And so it begins. Blue Jays' left fielder Adam Lind, all of 19 at bats into his most recent call up and shockingly the author of only a single base hit in that time has already provoked the ire of certain thought-leaders in the Chicken Little contingent of Jays fans.
Already the doom and gloom comments have begun on the call-in shows and the forums and the blog comments. Take this for example in response to Mike Wilner's Sunday blog:
" . . . I feel embarrassed for his family, friends, and former coaches when I see him at the plate. OK, that is a harsh exaggeration. I bet I’m not the only one worried about Lind. What do you do if Lind goes, say, 5 for his first 15 games? He’s about 1 for 19 in six games so far. I’ve heard it said that for batters to sustain hitting streaks into double figures, they have to be a really good and consistent hitter. It’s not just a bit of luck at that point. Well, on the other hand, if a hitter gets blown away for two straight weeks is there a fundamental problem? He was hot before the call up. Maybe Lind just isn’t the guy. I’m praying to the baseball gods that I’m wrong about Lind . . ."
Now, to be sure, these are the early birds . . . those who can't wait to board the train headed for the cliff, but yet, I have to ask - what is it with these people? Why the obsession to assume impending disaster on every day? Are they just the sort of people who are convinced the must take the stairs lest the elevator cable suddenly snap or does it only apply to their sports teams?
Anyway, if the Advance Recon Party for the Chicken Little Corps is already out scouting for a position on the failure of Adam Lind, then let me take point on countering the doom and gloom not just with photo's illustrating what a clothes horse the man is, but also with a comparison to another young player you might be familiar with. We'll call one of them "Player A" and this other guy "Player B"
Player A began his major league career with a bang. In September of 2006 he blew through the AL taking names and kicking asses. And succeeding as often against Jared Weaver, Kelvin Escobar, or Jake Westbrook, as against the inexperienced late season nobody. His line in 31 days in the majors was .367, .416, .600
Player B also enjoyed an uproarious first month in the majors. After the same number of days in the majors as Player A, Our Man was hitting .382, .438, 549. Both players, of course, enjoyed widespread praise from all but the most confirmed pessimist.
Player A returned to the majors just a couple of weeks into the next season when injuries opened the door. In the first two weeks all seemed well and he ended that month with an .886 OPS. Then the wheels came off and for two miserable months he struggled with nary a bright spot to be seen. He was sent down at the All Star Break and returned to have a decent but not spectacular September.
Player B also failed to maintain the momentum of his first month. He posted a .607 OPS over the entire second half of that same season.
Player A now gets his third, and presumably permanent, shot at the majors and he gets off to a 1 for 19 start. That, combined with his fall off the cliff in his previous season leads some to question if he, indeed, has major league ability at all.
Player B? After that miserable second half, he still started the next season in the majors, and he did so in such pathetic fashion that he was, as of mid-May, sitting on a .192 BA and a .495 OPS after 120 at bats. Deafening were the howls of the unbelievers. "Another JP bust!" they cried. "More evidence the man cannot draft at all!" they pointed out. "Another Russ Adams!" they slurred. "Clearly the man needs to be in the minors because he can't hit major league pitching!" they concluded. Some even insisted the man be released. Almost alone I insisted the player was a good hitter, with the potential to be a great hitter. I was called a deluded pollyanna. So great was my delusion that I was not shy about saying the player reminded me of a young Paul Molitor with less base-stealing ability. Clearly, the CLC insisted, the guy was a bust.
So what happened? The rest of that season, Player B hit .319 and finished with a .795 OPS. The next year, he matched those stats over a full year and convinced the baseball world that even more was yet to come.
His name is Aaron Hill, and I take not a little satisfaction in recalling the insistence of the Chicken Little Corp that he was a bust about 2 years ago. I suspect that I will yet enjoy a similar satisfaction when Adam Lind proves his doubters wrong. Lind is going to be a very good major league hitter, on the order of John Olerud (absent the peak year in 1993). He simply needs time and patience.