Thursday, March 1, 2012

Baseball's Glass Clannon

   Baseball is a game of mental and physical stress. The average man cannot undertake the pressure that a 162 game season delivers to both the mind and body. I respect those players that come and do their job every day, like Cal Ripken Jr. , Derek Jeter, etc. However, some players simply have a tough time staying healthy for the entire season. It's not because they don't want to, but their body simply cannot take the duress of playing the game year-round. I like to call them a glass cannon.
 
   A glass cannon is defined as a person, weapon, or vehicle which has a high output, but a low defense, life, durability, etc.

   The Orioles recently signed one of the more prolific glass cannon players in the league on a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. While Nick Johnson has clear talent, he is the prototypical glass cannon type of player. Before I go any further, I'd like to say that this is not in any way an insult to Nick or any other player under the glass cannon term. People should be well aware that it takes an incredible person and athlete to even play in half a season-worth of games.

   Johnson, 33, is no spring chicken. He has played in 794 major league games with 3214 plate appearances. However, he has only played more than 135 games in a season once in his nine year major league career (147 games with the 2007 Nationals). His past two seasons he has played less than 100 games combined. Clearly durability has been an issue with Johnson. So it brings up the question, why did the Orioles bother signing a glass cannon whose injuries might have finally caught up to him? There are a few reasons why they might have:

1. AAA Depth is obviously needed. With the Orioles lacking in the corner infield department, they could use another body in AAA so they do not need to rush anyone.

2. Johnson could possibly be a mentor for players such as Chris Davis, Joe Mahoney, and Tyler Townsend. Johnson has been around the block quite a few times in his career. The man certainly knows how to get on base, indicated by his lifetime .401 OBP. Davis, Mahoney, and Townsend could all learn from Johnson, especially in the art of plate discipline.

3. Possibly, just possibly, Nick Johnson does not revert back to his glass cannon status and has a healthy season. Is there a possibility that he still has value at the major league level? I would say so. Is it possible that he can stay healthy long enough for him to turn into an asset? At this point, it seems unlikely. Regardless, it's still not a terrible idea to bring him into camp with this in mind.

   Overall, Nick Johnson is an interesting guy for a club like the Orioles. He obviously has no future with the club, but could still prove to be a veteran mentor, or even a trade piece at the deadline (highly doubtful to bring much back in return, but I've seen crazier things happen).

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