Not to gloat on homer-isms, but Hunter Pence’s selection to the All-Star team is a warming sight for an Astros fan mired in a mediocre season.
Since the retirements of Biggio and Bagwell, the Astros have searched for a player to join Lance Berkman as iconic members of the team. Carlos Lee is a great hitter, but often declines the opportunity to sprint down the first base line or impress in left field. Tejada is a fun player to watch, and brings great energy, but the steroid whispers and his altered state of age have deflated most of the potential for unconditional love from the fan base.
Which leaves us with Hunter Pence to play the Robin to Berkman’s laid-back Batman. Pence throws like a goofball, and swings like a goofball, and he looks like Beaker from the Muppet Show. But I’ll be damned if he’s not a player, who complements Tejada’s veteran confidence with child-like enthusiasm and brio.
Look at Hunter Pence’s stats, and they don’t cry out St. Louis, Ho! He’s hitting above .300, which is grand, but he’s on pace essentially to hit 20 home runs and 66 RBI. Not particularly atmospheric…. And Miguel Tejada has made the team, as well–the result of a remarkable .325 average, and his 84 RBI pace–so one can’t claim that Pence is an asterisk, a result of the Every Team Represented clause. Nor was he voted in by an ignorant fan base, but by the players. I can only surmise that the style of the man’s play has measured positively in the eyes of the managers, coaches and players who round out the reserves. Berkman himself (a crowded first base position) and Adam Dunn didn’t make the team.
I’m enjoying the fan’s sense of parental pride with the Pence selection. The same style that makes him remarkable made him improbable. He was only called up in 2007 when he would no longer be denied by the veteran-friendly Astros management, satisfying the desires of the fan base, who sensed a few months before his capacity for success. And now, having upped his on-base skills and his power–as we hoped he would–he’s on the up-and-up, and let’s hope his team follows.