Aug 10th, 2009
By John Norris
So, after the 15-0 shelling that the Barons put on the Smokies the other night, a kid goes to wait by the Tennessee bus to get Ryne Sandberg’s autograph. A tough task as there has been a long, serpentine line before each game to do just that. The kid asks nicely when Sandberg is getting on the bus, but Ryne blows him off. Stay classy, Ryno! That’s how you roll as an ambassador to the game.
I’ll take this week’s edition to talk in depth about C.J. Retherford. I began following C.J.’s progress during the 2008 season while he was with Winston-Salem. Just based on his numbers there, he was impressive for being just an undrafted free agent. But, after watching him for almost an entire season, I can tell you guys he is a special player worth holding on to.
It’s hard to pin down a good comparison for Retherford. If I had to narrow it down, I’d say he’s a cross between Craig Biggio and Dustin Pedroia. Other than that, there are a lot of reasons to like him. My number one reason is his work ethic. Not a lot of players make the effort to spend extra time working on their swings. In C.J.’s case, he goes down to the batting cage behind the right field wall before every game. So, when you look at his stats, you know that he’s put in a ton of hard work to accomplish what he’s achieved. That’s a guy you cheer for.
Another reason to like him is his character, which I discussed in last week’s edition. When he’s got a night off, he spends his time finding kids to give a ball to or helping to warm up a pitcher in the bullpen or between innings when the catcher is getting his gear on. His fun loving personality and infectious smile, combined with his baggy pants and short stature makes him a fan favorite. One would expect him to be a grinder, but it’s almost a bonus that’s he productive.
Speaking of his production, he is an impressive hitter to say the least. He generates a lot of his pop from his upper body, especially his forearms. He rarely looks foolish at the plate and he generally can give you a productive out if he doesn’t get on base. He puts some wicked english on doubles he wraps around the third base bag. What makes him most dangerous as a hitter is the fact that he hits to all fields. We all know how important that is for a player to hit .300.
Defensively, he’s been mostly solid at second base. He hasn’t been moved around at all this year, but the fact that he played well at third last year and has played well at second this year shows that he still maintains his versatility. He seems like a guy who can fill a position hole wherever he’s needed on the field. C.J. played all 9 spots in the field while at Arizona State, which supposedly hampered his draft status. That doesn’t make sense to me. I’m hesitant to compare him to Ryan (shudder) Freel, but C.J. has the ability to be just as useful to a team as Freel has been. I can see him as a fan favorite at the Cell for years to come playing all over the field and hitting .300 on an everyday basis. Kenny Williams may not see him as untouchable, I can’t speak for him of course, but C.J. Retherford is untouchable in my book. What’s more valuable to a team than a guy who can play 9 positions, hit .300 at the top or bottom of the order and work as hard as he does? Not much.
Once again, I’ll take requests for next week’s edition of JPNese.
Manly man hugs,