Five-tool stud. Defensive stalwart with 30/30 potential. Unmitigated disaster headcase. Home run derby curse victim. Found money. All ways Alex Rios could be described if you asked the wrong person. That is what you will get, Chicago. Alex Rios will break your heart in ways you didn’t know possible.
Prominent Jays blogger The Tao of Stieb refers to Alex Rios as the “Blissfully Oblivious Gazelle.” For nearly 5 years Blue Jays fans watched Alex Rios lope around the outfield, making the difficult look easy while making the words “max effort” irrelevant. In a town that falls all over every single marginally-talented, hard-working bit player that don’t fly. The skills of Alex Rios are plentiful; the execution is spotty. Last year he seemed steal 24 bases because he couldn’t think of anything else to do while standing on first base. The year before he deigned to know 18 first half home runs because he’d reached that point in his career.
I think at his core, Alex Rios is bored and underwhelmed by his gifts. He’ll never actually hit 30 home runs, but he’ll hit 20 by accident. He doesn’t really walk or use the whole field, but no wayward fastballs will go unwhacked. Blue Jays fans love to chastize him for failing to dive in the outfield or crash into walls without realizing that not only does he prop up the aging centerfielder beside him, he doesn’t dive as there’s no need. His arm is one of the best in the league and his base stealing is shocking for a man of his height and stride length. Realistically speaking (as in excluding 2009), he’s Carl Crawford with fewer steals. Optically speaking though, he’s Luol Deng.
There will always be the weight of More hanging over Alex Rios. He has the chance to be the quintessential Change of Scenery guy, though the chance of becoming the Unrealized Potential guy exists too. This is how he will break your heart. He’ll hit a mammoth home run two innings before forgetting how many are out on the base paths. He’ll uncork the kind of throw usually reserved for hanging laundry so pretty, you won’t notice it was to the wrong base until the runs score. He’ll steal consecutive bases then fail to tag up on a medium depth fly. He’s dangerous and bad for your health. On the balance his contributions vastly outweigh his mistakes, but you’ll have a tough time convincing yourself on the train ride home after an easily-avoided fall tragedy.
Drew aka Lloyd the Barber Moseby writes about Blue Jays baseball for the outstanding Ghostrunner on First and is also the weekend editor of Walk Off Walk. He sorts of understands where J.P. is going with all this, but doesn’t entirely agree with how he’s doing it.