Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Beauty School Dropout

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It's always interesting to track former players on your favorite team, and see how they're performing in their newest gigs. It's been especially time consuming this year, trying to keep track of how former Red Sox players are doing. They're all over the country and in both leagues.

Pictured above, of course, Edgar Renteria. ER was a key member of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004, and made the last out in the World Series. The Sox acquired him - at a high price - in the off-season, and he played 2005 with Boston. Unfortunately, he never seemed to find a groove in Boston - committing tons of errors and not producing at the plate. His performance led the Front Office to unload him on the Braves, even paying a portion of his salary to get the Braves to take him.

The result? He's opened the season in Atlanta with a 22-game hitting streak (actually, it's 23 games, since he got a hit in the last game of 2005). He's still committing errors, but they don't seem to be having the same impact. Was last year just an aberration in a great career? Did he never get comfortable in Boston - or in the American League? Is he just a "National League kind of guy"?

The whole situation leads me back to an age-old argument. Is the American League the tougher place to play? Purely anecdotal evidence would lead you to make that conclusion. Look at our former players who've gone over to the NL. Bronson Arroyo - who was our number 4 or 5 starter - is pitching incredibly for the Reds and may be their ace this year. Renteria, I've mentioned. Dave Roberts having a good year with San Diego. Nomar hitting well for Los Angeles. Heck, even Mark Bellhorn who was booed out of Boston last year for not "producing" is having a great year in San Diego, practically one of the key players on their team this year.

I'm sure I'm biased, but I think the AL - and the AL East in particular - IS a more difficult place to play. Especially in Boston - where you're constantly scrutinized by the media, fans and bloggers. I love when they interview Mark Loretta or Mike Lowell after a game - and you can see the incredulity on their faces when they talk about playing in front of a packed house every night. It must indeed be a shock for those former Marlins on the team!

Yet these NL vets are rising to the challenge. Lowell is a doubles machine these days - his last eight hits have been doubles. Gonzalez is finally finding his groove - hitting a home run last night. Loretta is also finding his swing. And they're all awesome in the field.

Maybe the difference for these guys is that they're veteran players. They've played on the big stage - I sometimes forget that Lowell and Gonzo were World Champions with the Marlins in 2003. And it must be so exciting for Lowell - who so many had written off - to prove those critics wrong. We're certainly benefiting from his resurgence!


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