Tuesday, July 17, 2012

5 Tool Player

Old football saying: If you have two starting quarterbacks, you don't have any.

Baseball is different. Baseball requires players. If you have 1 or 2 baseball skills, sorry, that is not good enough. Guys who can run, field and hit are worth millions of dollars a year.

Ben Zobrist is one of my favorite players in the league today. There are guys who play multiple positions in today's game, but few who play both outfield and infield. They are different disciplines, timing a ground ball's hops and making an accurate throw to first and reading a fly ball's slice or cut or knuckle are so different that it is rare for a player to master both at the major league level. Ben can do it. Steve Lombardozzi is on that path.

Ben has played most of the positions on the field over the last decade, but now he mainly occupies second base and right field. In the 2012 season, Steve Lombardozzi has played on both sides of the diamonds, fielding most of his time in left field and second base. The acceptance of this duty is wise for both the Nats, who create value, and Steve, who probably lengthens his career and increases the chances he will end up a coach, or even manager.

Steve Lombardozzi's dad was a major leaguer. He grew up in a baseball family. It's special club.

There are things valued by baseball people that aren't understood by people who don't love or appreciate baseball. They are the hardest things to learn about baseball and mark it's greatest players and appreciators. They are also all too rare in today's game, but there is hope.

Ben Zobrist and Steve Lombardozzi are the future. In the future, all MLB teams will have a guy (or 10 if I was a manager) that can play 3, 4, 5 positions, infield or outfield. A guy like Ben Zobrist or Steve Lombardozzi will be a difference maker for a manger and team. With Steve you can pinch hit for almost anyone in the line-up and expect him to move to a position with extreme competency.

The current Nats have a strategy that, I believe, will be slightly revolutionary. Steve Lombardozzi SS, becomes a LF, SS, 2B, 3B, CF. Tyler Moore becomes a 1B, LF, RF. Michael Morse is a 1B, RF, LF. I believe Ryan Zimmerman could play 7, or even 8 positions on the field (excluding pitcher, as his mechanics and control are always matters of debate). The organization's pieces are exposed to different positions and made to be more complete baseball players.

In Little League, your best player could play anywhere on the field. Why has that changed?

Steve Lombardozzi is in a position to impact the Nationals in a way Ben Zobrist has affected the Tampa Bay Rays. Given his background and training, Lombardozzi is capable of giving the Nats manager a huge degree of latitude in crafting a team, line-up and defensive strategy, while creating no offensive hole. He seems more than willing to play anywhere on the field if it means contributing to a winning major league franchise.

This is the tip of the sword. An organization based on athleticism, baseball knowledge and versatility is the new frontier of baseball. It is an inevitable evolution, from husky first basemen and unathletic catchers of the steroid era, to the quick minded and versatile players of today's game.

Mark it down, today. Steve Lombardozzi will be an important factor in the Nationals success in the future by A. providing an important player for the team and aptly playing many positions or B. being such a valuable trade piece that he returns to the Nats a special player.

Either way, smart, versatile players are on the way in. And it seems Mike Rizzo is smart enough to take advantage of it.

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