Saturday, September 19, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: I is for…

Israel Alcantara

Israel Alcantara is an interesting example for Red Sox fans. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, he was quite a prospect in the farm system. He would tear up the International League every year. His power numbers were superb. Clearly, this was a player who would make a huge impact for years to come. He just never really materialized that way.

There may be a few reasons as to why that happens. Some people are just called AAAA players. They’re too good for AAA, but not good enough for the majors. That’s always surprising to me. There are some relatively poor players playing in the major leagues. It always seemed weird to me that a player batting .330 with 35 home runs in the minors couldn’t at least hit .250 in the majors. Some of that could come down to expectations. When a player comes through the system as a role player, that’s all he’s expected to be. When someone comes through as a star, though, you expect it to continue. If they don’t end up with stardom, you’re more disappointed than you would have been.

It is possible that there is some hitch in the talent level. I’ve mentioned before that the difference between someone with 200 hits a season and 150 is 2 hits a week. It doesn’t take much to make a huge difference. It’s possible that a player can be a tick slower with the bat, for instance, and be OK against inferior pitchers. But, in the majors, that weakness is exposed. Or, a real good curveball may be too much for some players to pick up on in time. The fine line between minors and majors could eliminate some players.

Or, there could be a mental reason. Someone with all the talent who doesn’t show the effort could be in for a rude awakening once they get to the show. Sure, some players can excel while looking lazy (Manny Ramirez and JD Drew come to mind). But, there’s far more who have less talent who only stick around because they have the extra drive. Dustin Pedroia, for example. I don’t know Izzy, so I have no idea his mental state. I did see him loaf after a couple flyballs during a September game. It struck me that a player doing his best to make the team ought to show more effort than that. After that performance, I hoped the Red Sox would have replaced him mid-inning, and sent him down. When Manny hits 45 home runs a year, it’s OK to let a base hit drop in now and then. But, when you’re trying to prove you belong, you need to go all out. Maybe Alcantara felt he already belonged?

Of course, the elephant in the room with Alcantara is the fabulous fight video of him. If you haven’t seen it, you should look for it. Like any number of players, after being plunked by a pitch he charged the mound. Unlike many players he thought it over first. Before he charged, he made sure to give the catcher a quick kick in the chest. That made sure the catcher wouldn’t be able to stop him from reaching the pitcher. He didn’t want anything stopping him from reaching his goal. It’s that kind of foresight that should have led to a capable Major League career.

Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work that way.

I is for Israel Alcantara.

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