“News: Abreu went 5-for-5 with two walks in Sunday’s extra-innings loss to the Royals. (Sun Apr 3)
“Spin: Despite the monster day at the plate, Abreu came away scoring just one run, on his own homer in the seventh inning, thanks to Torii [two points for spelling] Hunter going 1-for-7 on the day behind him in the lineup.
“ESPN Fantasy Projection: Abreu, who will turn 37 during spring training, [sic] has been a model of consistency in his career, with nine 20/20 seasons and 20-plus steals in each of the past 12 seasons. That said, he’s coming off a season in which he posted his worst batting average (.255) since becoming a regular in 1998. Although a BABIP of .296 (47 points lower than his career mark) played a part in that, don’t expect a huge bounce back; he has opened up his swing more, and there’s some clear skill decline here. Also, this is likely the season that his string of 20-theft seasons gets snapped. He still possesses a good batting eye, and getting more DH time this season might help him stave off the aging process after playing in 151 or more games for 11 straight years, but Abreu is best used as a potential value play if the price is right, not as a key component of your mixed-league roster.”
Let me admit right off the bat (Where have I heard that expression?) that on closer inspection I find Bobby Abreu, formerly with the Phillies, the Yankees, and today with the Angels, possibly the most overrated player in Major League Baseball. As a right fielder, Abreu never met a warning track he liked. I’ve seen him play routine fly balls on a bounce off the wall. He’s really not a terrible outfielder. But he’ll never be confused with Pete Reiser. (Younger readers can look him up. I myself only know Reiser by reputation and his many “on-the-stretcher photos.”) The other side of this: it’s one reason Abreu is so durable, and I have to credit him with this, though one wonders what right-handed pitchers, particularly with average stuff and given to the gofer ball (Cricket fans, a little on the lingo: “gofer” is not a furry animal in this case but the “go for” the home-run-pitched ball; by contrast, the “atom ball” means the “at-’em” ball smoked right at a fielder for a relatively easy out.) thought of having BA to their left (when facing the plate) and back.
Regarding playing the wall, there is an oft-told story of Mickey Mantle as a twenty-year-old being instructed by his often-loopy manager Casey Stengel on how to play an unfamiliar National League stadium outfield: presumably Ebbets Field or the equally quirky but very different Polo Grounds (which, cricket fans, was built for polo!). “You played here?” the astonished young Mantle asked. “Son, do you think I was born at the age of sixty?!” Stengel was reported to have retorted.