NBA All-Star weekend is the perfect time to re-examine the sporting world’s obsession with “the next.” Remember Harold Miner? Remember that black-and-white Nike Ad where Harold Miner said “…they say I am the next Michael Jordan, but I just want to be the first Harold Miner.” Well, Harold got his wish.
This morning’s St. Pete Times has a nice piece on Juan Cruz. In sum, he has good stuff and good Major League experience. But, the Times asks the wrong question. The Times doesn’t ask whether Cruz is the right fit for the Rays’ 2011 bullpen. It asks whether Cruz is the next Joaquin Benoit.
This is Harold Miner all over again. (Please note, I am not intentionally comparing Joaquin Benoit to Michael Jordan, it just kind of happened). Who cares if Juan Cruz is the next Joaquin Benoit? The 2011 Rays do not need Juan Cruz, or Adam Russell, or Matt Bush, or Cesar Cabral, to be lightning in a bottle. They just need a few of them to be solid, Major League relievers that can get 1-3 hitters out.
Just because the Rays used a breakout comeback reliever to win the East in 2010 doesn’t mean they have to use one every year thereafter. Friedman and Maddon turned this franchise around by eschewing blueprints and conventional thinking. Their strongest suit is taking each group of players as they are and figuring out what makes that group great. Not attempting to squeeze a group of 25 players into a pre-made mold.
So, I say forget about Joaquin Benoit. Just be Harold Miner. (Well, be better than Harold Miner, but you get what I mean.)