David Eckstein: the Derek Jeter of the NL? Only you take “true Yankeedom” and “calm-eyed intangibles” and replace them with “moderately small size” and “grit”. And you take “metrosexually confident heartthrob” and replace it with “heartthrob only to sportswriters and people who are turned on by small white things such as albino lemmings and/or cotton balls”. I don’t mean they’re similar as players, I just mean they’re similar in how the media reacts to them.
We’ve taken to calling him “The Lab Rat” around here, because he looks very much like one and, if you listen to EVERYONE WRITING ABOUT BASEBALL EVER, he’s approximately the size of one. He’s pretty hairless, though, compared to your average lab rat, so maybe he’s more like an ONCOMOUSE (capitalized because I love the word). Just imagine this as ecce eckstein. Small in stature but huge in impact for the possible fate of the human race! The noble Eckstein-oncomouse will CURE OUR CANCERS even though it is but a small, overlooked, small, humble, and small creature! Isn’t that David Eckstein in a nutshell? NO HYPERBOLE HERE, MY FRIENDS.
BEST SHORTSTOP EVAR
Even without getting into Fancy Stats, let us look at some basic, basic things that happened this season. Let us make this so simple that even I, an art student who has about the understanding of math and stats that one would expect from an art student, can understand.
This season, David Eckstein batted .292/.350/.344.
This season, Carlos Guillen batted .320/.400/.519.
There is no comparison there, anywhere. Guillen was better across the board. He hit for more average, got on base at a better clip, and hit for more power. He was a better hitter. He IS a better hitter. But he lacks SCRAPPY DETERMINATION. Brandon Inge (if we’re being fair here) has SCRAPPY DETERMINATION, but we’re talking about shortstops right now, and media lovefests.
This season, David Eckstein walked 31 times in 500 at-bats.
This season, Carlos Guillen walked 71 times in 543 at-bats.
Carlos Guillen is not a leadoff hitter. Carlos Guillen plays for a team that values the walk just slightly more than it values the sludge that Vance Wilson leaves in the clubhouse toilet after a particularly spicy postgame spread.
OK, and this one is my favorite.
This season, David Eckstein stole 7 bases and was caught stealing 6 times.
This season, Carlos Guillen stole 20 bases and was caught stealing 9 times.
I had NO IDEA about this before I looked it up. If you read ANYTHING written about David Eckstein, it would lead you to believe that he’s the sort of player who steals INFINITE bases, not because he’s some sort of Dave Roberts-esque speedster, but because that is the sort of GRITASTIC, SCRAPPY, SCRAPALICIOUS old school baseball favored by 1) Tony The Russa, 2) the National League, 3) winners, 4) Real Men, and 5) David Eckstein.
Carlos Guillen stole 13 more bases and was only caught 3 more times. But I guess he wasn’t stealing them very grittily. When Carlos Guillen steals a base his uniform remains squeaky clean, because he’s not grinding his tailbone into the mud like David Eckstein is. He can’t be. He lacks that essential Ecksteinity.
Also, does anyone else get the feeling that Eckstein’s always written about as though he’s a Little Leaguer, or at least a kid fresh up from AAA? I mean, some of it is his stature and the emphasis sportswriters place on his “boundless enthusiasm for the game” or whatever, but even just the overall tone of the stuff written about him. If you read 50 articles about David Eckstein and 50 articles about Carlos Guillen (if you can find 50 articles about Carlos Guillen), you’d probably come away with the impression that Guillen is somewhere in the realm of middle-aged for a baseball player, and Eckstein is a fresh-faced kid. It’s kind of freaky.
For the record, Carlos Guillen is 30 years old and has been in the majors for 9 seasons. David Eckstein is 31 and has been in the majors for 6 seasons. But they’ve all been scrappy seasons!
I also demand that you all, each and every one, go read this Ecksteinful masterpiece by Fire Joe Morgan, because in all honesty I laughed so hard I cried painful, semi-suppressed tears of mirth.