This blog, when it was originally named, was called “This Purist bleeds Pinstripes” because a friend had been kind enough to point out that I am, at heart, a baseball purist.
I love watching the no-hit bid, the smell of hot dogs and crackerjacks, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” played on an organ and….
…baseball players that rock the high socks, wearing them as the baseball uniform is meant to be worn.
With that in mind, and with some help from Twitter (especially @mikeaxisa and @richardiurilli), I was able to come up with a High Socks All Star Team, comprised of current MLBers who have been known to wear the High Socks.
Here’s how it breaks down:
The lineup, in a DH-league*:
Ichiro Suzuki, RF. Ichiro is headed to Cooperstown, should he ever retire, and is easily the most recognizable Japenese import to ever hit Major League baseball. Besides some locker room gems (Google it, trust me), Ichiro leads the league in hits consistently, and has never had a year in the States where he has batted under .300. He’d also never stolen less than 30 bases until last year–his age 35 season.
Johnny Damon, LF. Not many baseball players can say they’ve won World Series with the Red Sox and the Yankees; Damon is one of the few that can. Damon has been a Major Leaguer for fifteen seasons now–debuting the same year as Derek Jeter, among others–has a career OBP of .355, and with 2529 hits is only theoretically a few seasons away from a run at 3000. He may not elect to play that long (or find a suitor), but his help in securing a World Series ring for both the Red Sox in 2004 and the Yankees in 2009 is undeniable.
Miguel Cabrera, 1B. The five time All Star is the face of the Detroit Tigers, and has hit 25 or more home runs every year after his rookie season (2003, when he was a mere 20 years old), as well as four seasons (and then this one) posting a .900+ OPS. In fact, this season, Cabrera leads the Majors with a .427 OBP and an OPS+ of 178. Yeah, um, he’s kinda good. Just ogle it..
Alex Rodriguez, DH. To get a sense of A-Rod: there’s been talk of him having a down year, so what does he do tonight? Hit three home runs. The Yankees’ third baseman is something of a legend in odd years (’03, ’05, ’07, and what he did when he played in ’09), and really good the rest of the time. A-Rod is already the youngest player to 600 home runs, and one of just three (Barry Bonds and Mays being the others) to have 600 home runs and 300 stolen bases in his career.
David Wright, 3B. The face of the New York Mets is a five time All Star, a third baseman who has every year since 2005 posted a batting average of .300 or better and on base percentage of .380 or better. Although Citi Field has perhaps stifled his power numbers, Wright’s OPS+ numbers indicate that he has consistently still been one of the top hitters in all of baseball. Oh, and he plays a pretty good third base, too.
Ian Kinsler, 2B. Kinsler is one of the game’s best young stars. As a second baseman, he hit 31 home runs last year (and has even hit for the cycle, as well). While he’s only got six homers so far this season (partially due to time on the DL), his on-base percentage is up to .387–approaching Nick Johnsonian territory.
Jason Bartlett, SS. One would expect there to be more high-socks wearing shortstops, but alas, those currently manning the land between second and third are not an old school set. The Rays’ shortstop came out of almost nowhere last season to post a line of .320/.389/.490/.879, which is decent for any player but practically obscene for what is traditionally a weak-hitting position. There’s been a massive fall off this season, the result of which is somewhat less than his career norms, but the only other shortstop I could find wearing high socks is hitting .219.
Chris Snyder, C. It’s hard to find a catcher that wears high socks, and when your other options are a zombie Jason Varitek and no-longer-out-performing-expectations Francisco Cervelli, Snyder more or less wins by default. but if you have the desire to look, here are his numbers.
Brett Gardner, CF. Brett Gardner in the long run is most likely not a .300 hitter; that he remained so for so long this season is a testament to stepping up to the role and seizing the opportunity that was given to him via the departed Johnny Damon. The outfielder possesses enough speed to turn what should be routine ground balls into infield hits, and already has 33 stolen bases on the year. Whether 2010 is a true break out year or a fluke remains to be seen, but don’t ask the Yankees where they’d be without Gardner this season–they wouldn’t like the answer.
Felix Hernandez: I’ll admit, it was really, really hard to choose a number one starter for the High Sox All Stars, but I’ve been a Felix fan for a long, long time. Felix debuted at NINETEEN, so while it feels like he’s been around forever, he’s only 24 years old. His numbers have, predictably, improved over time, and last year he perhaps emerged as the ace that everyone expected–and there’s no reason to feel he’ll let up any time soon. He finished second in last year’s Cy Young voting, and has a career ERA+ of 129. Oh, and he once hit a grand slam off of Johan Santana. That was cool, too.
Josh Johnson: I love him just for being my fantasy team’s savior two years running. He’s given up one home run every three games, basically (a HR/9 rate of 0.3) this season, and has an ERA of 2.27. You can argue the merits of ERA, but 2.27 is utterly ridiculous in mid-August. Especially since it recently just went up. You might–might be able to argue that Cliff Lee’s better in 2010, but only Johnson wears the high socks.
Ubaldo Jimenez: Alas, Ubaldo’s uber-start has cooled considerably, but what a fun first half of the season it was to watch, over two months with an ERA under one, and the season’s first no-hitter. Wins and losses are stupid, we know, but when you have 17 wins in mid-August, you still notice. Even if it’s just luck going your way, so much in the game of baseball is dependent on luck that you can’t discount it. How good was Ubaldo’s first half? On June 6th, his ERA was still under one; despite an ERA of 4.63 since then, it’s still at 2.27 for the season. I’m not sure any pitcher can do what he did the first half over the course of a full season, but at 26, Ubaldo’s as sure a bet as any to figure it out.
Tim Lincecum: When the two-years-running reigning Cy Young winner–the guy that’s won it two of his first three years in the Majors–is your fourth starter, you have your team a rotation. Lincecum is known for wracking up the strikeouts–265 in 2008, 261 last season, as much as he is for his unkempt hair and funky, gymnast-like delivery. His numbers are down fairly considerably this season–resulting in his demotion in this rotation–perhaps spawning questions as to whether or not previous workload has caught up with his small frame. Never fear though; even if it has, Lincecum’s teammate Matt Cain also wears the High Socks. Hrm. Maybe I should become a Giants fan.
Stephen Strasburg: You’ve already heard the phenom’s name, no doubt. Not many pitchers strike out fourteen in their Major League debuts while walking none over just six innings. Recently DL’d with shoulder issues, he’s healthy again and given gaudy college numbers and pitching number as a rookie in the Majors, Strasburg is very possibly headed for greatness. Wearing high socks from the get-go, Strasburg has made a lasting, good impression on this fan.
In the Bullpen:
Closer: Jose Valverde (hate the antics, but alas, until Mariano or Soria starts wearing high socks, this is the best I can do).
David Robertson (recently stopped wearing high socks on the current Yankee road trip, but as @bryanhoch, informs us, “They’ll be back on the homestand. He says they don’t go well with high tops.” The Yankees’ reliever had one of their most important playoff appearances in 2009, when in Game 2 of the ALDS he had the bases loaded and no one out (largely leftover by the previous reliever), and got out of the inning without allowing the run.)
Damaso Marte (On the DL, where he’s spent far too much time as a Yankee. That said, when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best LOOGYs in the game).
Casey Janssen (Plays for the Canadien team. Wears high socks. Good enough.)
On the Bench:
*How can I be a baseball purist and a fan of the DH? I don’t know *sobs*. I don’t know.
So there you have it, your High Socks team. They could probably use an upgrade at catcher, and some help in the bullpen, but all things considered, I’d pay to see these guys in a game against the All Fat Team.