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Classik Yuniesky October 28, 2007

Posted by Brad in commentary.
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Now that the World Series is over (congrats, Red Sox fans, on not having the sympathy of all other fans), the baseball enthusiast must either hibernate until February, or find the few savory morsels of news and stories to tide you over until guys like Yuniesky Betancourt once more toss a baseball.
This is where the internet comes in. It’s a great rumor mill/echo chamber, but it’s an ever better historical record. For instance, the internet can tell you that ESPN.com had an Arli$$ reference on its front page in 1999! So, until April, I’ll try to present and analyze some of the best articles on Yuniesky Betancourt still available online.
First up: Larry Larue’s profile of Yuni from June 2006, “In any language, M’s Betancourt a rare talent.” Larue puts the juiciest detail in the lede

[Yuni] took introductory English courses last summer at Tacoma Community College, and while he still speaks to the press with the help of an interpreter, language figures to be just another barrier he’ll eventually conquer.

It’s a gripping image of the 23-year-old Betancourt sitting with other kids his age, all trying to learn English, only one going to become a millionaire. Did the other students even talk to him? And if the Mariners spotted him a translator, why not a tutor?
The profile contains a game summary (the M’s lost to the Royals) that shows the shift from contending this year to last year’s season-long slog. Larue calls games like that one “How Bad Can it Get” games ,which would aptly describe the World Series, too.
Larue also does a good job comparing Yuni to his predecessors at shortstop:

Was it only a year ago that general manager Bill Bavasi signed shortstop Pokey Reese to a one-year, free-agent contract worth $1 million? Was it only a year ago that the famously brittle Reese went down with an injury in spring training and the Mariners acquired Wilson Valdez as a stopgap player for the first month?
Does anybody remember Wilson Valdez?

Oh, the ghosts of shortstops’ past.  Omar Vizquel gets a mention later in the article. The one glaring omission is Alex Rodriguez, who was probably busy turning down $25 million dollar per year contracts.
But what of his other predecessor, Willie Bloomquist? Well, the end of article is composed of quotes from Willie Bloomquist, the best being “if I tried to do what he does (on defense), I’d pull a hamstring.”
The lone questionable part of the article is when Larue says you shouldn’t boo Betancourt, because he “literally risked his life – not to mention the chance of never seeing his family again – to play big-league baseball.” I like the idea of “Don’t boo Yuni” and am a firm advocate of his play, but bad players and bad plays deserve boos. Yes, Yuni’s trip to the M’s was probably more arduous than anyone else’s, but he’s not bullet-proof (boo-llet-proof? ugh, no).
But, the story of his coming to America will be part of another installment of Classik Yuniesky.

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1. Classik Yuniesky #2: the best bet « Yuniform - January 7, 2008

[…] Classik Yuniesky #1: Yuni goes to English class. […]


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