Even the umpires love him. Image: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
For those who do not know me or who have not taken a moment to read my miniature bio on this site, I currently reside in the state of Minnesota. I have been here as a full time resident for a little bit over a year. Naturally it comes up in conversations that I moved here from Colorado, and as soon as that information surfaces, I get asked the same question almost without fail:
How do you guys like Cuddyer? I knew the Twins shouldn’t have let him go.
That would be Michael Cuddyer, of course, world renowned right handed slugger, clubhouse leader, photographer, and magician. The Rockies signed Cuddyer to his current three year, $31.5 million deal the same off-season that the Minnesota Twins signed Josh Willingham to a three year, $21 million deal. They are both 34 and so it looked like the Twins had outwitted the Rockies. It didn’t help that Willingham mashed in 2012 to the tune of 35 home runs and 110 RBI, good for a 142 OPS+, 6th in the American League. In the meantime Cuddyer struggled to stay healthy and managed only a .260 average with 16 home runs in 58 RBI.
2013 has been a different story. Now it is Willingham struggling, batting .210/.348/.385 with 14 home runs and 48 RBI. Cuddyer is shining; he is the best position player on the Rockies and he is poised to win the NL batting title (currently at .334). Minnesotans are stronger than ever in their affection for Cuddyer, to which I say…
Join the club.
Reporters love Cuddyer because he is accessible, polite, and apparently just an all-around pleasure to talk to.
Coaches love him because he hustles, plays the game the right way, is a professional baseball player (as opposed to his amateur colleagues, just to point out again what a dumb way that is to describe an MLB player who works hard), and leads by example. Just look at this quote from manager Walt Weiss:
"Cuddy is the kind of player that I point to and say, ‘Watch him, learn from him, prepare like him.’ He’s been working like that all season.”"
Teammates love him because he does card tricks in the locker room. Presumably they also love him because he is a leader, a guy younger players can look up to, and so on. But I’m going to go on record saying that it’s mostly the card tricks.
Fans love him because it is actually visible to us how hard he plays. That’s a fickle thing to pin down, and of course it wouldn’t necessarily be fair to point to Cuddyer and then assume other players don’t play hard, but let’s call it what it is: Cuddy busts his ass out there, and it translates to a dude like me sitting on the couch watching the game.
And let’s return to this point: Cuddy is, without qualifiers, the best position player on the Colorado Rockies in 2013. He is arguably the best player all season, and he would have that distinction all to himself if not for those guys named Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa. Put it this way: this season his production has caught up with his likability.
His accomplishments were recognized to a certain extent when he was selected for the home run derby, and now he is hoping to extend that even further with an NL batting title. That would be a fine accomplishment any season, but it stands out in this case because he has not consistently had Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez in the lineup around him.
So this is your formal invitation to the Michael Cuddyer love-fest. It’s going to be crowded, but don’t let that discourage you from attending. Because if anybody deserves a crowded fan club, it’s Cuddy.