Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hope Springs Eternal


As you rise from your bed in the morning it will be 34 days until pitchers and catchers report. One of the magical things about the sport is not only that fans collectively hope that this is "the" year when their team puts it all together, but many teams have the individual story of hope, the singular narrative which makes you root not just for the team, but for the human being filling a particular uniform. Last year, it was Dustin McGowan (and in some ways, still is, because you want to see him get back to the results he was having before, not just be on the roster) and to a lesser extent, Adam Loewen.

This year, the story with the most potential for magic is a guy who, even if everything breaks right, likely won't wear a Blue Jay uniform in a real game before September at the earliest, a player who's been on the sidelines long enough that most fans have forgotten he's even in the system. I speak of the man who still holds ambitions of being the first native of New Zealand to play in the major leagues: Scott Campbell.

In his first three years in the Jays system, Campbell, who's the subject of a video feature by a TV outlet in his home country which you can view here, showed steady improvement. Building on an excellent eye at the plate (he walked more than he struck out each year), he added solid doubles power with the potential for more and worked to improve his fielding at 2B. In 2009 the team shifted him to 3B, partly as a function of where the team had, and didn't have, minor league depth. But Campbell was plagued by injuries which cost him about 1/3 of the season in all. Between the injury and the positional shift, Campbell plateaued in his development.

But the injury issues were just beginning, as a chronic hip condition sidelined him for every bit of the last two seasons. A year ago, as you can see in this video, Campbell had high expectations of getting back on the field, but it was not to be. Again this spring, knowing he's probably facing his last chance, he will try again. As of this writing, the Blue Jays control 2B Kelly Johnson for one more year. I, for one, would feel pretty warm and fuzzy of Scott Campbell won that job next spring. Baseball might indeed be about winning ball games and not sentimental emotion, but I don't think we'd enjoy the former quite as much if we didn't occasionally get a dose of the latter.

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Also worth your notice is Shi Davidi's piece on up-and-comer Drew Hutchison, with a bit of background (which I've mentioned in passing in the past) on why a guy so good was still available in the 15th round.
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Tomorrow is the deadline for teams and players to exchange arbitration offers, and the Blue jays still have five players with terms unannounced. As is well known, the Jays almost never go to arbitration (it's been 15 years) and Alex has a firm policy against negotiating 1 year deals after figures have been exchanged. So expect announcements on the deals early tomorrow, and if someone isn't announced (Morrow? Janssen?) place your bets on the potential for a long term deal to be in the works.

For the record, I missed badly on Rasmus - hope I do better on the rest.

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