Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blurring the Mendoza Line

George Brett: Bully. Leave it to Mr. Perfect (didn't the comparison between George and Curt Hennig always seem too easy?) to pick on the eternal baseball 'nerd': the good field/no-hit infielder. And in this case, a no-hit infielder with glasses: Mario Mendoza. Could Mario even see his own line?
Mario was not the worst hitting player in history (that title goes to Bill Bergen [.170 min. 2500 AB] and George McBride [.218 min. 5000 AB]), but it was his misfortune to be at the bottom of the stat line during the Brett era. Hence, the Mendoza line. Now the internationally recognized term for the lowest a pro ball player can go before finding the red ticket in the locker, the line stems from a 'compliment' Brett gave to Mendoza in an interview. After all, those players below the Mendoza Line are the ones who can't cut it, right? So Mario stands for the worst of the best, not the worst of the worst. Thanks George. Like most bullies, he was not original in his analysis: the term was really coined in the clubhouse, by Mendoza's own teammate Tom Paciorek. However, it took Brett, the star, to popularize it.

Mendoza, born in Mexico and now back in his home country after managing in the Mexican League, didn't need a strong bat to be a great ball player. His golden glove and razor sharp vision (possibly the product of his 'performance-enhanced' eyes?) even robbed bully Brett of the elusive .400 mark late in the 1980 season, and those soft hands earned him a place in the Salon de la Fama.

He joins Cookie Rojas as yet another crossover Hall of Famer in our Glasses Hall, blurring the Mendoza line to the point that even Brett needs some specs.

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