Have you heard? The kid’s on his way.
But assuming for a second we even know what position he plays any more, and assuming it’s “just a part of the game,” what does Gordon Beckham’s ascent really mean?
In an ideal world, it would be the equivalent of calling in the cavalry, young Beckham arriving just in time to rescue the White Sox in distress from the evil fire-breathing dragons of Minnesota and Detroit, slashing away with his Adamantium blade, saving the helpless villagers while getting the girl at the same time. Games would be won, division races would be called off and clubs throughout the land would be put on notice: a new day has dawned on the South Side!
Which would be cool, except this is baseball where no player in the history of the game, let alone a mid-season callup, has ever worked that kind of miracle that for a team. Ever. Albert Pujols had Mark McGwire; Ichiro Suzuki had Edgar Martinez (and Scotty Pods!); David Price had the 2008 Rays. Despite what Frank Thomas may have said about it, no ballplayer can do it alone; his own Sox went nowhere when Frank carried them, yet Frank went the distance when the team finally returned the favor.
People want to assume the best with young talent in sports, that things can go the way of the mid-80s Bulls, early 00s Cavaliers or any NFL whose new quarterback catapulted them from 3-13 to 8-8 and a crushing first-round playoff loss, but can any sane baseball fan really look to a sweet-swinging prospect who’s never seen a single at-bat past AAA for immediate salvation? This isn’t like adding Roger Clemens to the 1999 Yankees or Larry Walker to the 2004 Cardinals – two cases of adding elite talent to powerhouse teams – but more like the 1994 Mariners calling up superprospect Alex Rodriguez: a so-so team adding a highly-touted cog and hoping for the best.
Consider the scenario for a second. Every sports talk radio pipe dream says Beckham lands in Chicago a fully capable bat and a glove plugged in where one is needed – short, second, third, wherever. Awesome. Let’s even go a step further and say he turns in a nice .300/10/40 second half, which would put him very near the company of the most recent Best Baseball Player Ever. What, then, do the 2009 Sox become?
Does Beckham instill the power of well-placed bunting into the hearts and hands of his teammates? No.
Does the heart of the order shed the ages and physiques that have shackled them to their station-to-station offense? No.
Does Carlos Quentin magically gain superhuman healing abilities? No.
Do two-strike breaking balls past the outside corner no longer mean eminent failure? No.
Does the back end of the rotation stabilize itself because there’s a hotshot rookie infielder playing behind them? No.
So ask the question again: what would Gordon Beckham really mean? A possible improvement at one of three struggling positions around the horn this year. Nothing more, nothing less, because he’s not a magician; he’s one guy. One guy who may or may not become a great baseball player, but still just one guy. All this while Beckham’s service clock starts ticking that much earlier, bringing payday and the inevitable glovelust of the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers et al that much closer, all in the name of the 2009 Chicago White Sox winning 81 instead of 80.
And this is what we have to get excited about?