Happy Halloween! If you missed it, be sure to check out a special presentation of Halloween ANtics!
First of all, let me start by saying that I think Mark Ellis is just about the nicest player in the game today; from all accounts, he is a genuine man who never allowed his fame to dictate his lifestyle, nor does his lifestyle put him on the front page of the papers. However, it is exactly these qualities that I feel lends to Mark Ellis' 'player likeability', and sometimes does not allow an objective look at his actual 'player qualities'.
Players that make a splash certainly stand out in our memories. Game-winning homeruns, big hits, and amazing plays will stick with us for a long time, and we will tend to attach these feelings to a player, sometimes ignoring all other statistical evidence. Marco Scutaro is evidence of this phenomenon. One would be hard-pressed to be able to create an iron-clad case for Scutaro being anything but, quite bluntly, a serviceable back-up infielder. He is both a below-average fielder and below-average hitter, but over his years in Oakland, he has managed to come up with several huge hits. Did he manage to get some of his few overall hits at just the right time, or was he lucky enough to be up to bat at a crucial time, or is he one of those players who truly deserves the dubious moniker of 'clutch'? It's certainly debated.
But there is no question in my mind that the majority of AN recognizes Scutaro's deficiencies and although we were thrilled to death with his playoff performance, one series does not a great baseball player make, and sadly, yet accurately, most of us do not believe the team is best served with Marco as an everyday player.
Yet, for as much criticism was thrown Scutaro's way this year, an equal amount of praise (and unicorns) were heaped on Mark Ellis. And why?
I will be the first to go to the mat in backing Ellis for a gold glove at second base. His defense is not Scutaro's. But yet...is that really enough? In a year when the A's severely lacked offensive production, Ellis batted .249 with 11 homeruns, fifty-two RBIs, and an OBP of .319. By contrast, Scutaro's line reads: .266, 5, 41, .350. I had to look up those numbers twice; I couldn't believe that Scutaro had the higher OPS, and I certainly couldn't believe he had both the higher average and slugging percentage. Judging from the climate surrounding these two players (before the post-season), I was sure Marco Scutaro was trailing in large margins in every category.
Mark Ellis had a terrible offensive year; there's not really any other way to spin it, and unlike his much-maligned counterpart, I can't think of a big hit off the top of my head. By contrast, I can rattle off four Scutaro moments within the first second of reflection, while simultaneously believing that his presence in the lineup and on the field hurts the team. Yet Marco Scutaro remains the disposable player to the A's fan base, while Ellis, for some reason, is the reigning golden boy. And let's be honest, we must be basing this on character points, and defense. Fair enough.
But when we talk about what the A's need this off-season; if we're interested in all at improving offensive production, Ellis should grouped right along with Scutaro. Consider our options. Barring a major trade, our shortstop position is a black hole. Our catcher is just about slugging his batting average. Our first baseman is looking to set the strikeout record, and while our third baseman is be the best defensive player I've ever seen, his offensive numbers are average, at best. Color me crazy, but shouldn't someone who plays the infield be able to hit?
I like Mark Ellis. I guess I just don't see 'it'. Can someone explain?