle of what could turn out to be the most productive Mariners’ offense in several years, Morse should provide a nice boost to any fantasy squad this season, even if he doesn’t quite reach a .300 batting average again.

4)  Brett Anderson:  A’s – Just a couple of years ago, Brett Anderson was considered the future of the A’s rotation.  Then he blew his arm out.  But the big 6’4″, 235 pound lefty out of Midland, TX looked good upon his late-season return to the A’s rotation last year.  In six starts, covering 35 innings, he struck out 25 batters while walking just seven, good for a 1.029 WHIP.  His ERA+ was a very impressive 156.

Then, in his one post-season start, he shutout the Tigers through six innings, fanning six, while surrendering just two hits and no walks for his first post-season win.  Anderson, still just 25-years old, is not only capable, but likely to recover the form that made him a huge prospect a few years ago.  Pitching for an A’s team that won their division last year, Anderson is likely to conclude the year as one of the top young starting pitchers in the A.L.

Peter Bourjos

Peter Bourjos (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

5)  Peter Bourjos:  Angels – A couple of years ago, the speedy Bourjos, in his first full season as an Angels’ outfielder, led the A.L. in triples, displayed reasonable power (12 homers) and posted an OPS+ of 116 while playing excellent defense.  Last year, the Angels played the remains of Bobby Abreu, along with Torii Hunter and eventually Mike Trout leaving Bourjos as the odd-man out.  As a result, Bourjos ended up scuffling through 192 uninspiring plate appearances.

He appears to have a starting gig again this season, and on a super-loaded Angel’s offense, he should be expected to score lots of runs, steal bases, and hit the occasional homer, regardless of where he hits in the lineup.  His glove alone should keep him in the field.  Entering his age-26 season, there is a lot of potential here now that his opportunity to play seems to be secure.

6)  Eric Hosmer:  Royals – There’s just no other way to say it, but first baseman Eric Hosmer sucked last season.  Suffering through a terrible sophomore slump, Hosmer batted just .232, 61 points lower than in his rookie season.  His power numbers suffered as well; he hit five fewer homers (14 total) in 12 more at bats.  But Hosmer, now just 23-years old, batted over .400 in his final one-hundred Triple-A at bats, and, though it’s a small sample size, he’s looked great this spring with eight hits — four for extra bases — and seven RBI in his first 20 at bats.  Hosmer should be one of the young Royals hitters that will impress people this season.  Also useful on the basepaths, Hosmer swiped 16 bags in 17 attempts last year.

Jay Bruce before his MLB Debut in May of 2008

Jay Bruce before his MLB Debut in May of 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7)  Jay Bruce:  Reds – After five seasons in the Majors, outfielder Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds seems to have settled in as a 30 homer, 90 RBI guy who will hit around .260 with 150 strikeouts.  A good player, but not a great one.

That could change this season.  Bruce, who will turn 26-years old in April, has increased his homer production for five straight seasons: 21, 22, 25, 32, 34.  Similarly, his doubles have also generally increased as well: 17, 15, 23, 27, 35.  Though his OPS+ held steady at 118 for the second consecutive year, he did set career highs in runs scored (89), RBI (99) and slugging percentage (.514.)

Now just fully entering his power prime, and with no significant injury history to speak of, the addition of high on-base player Shin-Soo Choo at the top of the Reds lineup will provide Bruce with the opportunity to become one of the top run-producers in the Majors this year.  A 40 homer, 120 RBI season with a hundred runs scored is not out of the question.

8)  Paul Goldschmidt:  Diamondbacks – The 25-year old Goldshmidt started slowly last season, but hit 18 homers over the last four months of the season, including five homers in a seven-game span.  The right-handed batting first-baseman actually led the Majors in line-drive rate last year.  If just a few of his 43 doubles turn into home runs this year, Goldschmidt could be on his way to 30+ homers, along with about a .280 batting average.

A fly-ball hitter (Goldschmidt led the league in Sac. Flies last year) who plays his home games in one of the best hitter’s parks in the league, is off to a fine start in spring training posting a .429 average to date.  Also, he’s not merely a slugger, but an athlete who stole 18 bases in 21 attempts last year.  Goldschmidt is one of this generation’s most promising young baseball talents.  He could become a right-handed swinging Jim Thome.

