Eric…Hits The Ball Real Far

‘He’s a comic book hero with a prep school education.’ That is what Adam Karen, Eric Thames agent was told by the Korean representatives as they were in pursuit of Thames for the NC Dinos in the Korean League. A graduate from Bellarmine Prep, a private Jesuit school in San Jose, California, then majored in Integrated Marketing at Pepperdine University, Mr Thames was drafted in the 7th round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008. In 2011 and 2012 he was a platoon player while appearing in 141 games and batting .257 with 15 HRs and 48 RBI. On July 30, 2012, he was traded to the Seattle Mariners for Steve Delebar. In Seattle, he appeared in 40 games during batting .220 with 6 HRs and 15 RBI. On June 30, 2013, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Ty Kelly and did not appear in a single game. Then on September 5, 2013, he was selected off Waivers by the Houston Astros. In the field, he only had 5 errors. Disappointed, but not discouraged, he went and played in the Venezuelan Winter Ball league in December 2013.

By this time, the Dinos understood a couple of things: Eric Thames was covered in tattoos and had a big personality while in 633 at bats in the major leagues, he had hit 21 HRs and driven in 54 RBI, had an on base percentage of .296 and a slugging percentage of .431. He was not afraid to travel to other countries to play ball. They understood what this would translate for their fans in Southeastern Korea.

According to Jerry Crasnick, ESPN Senior writer (11/29/16), ‘After signing with the Dinos, Thames bought the Rosetta Stone Korean program and dove head-first into learning the language. “When you look at this as just a paycheck, that’s when you struggle,” Thames said. “The key is to enjoy the ride. Fully embrace the experience. [The] Hangul [alphabet] is pretty easy to learn, so I was able to pick it up easily. I am not fluent by any means, but speaking like a baby is better than not knowing any at all.”

As Thames immersed himself in the Korean culture and began clearing fences with regularity, he developed an ardent following. He patiently signed autographs for long lines of fans at Masan Stadium, and he grew accustomed to having meals interrupted by fans in search of selfies. “Going anywhere with him is insane in that country,” Karon said. “It’s like going out with the Beatles. Girls are crying and people are trying to touch him and get pictures. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

In Korea he put up cartoon numbers. In 2015, Thames won the MVP award and a Gold Glove at first base, became the first KBO player to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in a season, logged a .391/.497/.790 slash line and became the first player in Korean baseball to hit for the cycle twice in the same season. In 2016, Thames regressed slightly, but he still hit 40 homers and logged an OPS of 1.101 for the Dinos, who lost to the Doosan Bears in the KBO final, known as the Korean Series.

According to Crasnick, ‘Thames showed a strong work ethic in Korea and was popular with his teammates. The natural question was how his skills would translate to the majors. Could he adjust to higher level of competition and bigger ballparks in the majors? Thames has more of a line-drive swing than loft power. Could he catch up to 94-95 mph fastballs after feasting on 89-91 mph heaters in the KBO? “He’s very aggressive at the plate and on the field, too, for that matter,” a scout said. “He’s a first-ball fastball hacker, boy. He’s trying to hit the ball hard. Sometime you see guys who are happy to make contact and put the ball in play. That’s not him. He’s gonna hurt somebody someday.”

Thames’ defense in the outfield was considered below-average in Toronto. He moved to first base in Korea and would most likely be viewed by MLB teams as a combination first baseman-corner outfield-DH candidate. A National League front office man said he wouldn’t be surprised if teams were willing to give Thames a multiyear deal to return to the States. “You have an element that’s going to be skeptical,” the executive said. “He’s already played over here, and he wasn’t a tremendous success the first time. But you have to ask yourself, ‘Is this guy a late bloomer?’ “Look at some of the money that Cuban players have gotten. What’s the difference here? I think somebody is going to bite, and he’ll get a contract for two years and $12 million, or three years and $15-18 million.”‘

So far, through Saturday, he has appeared in 23 games, hit 11 HRs, driven in 19 RBI while batting .350 with an OPS of 1.312.

What an April. What a month.

Will it last?

#watchingattanasio⚾️

Play Ball!

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Programs Here! Can’t Tell The Players Without A Program.


Sadly, no more. There are no more hawkers in the stadiums shouting out, ‘Programs. Programs Here! Can’t Tell The Players Without A Program.’ It is a sound that has passed, like coins dropping in a coin operated telephone in a telephone booth or the ring of a landline phone in the home.

This year, the fans of the Cream City ball club could use the sound of the program hawker. For the money-pinching owners of Pigsville’s Nine, most fans will have trouble knowing who’s on first, what’s on second or I don’t knows on third.

For the record, the first baseman is Eric Thames. ‘Who?’ Eric Thames. Elig temjeuneun nugu-ibnikka? (‘에릭 템즈는 누구입니까?’). He’ll make $4,000,000 and is taking over for Chris Carter who made $2.5 million last season but was headed for arbitration which could have earned him $8+ million. After all, he was the National League Home Run champion. Thus, in the Brewers way of thinking, they saved $4+ million. You have to understand Brewer thinking. They save $4 million and gained 30 points in a batting average. Yet that is all hypothetical because Mr. Thames has been hitting against Korean baseball league pitching for the last three years. 오 좋은! Wow!
At second will be Jonathan Villar. ‘What?’ He is taking over from Scooter. Villar’s salary will be $512,900.
At third will be Travis Shaw. ‘I don’t know’. Shaw? He will earn $515,000.
At shortstop will be Orlando Arcia. ‘I don’t give a damn’ will earn $507,500.
In left will be one of the few we know…Ryan Braun, if he isn’t traded in the next couple of months before he reaches his ability to block any trade starting in late May, when he becomes a 10-year veteran who has spent his past five seasons with his current team. He will earn $20 million.
In center, Keon Broxton. ‘Hit like the second half of last season’ will earn $508,500.
In right, Domingo Santana. ‘Don’t Get Hurt Santana’ will earn $513,800.
Catching will be Andrew Susac. Not ‘today’. But this season, Susac, who replaced Maldonado who replaced Lucroy, will be making $507,500.

Compared to last year’s starting lineup, this year’s projected edition will save approximately $4.5 million less than last year. In fact, according to SPOTRAC, the Milwaukee Brewers will have the third lowest 25 man roster salary in the entire Major League. It is estimated that the team salary will be $41.175 million. Watch out, San Diego and Tampa. Milwaukee is coming after your cheap crown.

They have traded away one of the best catchers in baseball for somebody. They have traded away a veteran third baseman for somebody. They have released the National League’s home run champion for nobody.

If they trade away Braun, they will fly by the San Diego and Tampa and threaten the Salt Lake City Bees for salary.

What an accomplishment.

The Cream City Nine’s owner, who has never won a pennant much less a World Series title, will threaten most of the top Major League owners in profit. He knows that the Milwaukee fans will pack the stadium for Tiddlywinks. OK. That may be a stretch, but ‘program hawkers’ will be needed. Perhaps they can have a ‘Tiddlywinks Night’ to introduce all of the new faces.

We’ll be watching, Mr. Attanasio. We’ll be watching.

Play Ball!

#watchingattanasio