Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mr. Kotter vs. Mr. Ruth

Up until last week, Gabe Kapler played baseball like he was Mr. Kotter, a Social Studies teacher who was known for his good intentions in the TV show “Welcome Back Kotter” and was played by actor Gabe Kaplan. As we all know, Kapler had stopped playing baseball and was learning the ropes as a manager (cough, teacher, cough) in the minor leagues. Last season, he decided he wanted to return to the big leagues and played for the Brewers and continued his mission to play solid baseball into 2009. Kapler signed in the offseason with the Rays for $1,000,018 to be a platoon right fielder and right handed bat. Although his intentions were great, and he played solid defense, he was still batting .169 with 0 homeruns and 5 RBIs after a game in New York on June 6.

Then, on June 8 against the Yankees, Gabe Kapler came to the plate with the Rays down a run and Michel Hernandez on base. Boom, gone, homerun! At the time, I compared this hit to being able to toast an Eggo. I wasn’t going to look too much into one homerun. The following thought never crossed my mind:

Is it possible that Gabe Kapler found his swing?

Has Gabe Kapler gone from Gabe Kaplan to “Gabe” Ruth?

Now with 2 more games played, 2 more homeruns hit, an RBI total doubled, and a batting average finally over the Mendoza line, Kapler is finally looking like he is worth $18, not to mention that extra $1,000,000. Gabe Kapler has been mashing like he is the Great Gambino over the last 3 games. I do not expect Kapler to continue to play like Ruth, but I do think he needs to continue to play less like Kotter. The batting average needs to continue to increase and merge closer to .250. The RBI’s must be boosted to reasonable numbers for a number 6 or 7 hitter. And finally, Kapler must avoid the embarrassing moments (such as stopping between 3rd base and home, or striking out to Yankees’ ace pitcher Nick Swisher).

I know I have been one of your biggest critics this season, but I am willing to cut you some slack. Gabe, I plead you this: please continue to improve on your performance with every game you play. If you can be a consistent right-handed bat in the bottom of the lineup, it will go a long way towards carrying the Rays back to October baseball. If you digress, you are going to leave a large hole in the lineup that will be hard for this team to overcome. You don’t have be Gabe Ruth, but you can’t be Gabe Kaplan either. All Rays’ fans will be happy with you performing somewhere in the middle, and figuring out why this will help the team isn’t rocket science.

-The Rocket Scientist

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