Others to follow closely:  Jason Kipnis of the Indians; Matt Harvey of the Mets, Adam Eaton of the Diamondbacks, Brandon Morrow of Toronto (yes, him again), Matt Adams of the Cardinals, Salvador Perez of the Royals (there will be many All-Star Game appearances in his future), and Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs.

Six months from now, I hope you are celebrating a championship season, and that at least one of the players on this list was a key contributor to your team’s success.

Billy Hamilton, and the New Stolen Base Record

On Tuesday night, Reds prospect Billy Hamilton, a shortstop with the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos, set a new professional baseball record for stolen bases in a season.  He now has 147 steals in 2012.

Hamilton broke the old record set in 1983 by Vince Coleman, then an outfielder on the Cardinals Single-A Macon baseball team.  Coleman, of course, went on to steal over 100 bases in each of his first three MLB seasons, and he led the N.L. in steals in each of his first six years.  He also led the N.L. in times caught stealing three times during that period (1985-90.)

Coleman went on to steal 752 bags in his career, sixth best all-time.  More impressively, Coleman’s successful steal percentage for his career was about 81%.

Yet Vince Coleman ultimately was not a very valuable baseball player.  His career WAR was just 10.5, and he never reached 3.0 WAR in any of his 13 seasons.  His career OPS+ of 83 is even less impressive.  Coleman never reached 25 doubles or even seven home runs in a season, and despite all the plate appearances he accumulated, especially in his first half-dozen years, he reached a hundred runs scored just twice.

All of which brings us back to Billy Hamilton.  (And yes, it is a bit ironic that he has the same name as a famous 19th-century baseball player who also stole a lot of bases.)

While his stolen base totals are impressive, there are four things that will enable Hamilton to be a truly valuable MLB player.

1 On-Base Percentage:  If he knows how to draw a walk (say, 70-80 per year), those walks will add significant value, as long as he can hit above .275.

 2) Gap power:  Even though reaching first base appears to be a virtual automatic double with him, he should still (in his prime) be able to drive the ball into the gaps and leg out at least 25-35 doubles and double-digit triples.  50-60 extra base hits per year should be his baseline.

3) Stolen Base percentage:  Loads of steals are nice, but the goal is not simply to reach second base (or even third base), it is to score runs.  A caught stealing is much more harmful than a stolen base is helpful.  If he can steal at something very nearly at (or, preferably, above) an 80% success rate, then all the running will be worthwhile.  If he gets caught 30% or more of the time, then this is all much ado about nothing.

 4) Defense:  Will his quickness on the base-paths translate into good range in the field?  Will he end up being a defensive asset?  If so, then he becomes much more valuable.  If not, then we are looking at a fast guy without a real position, and that means a glorified pinch-runner.

At least three out of these four aptitudes will be necessary for him to be a useful ball player.  Two will allow him to hang around for a while.  One means a future career as a pinch-runner who ends up back in Triple-A for good before he turns 30.  On the other hand, if he hits all four of the above benchmarks, then we might be looking at the next Kenny Lofton or Tim Raines.

It’ll be interesting to see how much the Reds allow him to develop as an actual baseball player before he is let loose on the base-paths.  They might be sorry if they rush this kid before he is ready, because though he’d be fun to watch with the one skill he was born with, he’ll be a lot more useful when he is truly Major League ready.

Baseball’s Surprising Stats: Pete Rose

To perhaps tide you over until I return with some new material, here is a post I wrote about a year and a half ago about Pete Rose.  Some of you haven’t seen this one before.  If not, I hope you enjoy it.  

This is Part 5 of my series, “Baseball’s Surprising Stats.”  To link to any of the first four parts, click on the links to the right under “Recent Posts.”

The object of this series is to revisit players most of us already know something about, then to uncover one fact or statistic that isn’t widely known.

Pete Rose, like Joe Jackson before him, made some personal choices regarding baseball that came back to haunt him, and from which his personal reputation will probably never recover.

Rose walks onto the field with the Cincinnati Reds

Rose walks onto the field with the Cincinnati Reds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the fact remains that, on the baseball field, Pete Rose accomplished some very impressive things.  He is, of course, baseball’s all-time hits leader with 4,256 safeties.  His 3,215 singles are also the most in history.

Rose is also in second place on the all-time doubles list with 746.  He had ten 200-hit seasons, won three batting titles, and played in more games (3,562) than any other man in baseball history.

