Sunday, June 17, 2007
I am going to tell you up front that I will probably forget somebody important here, but it's Father's day, and I'm supposed to be relaxing here.
Today, I'm going to take a quick look at three young players who are trying to fill big shoes by playing the game their fathers dominated. After the jump it's Prince Fielder, Tony Gwynn, Jr. and Tony Pena, Jr.
No pressure, kid. It's just your old man, after all.
We'll start off with Prince Fielder, who is doing an admirable job of filling his dad's shoes and emulating his waistband. Courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Prince Fielder leads the National League in home runs thus far in 2007. His father, Cecil Fielder, led the American League in home runs twice in his career - 1990 and 1991.
If Prince Fielder ends up leading the league this season, it will mark just the fifth time in baseball history in which a father and son led a league in the same category, although it would be just the fourth father-son combination.
It should be noted that home runs is not the only thing Cecil Fielder led the league in during his career. Prince Fielder also could join the list by leading the league in slugging percentage, total bases, RBI or strikeouts.
The other father-son leaders:
Innings pitched: Jim Bagby (1920) and Jim Bagby Jr. (1943)
Games played: Gus Bell (1955) and Buddy Bell (1979)
Runs scored: Bobby Bonds (1969 and 1973) and Barry Bonds (1992)
Total bases: Bobby Bonds (1973) and Barry Bonds (1993)
So Cecil's kid is taking care of business. But what of the other Hall of Famer offspring who calls Milwaukee home? Tony Gwynn, Jr. is stuck in a crowded situation:
Tony Gwynn Jr., with a single in five at-bats at the top of the order against the Marlins, also deserves a chance. In fact, he deserves a chance to play more often, which goes to the root of the Brewers' ongoing logjam in the outfield.
Since they've already committed to Ryan Braun at third base, it probably wouldn't hurt them to commit to some form of a Hart-Gwynn-Bill Hall combination as the foundation of their outfield. The entire lineup could grow up together, with the only real concern being some kind of revival from St. Louis in the National League Central. No one else, including those battlin' Chicago Cubs, seems particularly interested in catching the Brewers at the moment.
Sadly, it looks like as long as things are working the way they are, TGJr. won't get many at-bats.
For some reason, the Kansas City Star has nothing about Tony Pena, Jr. and his famous father. Perhaps it's sour grapes over the whole Tony Pena, Sr. stint as manager in KC, in which he gave them their best season in recent memory before getting himself entangled in some extramarital difficulties that helped run him out of town.
MLB.com is not really worried about that, though. They put together a nice puff piece about Tony, Sr. and his bond with his two baseball-playing sons, Tony, Jr. (Royals starting SS) and Francisco (Mets farm-system catcher):
"They grew up in the clubhouse, they grew up around players and they grew up around big-league fields," Pena Sr. said. "I think because they saw it so much, it became part of their lives, and they said they can do it because it's the only thing they knew."
Pena Jr. received advice not only from his dad, but from some of the greatest shortstops the game has ever seen. There was acrobatic Ozzie Smith in St. Louis and the graceful Omar Vizquel with the Indians: Pena Jr. watched Vizquel every day, fielding grounders, throwing to first and turning the double play.
"I wanted to do that," Pena Jr. said.
And he has.
Finally, since I was at the KC Star site and all, I have to share Joe Posnanski's soft-focus father's day piece.
Dad’s memory for names is not quite so sharp. I would estimate that about 60 percent of the time Dad has addressed me in my life he has called me, “David,” which would be my brother’s name. The other 40 percent of the time, he has gone with such creative choices as “Tony” (my other brother) and “Hey, uh, you.” He has also had those occasional moments when he just looked at me with that frozen look that “Jeopardy” contestants have when they buzz in but don’t quite remember the answer.
Dad gets around this with his granddaughters by calling them both “Sunshine.”
So when I asked him to name his favorite player — so I could write about Dads and baseball for Father’s Day — he said, “Oh you know, what’s-his name? That guy I liked a lot. The good one. Oh, you know.”
Man, that is exactly what my son is going to say about me. Of course, I love players like Jim Eisenreich and Andres Gallaraga, so if I tell him the exact name, it still won't mean anything to him.
Might as well just say "You know, that one plucky guy who overcame a horrible disease".
Happy Fathers day to all of the sons and dads out there.