In Praise of Placido Polanco

11 Jun

If someone had asked you at the beginning of the year, who would be the Phillies most consistent hitter, who would you have named?

If someone had asked you at the beginning of the year who would lead the team in batting average and hits?

If someone had asked who would be the Phils MVP for the first 63 games?

How many of you would have said Placido Polanco?  Be honest.  Not many.  But it is Polanco who has been carrying the Phillies offense so far this year.

Of course, he hit a grand slam last night to give the Phillies a comfortable lead at the time (even though they would need just about every one of those runs before the game was over.)  But that’s a story for another day.  This one is about Placido Polanco.

It’s easy to overlook the quiet third baseman.  He’s an understated veteran on a team with lots of big names and larger-than-life personalities. But we shouldn’t ignore his contributions this year, and frankly every year, he has been with the Phillies.

His stats speak for themselves:

He’s tied for the lead in games played with 63.

He leads the team in hits by a large margin with 78 (which includes setting a Phillies all-time record for hits in April with 41.)

He’s second only to Ryan Howard in RBI’s with 37.

He leads the team with his .311 batting average.

And last night’s grand slam was Polanco’s 100th career home run.

Quite simply Polanco has become the Phillies best hitter.  He is what many call a “professional” hitter:  he works the count, he moves runners, he makes contact and he always seems to get the big hit when it’s needed.  Whether he’s batting second, third or fifth (as he did last night for the first time since May 13, 2005 during his last stint with the Phillies,) it doesn’t matter to Polanco:

“I don’t even think about that.  When I’m in the batter’s  box, I don’t really think I’m hitting fifth or I’m hitting second.  I just try to do my job.”

And that is typical Polanco understatement.  In this season defined by slumps and long offensive draughts, Polanco has “done his job” quietly, professionally, day in, day out.

Rarely in the spotlight, rarely in the headlines but at the heart of this line-up.

I shudder to think where the Phillies would be without him.

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