Perhaps most impressively, though, Pete Rose reached base safely more times (5,929)  than any other player ever did.

That’s a lot of at bats.  That’s a lot of plate appearances.

Which inevitably leads me to the question, “How many outs did Pete Rose make in his career.”

First, some perspective.  Babe Ruth made 5,758 outs in his entire career.  Mickey Mantle made 5,899 outs.  Richie Ashburn, who was primarily a lead-off hitter for most of his career, and who played in parts of three decades, made 6,096 outs.

Willie McCovey broke into the big leagues when Eisenhower was President, and he didn’t retire until the eve of Ronald Reagan’s first term.  McCovey made 6,259 outs.

Carlton Fisk, who would probably still be playing today if someone hadn’t hidden his catching gear from him (1969-93!) made 6,767 outs.

Ty Cobb, to whom Pete Rose in often compared, made 7,748 outs.

Peter (Charlie Hustle) Rose made 2,580 more outs than Ty Cobb.  (Imagine if he hadn’t hustled?)

Pete Rose made about as many outs in his career as Babe Ruth and Phil Rizzuto combined.  He made  approximately as many outs as Mike Piazza and Edgar Martinez combined.  He made just a few less outs than Bobby Murcer and Kirby Puckett put together.

Pete Rose at bat in a game at Dodger Stadium d...

Pete Rose at bat in a game at Dodger Stadium during the 1970s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The answer to my original question as to how many outs Pete Rose made in his career is that Rose made exactly 10,328 outs.  He is the only player in history to have made more than 10,000 outs.

Another way of looking at this is that if you take Rose’s 162 game average of 723 plate appearances per season, and divide 10,328 by 723, you end up with equivalent of 14  seasons where Rose did absolutely nothing but make outs!

Rookie outfielder Bryce Harper is 19-years old.  If Harper began next season going 0-4 in his first game, and then kept doing absolutely nothing but making outs UNTIL HE WAS 34 YEARS OLD — not a single hit, walk, or hit by pitch — he would then begin to approach the number of outs Rose made in his career.

Would the Washington Nationals be patient enough to wait out a 14-year super-slump from this year’s phenom?  I’m guessing probably not.

So here’s a thought.  If Pete Rose’s job was basically to do nothing other than to get on base (for he was by no means a slugger, nor was he much of a base-stealer), then do we consider him a success for reaching base more times than any man in history?

Or do we shake our collective heads in disbelief regarding the overwhelming number of outs he made and ask, was it really necessary for him to play as long as he did?

In short, were those 5,929 times on base really worth the 10,328 outs it took to get him there?

Let’s hope Bryce Harper doesn’t have to find out the answer to that question the hard way.

Announcing the Winners of the B.B.A.’s Connie Mack Award

 

Ron Washington and Joe West

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

 

I am a member of the Miscellaneous Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

One of the responsibilities we have as members of the B.B.A. is to cast votes for various post season awards.

The following is an official press release announcing the winners of the Connie Mack Award for the best manager in each league. Check out the website and the many interesting and entertaining  blogs in the B.B.A.

WASHINGTON, BLACK WIN CONNIE MACK AWARD

Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers and Bud Black of the San Diego Padres were named winners of the Connie Mack Award by the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, noting them as the best managers in their respective leagues for 2010.

Washington, who weathered a drug controversy in spring training, led Texas to their fifth divisional title since 1994 and their first since 1999.  While the voting was based on his regular season accomplishments, Washington also guided his team to their first ever postseason series victory when they eliminated the Tampa Bay Rays in five games in the American League Divisional Series.

Washington received ten first place votes in route to accumulating 74 total points.  He edged out Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who received 67 points.

In the National League, Black’s guidance of a Padres team almost universally expected to finish last to first place most of the summer helped him edge Dusty Baker of the Cincinnati Reds by the slimmest of margins.  The fact that the Padres fell just short of the playoffs while the Reds won the NL Central helped lead to the tight race.  Black garnered nine first place selections and 53 total points to Baker’s seven first place nods and 51 total points.

