Aug 24th, 2009
By John Norris
Who has the late August blues? I know I do. Baseball is my fountain of youth, as I imagine it is for so many of you guys. So, this time of year, I tend to get the blues because baseball season is coming to a close. I know that the major league season has much more time, but the minor league season is within weeks of being over. Thankfully the Barons have a chance at a Southern League crown, which will extend their season. As a kid, this time of year also meant school was starting back. I like football just as much as everybody, but it is so finite and mostly talk, not as much action. Baseball is there for you everyday. My friends and I would spend hours outside playing tennis ball baseball on the fork in the road in my neighborhood. We were on a hill and there was only a left field, no center or right. So the end of summer, even though I despise the weather here this time of year, bums me out. Since baseball makes me feel like a kid again, the end of this season is especially poignant for me as this is the last one before I become a father. I just wanted to thank all of you guys for your camaraderie and for enhancing my fountain of youth.
I think a much debated topic this season has been the performance of John Shelby III. Many have been disappointed, which is understandable. I have been a fan of his since he was at Kentucky, so I was looking forward to seeing him play this year. His numbers this year have taken an obvious dip, but the two most significant factors that have caused that are the vastness of Regions Park and his batting average. Although he did hit a 408 foot home run to dead center the other day to lead off the game. My only concern is his average.
The good news is he’s been very productive with the hits he has gotten. He has been on a role in August and with a good finish should manage to get to 110 hits for the year. He’s still on pace to match his stolen base numbers from last year. He’s always has a chance to swipe two bags when he gets on base. Shelby has also lowered his strikeouts significantly, he struck out 98 times last year, but only 74 times this year.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I think that the White Sox have altered his approach offensively. In the past, he was a middle of the order, aggressive RBI guy. C.J. Retherford and Shelby carried the 2008 Winston-Salem club for most of the year. Especially after Brandon Allen’s promotion, they played their way into the Carolina League playoffs. For most of this year though, Shelby has spent significant time as the Barons leadoff hitter. The arrival of Jordan Danks from Winston-Salem put that on hold. So, a change of approach, plus inconsistent playing time and the fact that he’s hit just about everywhere in the lineup has slowed his progress.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Treybone return to Birmingham next year with a more focused approach offensively. He is only recently turned 24. He can be more of a leader, and the team won’t be as crowded as it has been this year. Stefan Gartrell certainly wasn’t hurt by repeating AA. In fact I expect him, Jim Gallagher, Christian Marrero, Brent Morel, Tyler Kuhn and possibly others to bring Birmingham another first half title in 2010.
I know I haven’t mentioned his defense, but there’s nothing to say. It’s flawless. He has been solid in either LF or CF in 2009. His arm strength is decidedly underrated. His adjustment to the outfield isn’t an issue whatsoever.
He definitely has a future as a major leaguer, but if I had to be honest, I’d say it’s as a National League player. His skill set to me just screams senior circuit. But, with the state of the game changing, he could be a valuable asset to a team in either league. He could be a younger Dewayne Wise as well as bring more offensive production to the table.
As usual, I will take requests for next week’s edition of JPNese at Soxtalk.