Roughly one full month and 30-plus games into the Major League Baseball season it is officially the time when “it’s still early” as an explanation/excuse/retort to any variety of statements about individual players and collective teams is no longer applicable. If you need proof that this time has come, turn to any of the various ESPN media outlets and you will see the commentary confirming the death of this statement as a qualifier, leading off a plethora of different analysis, ranging from the struggles in Tiger Town to the continual dominance of Cliff Lee in Cleveland.
Yes, it is no longer “still early” on the baseball calendar. And while the rest of the long haul that is the Major League Baseball season will no doubt be heavily laden with streaks, turnarounds, and drama, the early season returns — with a full month of data to draw conclusions from — provide solid insights into the trends and emergences that will produce and composite the continual story lines that will populate the current season.
The most intriguing and underrated of these stories smolders out of the haze of black factory smog that hangs like a cloudy monument to industry, looming ominously over the iron city of Pittsburgh — a place whose rich baseball legacy is now so entrenched solely in the history books that many young generations barely know it ever existed. Wagner, Clemente, and Drabek are distant ghosts, diluted longingly in a modern lineage of losing that has become the status quo since Bonds and Bonilla took the money and ran.
Since being drafted in the second round of the 2000 Amateur Draft by the San Diego Padres, Xavier Nady’s career has been defined by great potential, minimal results, and a persistent lack of opportunity. Although in 2000 Nady became only the 18th player since 1965 to ascend directly to the pros without any minor league experience, he only stayed there for one game, one at-bat, and not surprisingly one hit, before being exiled to the Single-A farm team for the rest of the season.
During the next two years, Nady never got another cup of coffee in the show, all the while posting titanic minor league numbers. In his first full minor league season, Xavier populated his trophy case with a good amount of hardware. For his work in 2001, Nady was bestowed with multiple honors including the Padres Minor League Player of the Year award, the California League MVP award, and also that league’s Rookie of the Year award. For the season he batted .302/26/100; a strong indication that although Nady wasn’t playing on the Major League level, he was immediately capable of demonstrating an uncommonly balanced ability to hit for both power and average — a trait coveted by teams when evaluating young talent.