Before Derek posted his sad article on the possible loss of a promising young pitcher, a link was shared among the staff here at IIATMS that included the link Derek used. Following the link, I happened to notice the dumb, emotional and knee-jerk reactions of many of the comments. Reflecting on such emotional...umm...gymnastics of some fans, I reflected upon my own. My conclusion is that I am not much different. Just look at my history of reacting to Chase Headley. Right now, I love the guy madly!
But, William, you might ask, did you not just disparage Headley in the staff's prediction post just a few days ago? Why yes, I did. Which proves what I said in the first paragraph. I have always been a fan first. I would have made a lousy journalist. I have too many years invested in rooting for the franchise not to be this way.
And my newly minted love of Headley is not because he is batting ..636 with an OPS of 1.667. I'm not so googly-eyed that three games matter statistically. Why I am so madly in love with Headley right now is that he is hitting the ball where they ain't.
Chase Headley has put ten balls in play so far this season (I know, I know...three games) and not one of them has been pulled. Not one! He went three for four in the season opener and they were all shift beaters. With a man at third due to the Rays having to play in that awful Tropicana disaster, Headley again beat the shift to plate the run. I actually swooned.
I had to watch the game on the Rays' television station because I live in Florida now, and MLB.TV blacks those games out. After blathering on about how great each Ray player was, the announcers did tell the story that Headley had said he was going to make teams pay for the shift and would continue to do so until they wised up and played it straight up. MLB.com followed the story after the Yankee win.
I have been waiting for this moment all my life (hold on....hold on). Sorry! I got wrapped up in Phil Collins' song for a second. I do not know how many times I have yelled at the television (or computer screen) for batters to take the free hit--especially with a benny sitting on third for your team! There were times when I wanted to slap Mark Teixeira silly for being too proud to do it. And Teixeira was and is far from being alone.
So here is a guy who has struggled in pinstripes for the last two years, especially in the first half, acknowledging that he had to do something and he is doing it. And the team is benefitting from his smart thinking. Finally! I love him for that.
I love it because shifts have become a bane in baseball. How are you supposed to keep score when a guy playing short right field throws a runner out at first and it goes as a 5-3? With all the strikeouts in baseball now, the loss of BABIP due to the shift hurts the game for the few times when a ball is put in play. To the rescue comes my new knight in shining armor (armour if you are reading in Canada).
Save baseball, Chase! Save it all by yourself! Show the way! Show other batters that just because the think tank shows that a batter hits the ball 80% of the time to one location you do not HAVE to hit it there!
Look, the guy will probably be Chase Headley, the Yankee, by the end of the season. And I still might wish the team had somebody better. But for right now, Chase Headley gives me hope. Perhaps he is the warning salvo to this distasteful shift business.