Earlier this week, two of my favorite Tribe Scribes—Jordan Bastian of MLB.com and Paul Cousineau of the The Diatribe—weighed in on the left field situation in general, and one David Shelley Duncan in particular. It seemed, to my chagrin, they were disagreeing on Dunkers’ value as an everyday player and his viability as the team’s regular left fielder for the 2012 season.
At the risk of boiling down their respective arguments beyond recognition, the twitterversation went something like this*:
Jordan: Shelley Duncan has now hit two HR with six RBI in three spring training games. “Just give the guy the dang [left field] job.”
Paul: Duncan had a good September 2011 against mediocre, 40-man roster talent, and two good Spring Training games. On the other side of the ledger is a five-year career with sub-standard production. One of these carries more weight than the other…
Jordan: Weirder stuff has happened. (Jose Bautista enters the discussion here–briefly, to Jordan’s credit.) Small sample sizes don’t always mean something, but they don’t always mean NOTHING, right? Sometimes players get better, and what better time for the team to find out if this could be a real development?
Paul: The history is pretty persuasive that this isn’t real. (Numbers, etc.)
Jordan: But he’s never had an opportunity to play every day! That could change things…
Paul: If he’s the best option, the team was horribly under-prepared for this scenario [something I wrote about briefly on Monday].
The only reason I bring any of this up is that these two managed to ruin my normal strategy of just combining their two points of view into one and calling it my own. When they overtly disagree, my strategy goes kaput.
But the more I think about it, this mightn’t be the conversation that needs to be had. Should the club have been more prepared for the inevitable Grady injury than it was? Of course.* But they weren’t. As Paul and Jordan both seemed to agree, this is where we are.
*I mentioned how exasperated I was by this apparent lack of preparation in my last post, and it was pointed out in the comments that the Indians were plenty prepared for a Grady-less season. After all, they’ve added Ryan Spilborghs and Felix Pie and Aaron Cunningham and Russ Canzler and Fred Lewis. They’ve invited Trevor Crowe and Thomas Neal and Ezequiel Carrera back to camp. That is a fair point. The team was prepared. And if you want any of those guys playing every day in left field for the 2012 Indians, you should go hit yourself in the nose with a ball-peen hammer.
So we are where we are, as they say. But where is that, exactly? Well, unless this team adds a legitimate player to the pile of left fielders—and not a scrap-heap type; we have those in spades—it’s looking increasingly likely that Shelley could be an everyday player for a decent stretch of the 2012 season. That isn’t to say that Dunkers is the Platonic ideal of an everyday left fielder. It isn’t to say that we should believe in his September statistics. It certainly isn’t to say that he’s going to turn into Jose Bautista.
It probably does mean, on the other hand, that we don’t need to spend too much more time discussing all the reasons that he’s not the perfect man for the job. After all, if we had one of those, we wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place. There’s an old geopolitical adage that might apply here—sometimes you must choose the least bad option from a menu of unpalatable choices. Sure, we have four weeks left to make the choice, but I’ll be honest: it’s not the most heartening spring training message to digest.
But there’s another saying that’s coming to my mind, hopefully inspiring a bit more optimism. Baseball, like politics, is the art of the possible.* A perfect game? A triple play? A never-ending game? Sure, why not. Every day you might see something you’ve never seen before.
*Otto von Bismarck: Prussian first, baseball aficionado second.
And whether it was what we were hoping for or not, there is a possibility that Shelley Duncan will see more time in left field than any other Indian this season. It’s possible that he could hold his own, if he can keep that slugging percentage north of .450. It’s possible he might lead the Indians in more than just team spirit, and I think we could all root for that.
Because in the world of March Baseball, anything is possible.
Except a healthy Grady Sizemore, of course. That’s entirely out of the question.