The Hall of Fame Case: David Eckstein
The likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell shouldn't have too much trouble racking up National Baseball Hall of Fame votes, but there are plenty of other players on the 2016 ballot who require a little more voter-cajoling. Players that may not have the on-field resume, but deserve an impassioned Hall of Fame case nonetheless. Players like …
David Gritcake Eckstein. Sorry, his actual middle name is Mark, but after years of watching him and listening to people talk about him, I forgot that wasn't his actual name. While Eckstein finished with plenty of respectable numbers -- 1,414 hits, 123 stolen bases, two years leading the league in hit-by-pitches -- he also tallied only 35 career home runs and .701 OPS in 1,311 Major League games.
But those are only, like, numbers, man. And they don't fully encapsulate all the things that Eckstein did well. Like choke up on the bat.
Or throw as if his very body was an impediment against him.
But he's not just the undersized, undervalued infielder who stole your heart. He is so much more.
Sure, Eckstein hit only 35 home runs in his career, but a full three of them were walk-offs. Not only that, but two of them were walk-off grand slams. Seriously. I don't know how he did it -- especially since the MLB record is three walk-off grand salamis held by Alex Rodriguez and Vern Stephens.
It's really a shame that there's not a David Eckstein option at Denny's.
While many like to poke fun at Eckstein's boundless enthuisasm and effort on the field, he really did give it his all. Especially when he donated his kidney to his sister in 2012.
It all adds up, especially as Wikipedia claims that he was given the superlative, "Mr. Helpful" in high school.
In a 10-year career, Eckstein won two World Series titles. For comparison: The entire Cubs franchise has won zero World Series titles in the last 107 years. Not saying Eckstein is the secret, but I'm not saying he's not not the secret.
First, he and the Angels stormed back against the Giants in 2002 to win in seven games, the diminutive shortstop hitting a very Ecksteinian .310/.364/.310 in the Series. Then, in 2006, he and the Cardinals stomped all over a Tigers squad making their first postseason appearance in two decades.
That time around, Eckstein hit a very un-Eckstein-like .364/.391/.500 with three doubles and 4 RBIs -- en route to winning the Fall Classic MVP award. Though even that performance had plenty of chaotic luck, as evidenced during his four-hit day in Game 4.
Like Jerry Seinfeld, Eckstein knew he needed to make his mark on the cereal industry. Hence, Ecks O's.
Personally, I would have called it Eckstein's Tiny Little Grit Cakes You Eat with Milk. But I'm no marketer.
When Eckstein's wife, Ashley, got a role as a voice actor on "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," she noticed that there was an absolute dearth of sci-fi T-shirts made for women. Which means that David now spends his time helping out on the business side of her women's clothing company, Her Universe, and wearing Star Wars T-shirts. Which may be the next best thing after baseball uniforms.
Even if he did once call a light saber a life saver.
Of course, the most important impact Eckstein has made is on the world of popular culture. There is no player who embodied gutsy grittiness more to the point where "He's like an Eckstein" is an acceptable analogy for playing style.
It was enough that the shortstop even became a wonderful Easter egg on "Parks and Recreation." The show, created by Michael Schur of baseball blog "Fire Joe Morgan," fame, used him in their famous advanced stats and Eckstein-named law firm:
Parks and Rec with just the grittiest little Easter egg ever tonight. pic.twitter.com/jbHMOXojSg— Pete Buttigieg is a Boomer 🎃👻 (@FuzzBeedEli) October 18, 2013
It became a big enough phenomenon that the gritty infielder himself had to respond:
If that's not enough to get him into the Hall, I don't know what is. After all, it's called the Hall of Fame, isn't it?