Over the years, I have had to remind myself – sometimes painfully – not to get too high or too low over stats accrued during the month of March. In this challenge, I am hardly alone.
Speaking of Berkman, just 12 months ago, I was among those ready to write off the former Houston Astro as a faded Fat Elvis. I was dead wrong. Instead of the player who wasn’t getting around on balls in spring training, when he batted .182 with two extra-base hits, Big Puma became the National League Comeback Player of the Year for the eventual World Champions.
Like Berkman, shortstop Rafael Furcal has endured his share of injuries in the past and is approaching the twilight of a very good career. But was that twilight occurring here in early 2012?
Furcal struggled through camp with a .192 average amid similar whispers as were uttered about Berkman last year. In fact, his manager Mike Matheny dropped Furcal to the bottom of the batting order, noting late in camp that his shortstop was “not right.”
On Opening Night in Miami, when the bell rang, Furcal reminded us all that he is not done yet. Matheny put the 34-year-old back in the leadoff spot and he delivered.
Our friend and researcher Tom Orf, back for another season, notes that Furcal is just the 11th leadoff hitter in Cardinals history to collect three hits on Opening Day. Curt Flood holds the team record, with four in 1965. Further, in a nod to Matheny’s new Running Redbirds, Furcal is the only one of the 11 that also had a stolen base. (see photo)
In other words, after just 10 hits in Florida during the entire month of March, Furcal logged three in his first game of the regular season.
St. Louis Cardinals, leadoff hitters with three or more hits on Opening Day
|Rafael Furcal||4/4/2012||MIA||W 4-1||5||5||0||3||1||0||0||1||0||0||0||1||0||SS|
|David Eckstein||4/1/2007||NYM||L 1-6||4||4||0||3||1||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||SS|
|Fernando Vina||4/3/2000||CHC||W 7-1||5||5||1||3||0||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||2B|
|Ray Lankford||4/3/1994||CIN||W 6-4||5||5||2||3||1||0||1||2||0||0||1||0||0||CF|
|Curt Flood||4/12/1965||CHC||T 10-10||7||6||2||4||2||0||0||2||1||0||0||0||0||CF|
|Don Blasingame||4/10/1959||SFG||L 5-6||5||4||2||3||1||0||0||1||1||0||0||0||0||2B|
|Terry Moore||4/14/1936||CHC||L 7-12||5||5||1||3||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||0||0||CF|
|Sparky Adams||4/12/1932||PIT||W 10-2||5||5||2||3||1||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||3B|
|Max Flack||4/15/1924||CHC||W 6-5||5||4||3||3||1||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||RF|
|Burt Shotton||4/14/1920||PIT||L 4-5||5||5||1||3||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||LF|
|Red Smyth||4/16/1918||CHC||W 4-2||4||4||1||3||1||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||RF|
As if we needed another reminder where to file spring stats, consider this closing thought. In 2009, the Cardinals’ starting shortstop batted .408 in spring camp and was rewarded with the cleanup spot behind Albert Pujols in the opening day batting order.
Several months later, Khalil Greene’s major league career was over.