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If you take a look at Major League Baseball’s league leaders, you’ll see some of the following names: Esteban Loiaza, Shawn Chacon, Alex Gonzalez, another Alex Gonzalez (that’s right, there are two), Marcus Giles and Hee Seop Choi.
Hee Seop Who? Who are these guys? We’re almost a month through the season and these no-names are carrying their respective teams.
Are they the waves of the future? Should you start buying jerseys with CHACON written across the back?
Not so fast. Hold your money for the time being, sit back and listen to Chris Rock.
The former Saturday Night Live comedian has a famous bit where he says, “Here’s a horoscope for everyone: Aquarius: You’re gonna die. Capricorn: You’re gonna die. Gemini: You’re gonna die twice.”
Using the same form, here’s a horoscope for the Esteban Loiaza’s of the Majors. “Esteban Loiaza: Not gonna last. Shawn Chacon: Not gonna last. Alex Gonzalez: Not gonna last—twice.”
If you’re a fantasy baseball manager, trade these guys now. If you’re a real baseball manager, ride these guys for as long as possible, but don’t expect the success to last, because it rarely does.
Just like in the marathon, there are always fast starters that look sensational at the beginning only to fade into Bolivian (thank you, Mike Tyson). Last April, Kenny Lofton appeared to have regained his 1993 form. A fledgling baseball fan may have thought that Lofton was back—that he had found the fountain of youth and would finally get back to stealing 70 bases a year while hitting over .300.
Alas, by August, Lofton had been traded, and he barely hung on to a starting job with the Giants by season’s end.
There are many of these cases every season, and chances are, Loiaza, who had a svelte 5.71 ERA last season and a 5.02 ERA the year before, is one more example. His current 5-0 record and 1.25 ERA may shout out “resurrection,” but don’t let the April mirage fool you—it’s not gonna last.
Rockies’ starter Chacon is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA after five starts, four of which were absolute gems in Coors Field. Is this legit? Is he the first pitcher in history to figure out Colorado’s high altitude? Not bloody likely.
Last year, Chacon’s ERA was 5.73. Two years ago, it was 5.06. Chacon may be improved, but don’t be fooled by his gaudy numbers. He will not be this year’s National League Cy Young Award winner.
So, how can you tell the wannabes from the real thing? Occasionally, players just erupt out of nowhere.
Of all the aforementioned players, Giles and Choi are the best bets to keep up their torrid hitting pace throughout the year. Both players are young and are thought to have (by scouts and others in the know) top major league talent. That said, it is still highly doubtful that either will hit more than 30 home runs this season or finish the year hitting above .310.
Major League Baseball is a long, long season. It’s a Darwinistic society: only the strong survive. Nomar Garciaparra came into yesterday’s game with a .311 on base percentage. Many major leaguers would be shipped back to Triple-A if they could only manage to get on base 30 percent of the time.
But don’t be too concerned about Nomar. He’s been there, done that. When June and July come around, if he’s healthy, Nomar will be tearing the cover of the ball. The same likely cannot be said for Alex Gonzalez. Or Alex Gonzalez.
Today’s May 1. Remember back one month ago today. Here’s a horoscope for everyone: Don’t let April fool you.
-—Staff writer Alex M. Sherman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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