Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Does Vlad Guerrero's presence encourage Nelson Cruz to be a better player?

You might see Nelson Cruz. I see Manny Ramirez without the "being Manny" part.

I suspect the presence of Vlad Guerrero creates additional confidence and focus for Nelson Cruz.

Both Vlad and Nelson are from the Dominican Republic. I suspect Nelson thinks: "Hey, I'm hitting behind Vlad Guerrero! That MUST mean I'm a pretty good player!" Confidence, baby!

I suspect Nelson thinks: "The entire baseball crazy population of my nation is watching Vlad's every move, and therefore they are also seeing me. I've got play good: they are all watching my every at bat." Thus: additional focus, additional edge.

I suspect the Vlad ~ Nelson Cruz effect is analogous to many players who got traded to the Yankees and suddenly began playing the best baseball of their careers. 3B Scott Brosius was a classic example. I suspect Scott Brosius type players thought: Wow, I'm wearing Joe DiMaggio's pinstripes and playing in Babe Ruth's ballpark and looking at Mickey Mantle's monument in the outfield! I MUST be a pretty good player! And the entire baseball world is watching me! I've got to play good!

And then they went out and played their backsides off. Just as Nelson Cruz is doing now. The man has no backside remaining. He has been spectacular.

Related: keep it hushed ... shush ... don't tell anyone ... the Texas Rangers are REALLY good. Rangers starting pitchers have a 1.85 ERA. Neftali Feliz is a shutdown closer. Darren Oliver thinks he is a lefthanded Catfish Hunter. Shush. Let it be our secret.

Also related:

Question: What's been the most surprising thing about Vlad Guerrero?
Answer: He's a really good baserunner - very aggressive.

Question: What's been the second most surprising thing about Vlad?
Answer: His effect on the clubhouse. He just really loves to play baseball. He comes into the clubhouse smiling and happy; he plays hard; and all b/c he really and truly loves to play, really and truly is joyful at the thought of playing the game. This has a very positive effect on the clubhouse. Vlad is also a very confident player. Confidence oozes from him: can easily be read in his body language. Again, positive effect in the clubhouse and in the dugout.

Question: What, so far, has been the weirdest thing about the Rangers?
Answer: 2B Joaquin Arias, who has notable speed and defensive range, keeps getting lifted in late innings in favor of Andres Blanco as a defensive replacement. Feels weird to see that happen.

I never know when Ron Washington is serious and when he is playing head games with young players. I usually suspect head games. Washington screamed at Elvis last season that he was going to be replaced by Omar Vizquel due to bad defense. Washington, even during this offseason, publicly suggested Nelson Cruz cannot make adjustments well enough to succeed as a hitter in the major leagues. Then, Wash basically said that, if he is forced to play Nelson Cruz, he will hit him 7th - after Chris Davis, and in a spot where he will get limited protection from the weak hitting Saltalamacchia or Teagarden. Then there was Washington's slanderous pap all fall and winter about how Julio Borbon cannot play major league CF, and about how the Rangers possibly need to trade for a CF. Now Washington keeps lifting Joaquin Arias in favor of a defensive replacement. Serious? Or head games and hazing of rookies? I say head games. Maybe Wash wants to make sure the rookies pay some dues via undergoing managerial hazing - the rookies thereby earning both respect from veterans and gaining self-respect for coming through the hazing process and emerging as toughened players. We shall see.

There's an interesting decision coming re Arias and Blanco. One of them might be gone in a week and a half. That gone guy was going to be Arias, then Arias started knocking hits all over the place: at one point stroking 7 hits in 9 ABs. I still suspect Arias might be gone. Blanco is a polished defender and a solid competitor and a solid citizen. Blanco will help a manager sleep at night. Arias, not so much - more unpredictable in production and intangibles. We shall see. It's an interesting moment of decision.

Also Related: Unleash Nelson Cruz!

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