Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Chambliss Effect

I read an interesting article at The Cincinnati Enquirer on-line today. The Reds are off to one of the hottest starts in baseball and lead a very competitive NL Central thanks to very good pitching and an exciting bunch of young players bursting onto the scene this season.

You can point to any number of young regulars on the ballclub for their contribution to this Red Resurgence, including Adam Dunn, Ryan Freel, Brandon Phillips, Austin Kearns, and one of my new favorites, Edwin Encarnacion. These guys are all approaching their at bats with a sense of purpose that has helped them see better pitches and work deeper counts. As Yankee fans, we take these things for granted as a part of our players' regular approach. Not all teams are so fortunate.

Where did these raw youngsters get their newfound confidence and patience? How did they all pull it together to start the 2006 campaign? Was there a magic word or a secret potion that even Barry Bonds doesn't know about? The answer is: Chris Chambliss.

After leading the Yankee hit parade from 1996-2000, Chambliss found himself a man without a job. Gary Denbo was in, and he was in search of work. At first, he was a minor league hitting instructor with the Marlins organization. An interesting interview with Baseball Prospectus details Chambliss' life after the Yankees. As the Enquirer article points out, Chambliss was with the Mets for 3 seasons before being brought aboard in Cincy to rebuild the Big Red Machine. After all, he got a good look at the original Sparky Anderson group in the 1976 Series after vaulting the Yankees there with an ALCS winning walk-off homer in decisive Game 5.

Chambliss was drafted in the 1967 and 1968 amateur draft by the Reds, but opted to continue his education at UCLA instead of signing. He later was drafted by the Indians, won the AL Rookie of the Year in 1971, and then was traded several seasons later with Dick Tidrow and Cecil Upshaw to the Yankees for Fritz Peterson, Steve Kline, Fred Beene, and Tom Buskey. The rest is history for the former Yankee first baseman. Now he's come full circle. I wish him the best of luck with his new team, and we'll see if the streak of excellent hitting can continue for the young Reds.