At first it seemed like a great idea. Wily Mo Pena in the Home Run Derby.
Bombing back in the bigs after two years of minor league exile. Playing for the host team. Why not? It’d be a hell of a show.
It even had its own Twitter hashtag, #WilyMo4Derby.
So while a deserving Ian Kennedy stumps for votes in an election he is doomed to lose and baseball whiffs on a great opportunity to put a legitimate home town guy in the derby like Justin Upton, a reclamation project who has five homers, 18 strikeouts and a .200 batting average becomes the peoples pick to represent our franchise in an event with a ton of eyeballs on it.
Of course he did. We love our fads.
Smurfs and shoulder pads. Legwarmers and linoleum. Shirts, both bowling and rugby. Jeans, both acid washed and rolled. The Atkins diet. The grapefruit diet. Where’s the beef?
Trends, like baseball players, come and go. Yet for some reason — and I won’t lie to you, I’m not sure if it’s just in Phoenix or it’s like this everywhere — baseball fans here are enamored with fads. I heard Mark Asher exclaim the other day that the “Valley is falling in love with Wily Mo Pena.” Maybe an “I loved that shirt in the store ‘til I brought it home and realized it didn’t look good on me and I wasted my money” kind of a love. Or a “the barista just smiled at me, I think I’m in love” type love.
Wily Mo has been a nice story. That’s all. Why we’re trying to make him bigger than nice-story status is beyond me. But that’s what we do and as proof I offer up the five biggest fads in Diamondbacks history (with apologies to Matt Kata, Augie Ojeda, Clay Zavada, Andrew Good, Robbie Hammock, Josh Collmenter and Trent Oeltjen).
As in, “Whatever happened to Alex Cabrera?” Hit four homers in his first 12 games as a D-back. Unfortunately it wasn’t just the crowds who were juiced up about his performance. After being named in the Mitchell report he was quickly exported to Japan.
Had an ERA of 6.65 in 56 games with the D-backs. But because he did that neck-snap, whip-lash, head-deal, look-in to the catcher (made famous by Mark Grace), the fans ate him up. For two years kids mimicked the move on little league diamonds all over the valley. But it does beg the question. Was it Fetters the fans loved or the Gracie impersonation of Fetters?
He pitches! He hits homers! He slices! And dices! And never rusts! He’s like baseball’s version of MacGyver—- there’s nothing he can’t do! He also has a career ERA of …4.98. The phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” has never been more fitting than with Owings.
Easily interchangeable with Augie Ojeda. The story behind the man is terrific. The Tatman signs are clever. The push by some to have Ryan Roberts as an All-Star (true story—one of our hosts at the station was touting it a couple of months back) was misguided. Since May 3rd he’s hitting .223.
Fans make the mistake of buying into fads all the time. It’s what makes them fans. Their infatuation with a player is short-lived and ultimately harmless. Front offices are typically smart enough and disciplined enough to recognize a guy is just a fad. Unfortunately the D-backs gave Byrnes a very atypical contract and soon the whole arrangement crumbled under its own weight.