They came, we SAW, they conquered
Sensory overload. It's our way of life. Constantly looking down and poking at a keyboard with one finger. So personable. With Twitter, Facebook, and real-time scoring apps, you can follow every pitch of an entire game without seeing a single play. I tried it and my eyes went blurry and a migraine kicked in by the bottom of the fourth. In many ways the technology is useful. But it also takes us away from experiencing the beauty of the game and the sport's greatest players. Guy who are referred to as stars, superstars, faces of the game and in some cases, future Hall of Famers. In order to encourage more watching and less tweeting, I've created a new category to describe the elite. Players you must see. Or in this case, players you must SAW.
SAW = Stop and Watch.
When these guys have a bat or ball in their hands, you STOP what you're doing ... and WATCH them for reasons that are obvious and not so obvious.
Top 10 SAW players
10. Jose Altuve: He may be no match for Chuck Norris, but he does have his own cult-like following and website (www.howmanyaltuves.com). That alone is enough to garner SAW status. Jose Altuve's height, or lack of height, is another reason. While he would tower over Eddie Gaedel, the Astros second baseman is only 5-feet-5 (in cleats, I think) and has battled the odds his entire career. Great story and a darn good player. Hats off to the little guy.
9. Andrew McCutchen: World-class speed, power, grace, agility and baseball acumen. Simply put, in my next life I'd like to be him. Witnessing McCutchen go from first to third is worth the price of admission. He runs like we think we're running when playing Sunday softball. Five tools. All sharp. Represents a great sports city with class and abilities we rarely see on a baseball field. Anywhere.
8. Giancarlo Stanton: If there was an MLB cartoon series, they would use Stanton's likeness as the stereotypical slugger. His body is perfect, his strength is Bunyanesque. When you're 6-feet-5 and chiseled out of granite, you're allowed to change your name anytime you'd like without asking for permission. Giancarlo is also a darn good guy. I don't care what anyone says, that always makes an athlete more fun to watch. If healthy, Stanton will be among the league leaders in homers for years. Inside tip for your office pool: He will also lead the league each year in the category of "broken scoreboards." Here's a stat for you: Stanton hit 93 homers before his 23rd birthday. Only Ott, Mathews, Conigliaro and A-Rod had more.
7. Josh Reddick: His offensive talent is obvious and you could make the case he's the face (and beard) of the A's. But that's not enough to be a SAW player. His facial hair is. It's downright frightening to think that at any moment a varmint could leap from his whiskers and interrupt play. If that happens, you don't want to miss it. Remember the classic scene from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" when the squirrel leaps from the tree an into the living room? Pure Chaos. But don't forget: "Squirrels are high in cholesterol."
6. Miguel Cabrera: To quote the teenagers, "Duh." Of course he's a SAW guy. He's also on the short list of best hitters in history. Among right-handed hitters with 300 or more career homers, Miggy has the sixth-highest batting average. The guys ahead of him: Hornsby, Simmons, DiMaggio, Foxx, and Pujols. Cabrera celebrates his 30th birthday on April 18. What gift do you get for a guy who has a Triple Crown? Just wondering out loud.
5. Mariano Rivera: Grab the kids and glue them to the couch. They must see the greatest closer to ever step on the mound. His farewell tour is underway and we'll never see another like him. Forty-three years old, yet as perfectly conditioned as he was nearly 20 years ago. That's after blowing out his knee last spring. Wow. Most saves in history. Most effective single pitch in history. Five World Series rings. One franchise. As I peck away at the keyboard, Mo's career WHIP is 0.999. Enough. You get it.
4. Stephen Strasburg: A perfect combination of hype, insane talent, attitude (or Natitude) and mystery. Traits you find in a main character from a movie or book. The way Strasburg commands attention on the mound but avoids the cameras off of it is part of the allure. He's delivered on all expectations since being selected first overall in the 2009 Draft. And at 24 years old has already rebounded from Tommy John surgery. I don't recall a SAW starting pitcher of this magnitude since Doc Gooden. Do you?
3. Aroldis Chapman: Chicks used to dig the long ball. Now all of us dig triple digits on the radar gun. With lanky arms and legs flailing around, Chapman routinely throws 100 mph. We SAW just to read the radar gun. When Chapman enters a game, the mood in the ballpark changes. From the excitement in the stands to the fear in the batter's box. Exhibit A: Forty percent of the at-bats against the lefty have ended with a K. Insane.
2 and 1. Tie. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper: How can anyone possibly rank one in front of the other? They will forever be linked after turning baseball upside down in 2012. At an age (21 and 20, respectively) when you typically hang out at a local convenience store eating Cheese Doodles, Trout and Harper are household names. baseball-reference.com lists Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Ken Griffey Jr. as similar hitters by age to Trout. He's too young to remember Griffey playing in his prime. But could be the most exciting player since Junior. One of the comps to Harper through his age 19 season: Ty Cobb. If that's not enough to make you SAW, consider this: Harper is hitting third in the order on a team that needs a World Series appearance to be considered a success.