Tag Archives: JOE MADDON

BEN ZOBRIST, KEY TO WORLD SERIES?

The Mets against the Royals in the World Series promises to be an interesting match up in many ways. The Mets young pitching staff may have enough power to control the Kansas City bats but the Royals bull pen may be able to shut down the Mets offense if the Royals can get a lead. So many things can happen in a short series that there is no almost no point in speculating on the eventual outcome.

Both teams have some exceptional young players who may hold the key to the series and both have some veterans with the ability to get hot and make a difference in a seven game series.

If I had to pick one player, outside of pitchers, that I think is key for either team, I’d pick Ben Zobrist, Kansas City’s Jack of All Trades and Master of All Positions. Zobrist has played second base and batted second for the Royals in every game of the ALDS and ALCS.

He hit .333 with 6 hits in 18 at bats against Houston in the ALDS and .320 with 6 hits in 25 at bats against Toronto in the ALCS for an overall post season average of .326 with 6 RBI’s and 10 runs scored.

Zobrist has played every position in the field except pitcher and catcher in his ten seasons in the Big Leagues. In addition to his versatility in the field, he is a switch hitter which adds to his value.

He began his career with the Tampa Bay Rays and played there for nine years before being traded to the Oakland Athletics on January 10th of this year. He played in 67 games for Oakland, hitting .268 before again being traded to Kansas City on July 28th..

Since coming to Kansas City, he hit .284 in 59 regular season games with seven homers and 23 RBI’s. In those 59 games, he played second base, third base, right field and left field as well as designated hitter.

At Tampa Bay, Zobrist was a fan favorite and hit .264, while doing everything except pitch and catch and sell hot dogs. I was in Tropicana Field for the last exhibition game and the start of the regular season in April and spoke with many Rays fans about losing Zobrist and long time Manager Joe Maddon in the same year. Almost invariably, the fans were more upset about losing Zobrist than Maddon although everyone said the team would not be the same without the two.

Zobrist is a Free Agent at the end of this season and is expected to be highly sought after. I am sure Maddon, now the Manager of the Chicago Cubs, would love to have this versatile player back given his belief and practice that players should play multiple positions.

Zobrist is one of those rare position players who seems to be comfortable and competent wherever he is asked to play. He has been named to two All Star teams, in 2009 and 2013 another rarity for a utility player.

He has said he would prefer to stay in Kansas City but, like every player at this stage of his career, money will probably dictate where he goes. It’s hard to imagine a team that couldn’t make good use of his offensive and defensive versatility and production.

He has been hot at the bat during the first two post season series and could be a major factor in the upcoming World Series.

THE ULTIMATE UTILITY PLAYER!!

If you saw the Red Sox play the Kansas City Royals last weekend, you may have noticed that Ben Zobrist batted second in each of the four games. What you may not have noticed was that he started two of those games in left field and one each at third base and second base. The reason you may not have noticed is because of the smoothness and efficiency that he brings to every position he plays.

Zobrist is the ultimate utility player. In his ten year career, he has played every position on the field except pitch and catch and has batted in every position from first to ninth. He has played over 100 Major League games each at second base, shortstop, left field, center field and right field.

He is not a high average or power hitter, his career batting average is just
.264 and he has hit only 124 homers and batted in 557 runs.

After being drafted by Houston in the sixth round of the 2004 Amateur Draft, he spent two seasons and part of a third working his way through the minors, hitting over .300 at every stop. He was traded to Tampa Bay in 2006 and made his debut with the Rays on August 1 of that year.

He was with the Rays until January of this year when he was traded with Yunel Escobar to the Oakland Athletics. He played 67 games with the A’s, batting .268 with six homers and 33 RBI’s. In his 67 games he played every outfield position and second base.

On July 28, he was traded to the Royals for cash and two players. When he played his first game for the Royals on July 30, the Royals were in first place, nine games up. He has hit .342 in his 21 games with the Royals with four homers and thirteen RBI’s and the Royals have moved to 13 games ahead in that period. He has played third base, second base and left field so far as a Royal.

In his career, he has handled 4,037 chances at seven different positions and made just 68 errors for a .983 fielding percentage. There is no loss of defense no matter where he plays.

Joe Maddon, his Manager in Tampa Bay for nine years, made good use of his talents. Of course, he was the perfect fit for Madden’s style of play. Maddon loves ballplayers who can play multiple positions and moves his players like chess pieces.

Zobrist is a Free Agent at the end of this season. Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon are building the Chicago Cubs into a powerhouse in the National League Central Division. Don’t be surprised if 34 year old Ben Zobrist is the last piece of the puzzle that is that powerhouse.