The complete voting results are as follows (first place votes in parenthesis):

American League

Ron Washington, Texas (10) 74

Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota (7) 67

Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay (4) 35

Terry Francona, Boston (3) 20

Cito Gaston, Toronto 9

Buck Showalter, Baltimore 9

Joe Girardi, New York 2

National League

Bud Black, San Diego (9) 53

Dusty Baker, Cincinnati (7) 51

Bobby Cox, Atlanta (2) 33

Bruce Bochy, San Francisco (3) 29

Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia (1) 27

Brad Mills, Houston 3

Mike Quade, Chicago 2

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance was formed in the fall of 2009 to encourage cooperation and collaboration between baseball bloggers of all major league teams as well as those that follow baseball more generally. As of this writing, the organization consists of 224 blogs spanning all 30 major league squads as well as general baseball writing.

The BBA is organized under a similar structure as the Baseball Writers of America, where blogs that follow the same team are combined into “chapters” and only two votes from the chapter on an award are counted. The blog chapters that are focused on general baseball were allowed two votes as well, which they could use both on the same league or split between the two leagues.

Chapters generally followed one of two methods when casting their ballot.  Either representatives of the chapter were given the ballots for voting or a “group ballot” was posted, accounting for both of their votes.

Ballots are posted on the respective blogs and tabulated on a 5-3-1 point scale for first, second and third. In the interest of transparency, links are given below for the ballots. Chapter affiliation is in parenthesis.  Those chapters that decided on the group method are noted with an asterisk.

American League

Camden Crazies (Baltimore)*

Boston Red Thoughts (Boston)*

Toeing The Rubber (Boston)*

The Tribe Daily (Cleveland)*

Motor City Bengals (Detroit)

Switch Hitting Pitchers (Detroit)

One Royal Way (Kansas City)

Seth Speaks (Minnesota)

Bronx Baseball Daily (New York)*

Contract Year (Oakland)

Jeff’s Mariners Fan Blog (Seattle)

Rise of the Rays (Tampa Bay)

Baseball Is My Boyfriend (Texas)*

The Blue Jay Hunter (Toronto)

500 Level Fan (Toronto)

Advanced Fantasy Baseball (Fantasy)*

Misc. Baseball (History)*

Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (Other)*

Blogging From The Bleachers (General)*

National League

Prose and Ivy (Chicago)*

Cincinnati Reds Blog (Cincinnati)

Astros County (Houston)

Feeling Dodger Blue (Los Angeles)

Bernie’s Crew (Milwaukee)*

Brewers Bar (Milwaukee)*

The Eddie Kranepool Society (New York)*

Dugger’s Corner (Philadelphia)

Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke? (Pittsburgh)*

i70 Baseball (St. Louis)

The Outfield Ivy (St. Louis)

Friar Forecast (San Diego)*

Advanced Fantasy Baseball (Fantasy)*

Misc. Baseball (History)*

Victoria Seals Baseball Blog (Other)*

Blogging From The Bleachers (General)*

Ron Kaplan’s Baseball Bookshelf (Miscellaneous)*

Prior Winners

2009: Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles of Anaheim; Jim Tracy, Colorado

The official website of the BBA is located at www.baseballbloggersalliance.com.  The BBA can be found on Twitter by the handle @baseballblogs and by the hashmark #bbba.  Members of the BBA may be heard at Blog Talk Radio every Tuesday night with their call-in show, BBA Baseball Talk, which may also be downloaded as a podcast from iTunes.  For more information, contact Daniel Shoptaw at founder@baseballbloggersalliance.com.

Best Forgotten Baseball Seasons: Part 8 – The Cincinnati Reds

Baseball scouts are always searching for the proverbial five-tool athlete.

This highly sought-after ballplayer is someone who possesses five different abilities important to success in the Major Leagues.  They are:  1)  Running (fast, presumably),  2) Throwing  3) Fielding  4) Hitting for Average (apparently as opposed to simply getting on base), and  5) Hitting for Power.

To begin with, is there a difference between a “tool” and a “skill?”  I believe there is.  To my way of thinking, a “tool” is an innate, God-given physical ability that you are born with, something that cannot be taught.  Running fast is just such a “tool.”  Some guys are just faster than others.  End of story.

Throwing, like running, is also a “tool.”  Sure, a guy can be taught to throw straighter and more efficiently, but his arm strength is what it is.  Johnny Damon’s arm was never going to become Dave Parker’s arm, no matter how much training Damon might receive.

Likewise, hitting for power is primarily, although not only, the result of an individual’s physical strength (setting aside the issue of steroids for now.)  Denny Doyle, Freddie Patek and Dave Magadan just weren’t ever going to be big-time home run threats.

