Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Eric Neel scares me

It's a rare writer who will begin a stupid column by acknowledging how stupid he is. Eric Neel is that rare writer:

It's best not to rely on your eyes. They lie. They're vulnerable to the leanings of your heart. They rush you to judgment.
The smart play is to wait for numbers, to be a cool analyst of hard facts, to play it straight and sober.

But I'm not that bright. I'm prone instead to enthusiasms and impressions, to feelings and possibilities.

Thank you for your candor, Mr. Neel. Let's see how your column goes:

I must confess: I eyeball. So I begin this season absolutely certain "King Felix" Hernandez is going to kick some serious tail in 2007.
I watched the 20-year-old King, who today becomes the youngest Opening Day starter since Dwight Gooden in 1985, pitch against the Angels in Peoria, Ariz., last week. And he knocked me out. He wasn't perfect (four earned runs in six innings), but he looked great.

He had an ERA of 6.00, and you say he wasn't perfect? Nitpicker. We all know it matters how Hernandez looks to you.

You've no doubt heard that he came to camp 20 pounds lighter (226 pounds) this year. But the difference isn't just that he's healthier, fitter, easier on his 6-foot-3 frame.

Eric Neel is spending a lot of time looking at Felix...

The difference is he's grown into himself.

A lot of time.

Gone are the baby-boy cheeks, and the prepubescent hip handles.

I think Felix should be uncomfortable about now.

This isn't the pudgy prodigy; this is the man.


With cheekbones and a sense of purpose.

He has cheekbones!

The core of successful pitching is stuff and command.

True. Excellent analysis, even if "stuff" is a bit vague, at least you weren't commenting on anyone's prepubescent hip handles.

But another smaller, but maybe just as important, part of it is looking the part -- coming off like you're bad and you know it.

I think he means "bad" in the Michael Jackson sense, or "good." And no, that is not maybe just as important.

Think Dave Stewart's curled cap bill. Think Roger Clemens' black glove to the face.

But I want to think about their hip handles!

Hernandez was cuddly last year -- clearly talented, but clearly young. Tune in this afternoon and you'll see someone more mature, more focused. Someone lean and hungry. Losing the extra weight was a leadership move.

Okay, I quit. I seriously have to stop halfway through this column. You win, Eric Neel. Felix, take the man out to dinner. He's clearly hurting. Just give him a chance.

1 comment:

HenryLouisMencken said...

I don't know what Neel is talking about. I showered with Felix regularly last season, and he was all grown up if you know what i'm saying. And I think you do. Ahem.