Beerleaguer attempts to define the Phillies' most debated star.
Judging from my comment threads, readers are egging me to take sides on Bobby Abreu.
Do the numbers accurately define him as one of baseball’s best, or are they static indicators that lack deeper meaning?
Laying out my position on Abreu is an exhausting hike into a gray abyss. I can’t provide the straight answer everyone desires, and that bothers me. I find myself torn by gut feeling and the rationality of baseball’s new math. I hear both sides loud and clear.
That’s what makes him so fascinating. Nobody in baseball is quite like Bobby, so richly connected to numbers. Year after year, his steady production cross-category is second to none, yet his scrapbook is a gigantic blank of snapshot moments. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are pages and pages into their memoirs. Abreu is like a vampire that can’t be photographed.
I look at Bobby’s spread and it’s as though parts of my memory have been erased. It happens every season. I remember May as a colorful cloud when pitchers were afraid to face him, and I remember the derby, the orange uniform, and the Venezuelan flag. I barely recognized him.
I’ve grown irritated reading out-of-town analysts define Bobby through numbers, probably as much as Braves fans have grown tired of the Andruw Jones debate. I’m also fed up feeling like a grizzled hick that doesn’t understand what RISP means when I see Abreu’s name high atop Win Shares.
Closer to home, this national invasion seems in violation of the bubble fans, readers, columnists, beat writers, and bloggers have built around the team, where meaning has been achieved through a marathon of emotion, excitement and heroics. It can’t be summed up by a twenty second spot on Baseball Tonight.
I’ve felt all along that Chase Utley has meant more to the Phils this season than Abreu, but I also don’t have a great answer to define value. And if I can’t, than some pundit in Kansas City that hasn't heard Harry Kalas' voice once can’t, either.
Or how about this: Clutch is when the intensity of a game is so fierce, you can feel it through the television set. That’s my personal definition. When those moments happen for Abreu, I must be in the kitchen grabbing a beer because I miss them every time.
Maybe the best way to define Abreu is with numbers after all, as .300 BA, 30 homers, 100 RBIs, 30 SB. Those are great numbers - MVP numbers actually. They can't be ignored.
As for drawling lines in the sand, well, I guess I’ll just have to draw two lines – one representing great numbers, and another representing my own personal definition of heroics. I'm standing in the middle.