Pedroia tallied 98 plate appearances in his rookie season on his way to a .191 batting average with just two home runs and seven RBIs. He entered the 2007 season, still struggling mightily. Kapler had a friend telling him that Alex Cora should be starting over Pedroia.
“I don’t think it was until at-bat 90 or 100 – and they kept running him out there every day and he was getting the bat knocked out of his hands – that he started to become Dustin Pedroia,” said Kapler, now a baseball analyst for Fox Sports. “It doesn’t happen every night for everybody, but when it happens, it happens in a big way with good hitters.”
That’s what happened with Pedroia, and he went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year and help the Red Sox win the 2007 World Series.
This was the example Kapler went to when asked what to make of Oscar Taveras’ slow start in the Major Leagues. Taveras is hitting .205 through 83 at-bats this season with one home run and five RBIs.
So if Kapler were managing the Cardinals — and he made a point to say how much he respects Mike Matheny as a man and a manger — how would he handle the crowded outfield in St. Louis? To put it simply, he said he’d look for three players that he could count on daily to be productive. So far this season, the Cardinals haven’t had three outfielders that have hit consistently.
There is one hitter, however, that Kapler said could break out at any time, and that’s Oscar Taveras.
“If I was writing out the lineup card…I would be playing Oscar daily,” Kapler said. “I would find a way to get him in the lineup every day. Even in a pennant race, unless I have somebody that I knew was going to be exceptionally productive, I have a belief that Oscar will hit if you let him play. And when I say hit, I don’t mean slap the ball around. I mean rocket the ball around the field and put up big numbers, and in short order. When I say short order, I mean his first 250-300 plate appearances.
“But that requires a great deal of patience to take that route. I don’t think Oscar is going to kill the Cardinals by being in the lineup, even if he struggles.”
“It has to do with Oscar and my belief in his ability to make an impact,” he said. “The reason I bring up Peter and the reason I bring up Allen is because they haven’t been All-Star caliber players this year, and that would be the only thing that would stop me from getting Oscar in the lineup – if he had All-Star caliber players ahead of him.”
Editor’s note: This is Part One of a four-part series of my conversation with former Major Leaguer and current MLB analyst Gabe Kapler.
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