The curious case of Mike Jacobs, my new favorite Royal
I think everyone here knows how I feel about
It wasn't that I thought the Royals gave up too much to get Jacobs -- they traded away
So, no, I did not like the move to get Jacobs, and I still do not like the move to get Jacobs, and so on.
But here's the kick in the head.
I think my new favorite player on the Kansas City Royals is Mike Jacobs.
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I remember the first time I told
Page 555: In the
Page 690: Duane had a quote about
Bill seemed just a touch sheepish about my favorite all-time baseball player getting only two rather haphazard mentions in his book, but more than that he had trouble understanding why Duane Kuiper was my favorite player in the first place. Bill's favorite players -- like
But Duane ... I never held any illusions that Duane Kuiper was somehow unappreciated. He was probably appreciated fairly. I never argued that he was better that anyone thought. Even though I wanted to be just like him, I never thought he was as good as
So if I had to guess at why I have this sudden and rather jolting admiration for Mike Jacobs, it probably has something to do with that, something emotional. It isn't that Jacobs is somehow a better player than I thought he was: He was good all spring and he's had a nice start to the season -- .282, four homers, 10 RBIs -- but I suspect he's just about the same as I expected, a free-swinger who will hit some mistakes out of the park, will punch up a .320 or so on-base percentage, will struggle defensively. My new feelings about Jacobs don't have anything to do with the fact that he seems a good guy, though he does seem to be a good guy and other players on the team seem to like him a lot. My new feelings do not revolve around the fact that when you go to
No. The reason I have come to like Jacobs and to root for him ... well, I guess it started on what was supposed to be Opening Day in Chicago. The game was snowed-out, and so the Royals had a voluntary workout. Jacobs was there, and it was cold, it was windy, few players were outside. He went to home plate even though there was no pitcher. He dug into the batter's box. He swung at an imaginary pitch. And he hit an imaginary home run. He ran around the bases with his arm in the air, like
And so, I started watching Jacobs a bit more closely. And suddenly, involuntarily, I found myself rooting for him. Like I said up top, I don't know exactly why. But I think it's because of this: There's a certain thrill in watching a Mike Jacobs at-bat. He seems -- and I have to say "seems" because I have never asked him about this -- he seems to understand exactly what's happening around him. There's something in his body language, in the joy he seems to get out of baseball, in the way he holds his bat ... he seems to be saying to the pitcher:
"You know, I know, everyone here knows that I have some holes in my swing. And you know, I know, everyone here knows where those holes are located. I'm not going to hit the good fastball up and in. I'm not going to hit the sharp breaking ball. I'll probably chase a pitch when behind in the count -- let's face it, I can't really help myself, those pitches really look good. So, yeah, let's be perfectly honest here: If you throw good pitches, you're probably going to strike me out. And if you're left-handed, you don't even need to throw especially good pitches, you're probably going to get me.
"Actually, BUT -- it's a big BUT ...
"But if you make a mistake, I'm going to freaking hit the ball 700 miles."
Maybe this is all just made up in my mind. I don't think so -- I think this is really the Mike Jacobs attitude. And anyway, it doesn't matter, that's what I see. When
And so, I have come to see every Mike Jacobs at-bat as a struggle against the odds. And I love it. I have started counting down batters to when he comes to the plate. I have come to really zone in when he steps in there; I like watching every part of his at-bats, even the strikeouts. I guess if I could explain it another way: I used to love, love, love a boxer named
There was more. He knocked down
Point is, I always thought Shavers went into the fight the way Jacobs goes into an at-bat. He seemed to understand his limitations. And if you could avoid Earnie's big right hand, if you could get up off the floor, if you could land big punches, if you could take the fight into the later rounds, you would beat him. But he wanted you to know that if you left yourself open, and he caught you, you might not get up.*
There's something about that struggle that speaks to me. Sure it's fun to watch
The weird thing is that my opinion about Mike Jacobs as a baseball player has not changed at all. As a baseball evaluator I still see all his weaknesses outweighing his strengths. As a GM, I would not have traded for him. But as a baseball fan ... I just enjoy the heck out of watching him step to the plate, kill or be killed. The other day he faced Cleveland's
Two pitches later, stunningly, Jensen Lewis threw that exact pitch again. This time it was 87 mph. And this time Jacobs did swing. He jumped out of his shoes to swing. And he hit it 700 miles to center field. It clanked off the railing out there, bounced behind a wall, an absolute mammoth shot. Will he do that enough to make himself a valuable player? Maybe not. But, yeah, it will be fun every time he does it.