Even fielding, to a certain extent, fits in to the conventional wisdom inherent in the five-tool philosophy.  A speedy outfielder can race into the left-center field gap to steal a sure extra-base hit away from an incredulous batter.

But fielding, like hitting for average is also a “skill”, something that a person can be taught to do reasonably well, assuming average physical strength and motor skills.

Therefore, whereas Andruw Jones was a physically gifted outfielder whose defensive “skills” were built upon the bedrock of his physical “tools,” Keith Hernandez was merely (and therefore, just as impressively) a defensive whiz whose skill as a first baseman had much less to do with physical prowess than it did with the far more mundane reality of hard work and tireless drill.

Hitting for average is a skill.  Not every physically gifted athlete, regardless of the “tools” in their arsenal, is going to learn to become a .300 hitter, let alone a .330 hitter.  Yes, a pro athlete is more likely to hit .300 than an average guy off the street because his secondary physical abilities (bat-speed, ability to beat out an infield hit, etc.) are, by definition, likely to be stronger.

But a five-tool athlete is actually, at most, a three and a half tool athlete.

And this doesn’t even begin to address the contemporary statistical reality that hitting for average now most definitely (except, perhaps, in the eyes of some scouts) takes a back seat to a player’s ability to reach base via hit or walk.  Perhaps “Ability to Control the Strike Zone” will one day become the mythological Sixth Tool.

All of which leads me, believe it or not, to the 1987 Cincinnati Reds.

Specifically, I have in mind a player that possessed four of the five so-called tools.  He never hit for much of an average, but boy, could Eric Davis play some baseball.

Eric Davis’ 1987 season is one of the Best Forgotten Baseball Seasons of any Reds player.

The 25-year old Reds center fielder could run (50 steals in 56 attempts), field (led N.L. in Range Factor – 3.13, and put outs – 378), throw (N.L. best 10 assists), and hit for power (37 home runs in just 474 at bats.)

Davis also scored 120 runs, drove in an even 100, drew 84 walks, slugged .593, and had an OPS of .991.  His OPS+ was 155, which means he was about 50% better than a league-average ballplayer, adjusting for ballpark and era.

He accomplished this despite playing in just 129 games and accumulating 562 plate appearances.  But staying healthy was one skill Davis didn’t possess.  He never managed to play as many as 140 games in a single season in his seventeen-year career.

Hitting for average was still, in 1987, considered a very important indicator of a player’s overall talent.  But hitting for average was never a strong aspect of Davis’ overall game.

Davis hit .293 in ’87.  Not a bad mark, but not Tony Gwynn, either.  It was his best batting average until he hit a surprising .327 in 1998 at the age of 36.  But 1998 is to 1987 what 1927 was to 1918.  The Age of the Hitter was in full swing, eclipsing the hitting highlights of the previous decade.

In 1987, Davis played in the All-Star Game, won a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, and finished in the top ten in M.V.P. award voting in the N.L.  And on August 2nd, he reached the 30 homer / 30 steal mark quicker than any player in history.

Over a two-year period, 1986-87, Eric Davis was the best power-speed player in baseball.  He belted 64 homers and stole an outstanding 130 bases, while scoring 217 runs.

In a game in May, 1997, while playing for the Baltimore Orioles, Eric Davis returned to the dugout after having just scored a run, and doubled-over in severe pain.

A week later, after several inconclusive diagnoses, it was discovered that Eric Davis had colon cancer.  He was 35-years old.  Most people thought that, even if Davis did manage to beat cancer, he would never again play Major League Baseball.

Davis shocked virtually everyone the following season by returning to play baseball for the Orioles.  In fact, he had one of his finest overall seasons since his ’87 campaign with the Reds, batting a career high .327 with 28 home runs and 89 RBI’s.  His heart and his bravery won over the loyalty of his Orioles fans, and he became an inspiration to others who suffered from the same disease.

Today, Davis, who retired at age 39 after the 2001 season, speaks at ballparks and at other public functions about the importance of screening for colon cancer.  He is, of course, under no obligation to do so, but believes it is his duty as a cancer survivor to help others avoid this life-threatening illness.

Although Davis, a .269 career hitter, was, according to the conventional wisdom, missing a “tool” in his arsenal, he more than made up for it with an even bigger and more important tool, his heart.

And, in the end, this is the tool most worth having.

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