If there were a Most Fun NL Rookie to Watch award, Hamilton wouldn't just be sprinting away with it; he'd be handing out lollipops and chocolate bars to every voter. "Everything he does is fun to watch," said one scout. "I love just watching him run down the line on a three-hopper to the second baseman, because I'm thinking, 'You'd better hurry.'" But what we're learning with every game he plays is that there's so much more to Hamilton than his supersonic wheels. Did you know that less than two years after the Reds converted him from shortstop, he's leading all regular big league center fielders in pretty much every defensive metric on earth? Did you know he's also figuring it out at the plate -- to the point where his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage have all jumped by at least 20 points in every full month of the season? Did you know that since June 10, he's hit .333/.365/.550, with more home runs (three) than Miguel Cabrera (two)? And did you know that if he can bounce back from that sore hamstring and steal three more bases this weekend, he'll be only the fourth rookie in history to swipe 40 or more before the All-Star break? [The rest of that relay team: Vince Coleman (63), Tim Raines (50) and Juan Samuel (40)]. Now, maybe in three months, Gregory Polanco will be making this decision a lot more complicated. But halfway through a highly entertaining season, Billy Hamilton is (what else?) running away with this award.
Don't we need more than one rookie of the year award in modern baseball these days -- one for the traditional rookies and one for international sensations like Abreu and Tanaka? "Both of those guys are great," said one scout of Abreu and Tanaka. "But they're not really rookies." Excellent point, when you consider all the baseball they've played and where they've played it. But we'll save that debate for some other time. The rules say they're rookies. And it's arbitrary and discriminatory to pretend they're not rookies. Hence we have no choice but to compare them to the George Springers of the world. So sorry, George. I'd love to give you some kind of half-trophy. But in this system, this comes down to Abreu versus Tanaka, two guys who have been more than great. They've been historically great. Sensational as Abreu has been, this was Tanaka's award to lose two weeks ago. Oops. He's 1-3 with a 4.25 ERA in four starts since then. So we're turning back to Abreu, a breathtaking masher who keeps breaking some sort of record every few days, whether he needs to or not. It took him just 75 games in the big leagues to hit 27 home runs. And who else has done that in the history of the sport? Oh, nobody. Of course. He also reached double figures in home runs in each of his first two healthy months in the big leagues, with at least 20 RBIs in each. Among the players who haven't had two months like that in their whole careers: Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, David Wright and even Mike Trout. So if that's how Jose Abreu's first two healthy months went, I can't wait to see how his next decade or so goes. How about you?
Apologies to: Tanaka, Springer.