Most unusual batting champ
http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/s ... 1116&num=0
The champion of nowhere
He's a man with a shot to become a batting champ. And no one will ever know it.
So it's time for us to step forward and tell you about a man who has had The Greatest Year Not Listed On Any Stat Sheet.
That man is Placido Polanco. He suits up every night for a team still located in the American League (the Tigers). He has a .336 batting average this year.
OK, now. Check your official American League batting leaders. What do you find?
You see Texas' Michael Young is the AL's leading hitter. Ah, but what's his average? It's .328 -- which would be eight points lower than Polanco's according to our calculator. But it's a funny thing. Look up and down that leader board, and you couldn't locate Polanco with the Hubble Telescope.
Why? Because he had the nerve to spend his first 43 games this season playing for the Phillies. Who play in the National League. And that stodgy old American League refuses to acknowledge that any of the stuff he did in that other league should count.
Now maybe that made sense like 80 years ago, when these two leagues only met in months named October. But those days are now defunct. And Polanco's case is especially nuts, since he actually got traded from one league to the other in June -- in the middle of interleague play.
So he got three at-bats against AL teams while he was in the NL (and went 2-for-3). And he got 47 at-bats against NL teams while he was in the AL (and hit .383).
But while the AL will count all 47 of his at-bats against the NL while he was a Tiger, it won't count any of his 155 at-bats against the NL while he was a Phillie. And we ask you: Does that make any sense whatsoever?
Correct answer: Nooooooo. But we're stuck with this system, anyway. And since we are, we should let Polanco know he still has a chance to become the third player in history to lead the major leagues in one of the triple-crown categories -- without leading either league. Which is one tough trick.
The last time this happened, according to the Elias Sports Bureau's Ken Hirdt, was 1997 -- when Mark McGwire hit 34 home runs in Oakland, then hit 24 more in St. Louis and wound up as the phantom home run champ, with 58.
The only other instance was way more bizarre. In 1990, Willie McGee was leading the NL in hitting (at .335) when he got traded in August to Oakland. And even though he hit just .274 the rest of the way, the NL was still pretty sure he was a .335 hitter -- and handed him the batting title.
In the meantime, another NL hitter -- Eddie Murray -- wound up with the highest average in the major leagues (.330). But he got no batting title out of it. Beautiful.
Now Polanco can join this esteemed group. At last check, he was only three points behind Derrek Lee (.339) -- the only man with the higher average in the entire sport -- and one point ahead of Albert Pujols (.335).
"Albert Pujols is my best friend," Polanco told Booth Newspapers' Danny Knobler, the guy who first broke this gargantuan story. "Maybe the last day, if he's beating me by a couple of points, I'll call him and tell him to strike out a couple of times for me. We'll see. I'll talk to him about it. I'm going to tell him, 'You've already had your year.' "
Memo to the citizens of St. Louis: He was kidding.
But even if Polanco passes both of those guys, what will he get out of it? A trophy? A plaque? An autographed picture of Eddie Murray? Nope. He'll get none of the above -- even if he'll always be recognized as the official batting champ of the Useless Information Department.
But to his credit, Polanco has decided not to whine about this mess. After all, he went from being a part-time player in Philadelphia to a guy who wound up with a job -- and a four-year, $18.4-million contract -- in Detroit. So "if I tell you I'm not happy with it," he told Knobler, "God might punish me."
Well, maybe he's OK with this. But we're not. Phantoms belong in the opera, not in baseball. And if enough of you agree with us, we might even get this rule changed -- by the year 2298.
Pretty interesting article. When we first traded Urbina for Polanco, I didn't like it. But this was a very good pickup. I attached the whole article because it also talks about Pudge only drawing 7
walks this season! Pathetic.