Score one for the underdog

Scree grab of Javi being interviewed on the MLB Network (where they called him a "fan favorite").

Screen grab of Javi being interviewed on the MLB Network last night.

No one ever questions the fan who claims one of the superstars of the game as his or her favorite player.  This is why they’re superstars, because their talent and their fame create an aura of perfection that people want to be near.  I understand the allure and fall victim to it plenty.  But for me, and for many of my friends, one of the things that makes baseball so enjoyable is watching the players who don’t get all the publicity.  The ones who don’t get their jerseys sold in the fan store.  The players low enough on the totem pole that they have to make all the appearances at fan meet and greets and the ones who get relegated to “you’re signing autographs before the game so we look more fan friendly” status.

So you can imagine my delight (and that of many of my friends!) to see that Javier Lopez is becoming the darling of the 2010 playoffs.

In his seven years in MLB, Javi has been on six teams (before coming to the Red Sox in 2006, he was with the White Sox although he never played on the big team there).  He even already earned a World Series ring thanks to his time in 2007 with the Red Sox (and a was much more effective for the team than his final weeks with them reflects).   At this year’s trade deadline, he was traded from the last place (at the time) 36-67 Pittsburgh Pirates to the second place (at the time) 60-45 San Francisco Giants.

He’s been in 9 games this postseason, pitching 5.2 innings against the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and now the Texas Rangers.  He’s given up one hit, one earned run and one walk with six strikeouts along with a win and six holds.  Javi’s playoff ERA this year is 1.59 with a 0.35 WHIP.  He’s gone from being one of the members of the beloved Red Sox bullpen band to THE go to guy in the Giants’ bullpen.

The entire time he was with the Red Sox you couldn’t even find a t-shirt with his name on it being sold in the Yawkey Way store.  The only person I know with anything close to an “official” Javier Lopez jersey is a stuffed ferret wearing one his owner made him (this same ferret also happens to be on the west coast for the playoffs and has attended a World Series game wearing said jersey).  I’d be willing to bet if the Giants can pull off a World Series championship, you’ll see a few handmade Javier Lopez shirts in the crowd at their parade.

Javi’s success proves a few things.  These guys, these players who make it as a professional (in either the minors or majors) don’t get there by accident.  As bad as you think the worst ballplayer you’ve seen is, he’s still 100 times better than you.  He might have had his struggles at times in Boston but it was always evident that he had talent.  Just because a player doesn’t consistently make seven or eight figures a year during his career doesn’t mean he isn’t as valuable as another player making crazy money.  Most importantly, anything is possible once you get to this level so don’t be judging the fans who choose to support the guys who don’t end up being fabulously paid superstars.  These guys are worthy of our appreciation and fondness as well.

There’s no way I can write about Javier Lopez without thinking about Kyle Snyder.  I still hold on to the hope that Kyle can overcome the issues with his arm and get back to MLB to possibly give him an opportunity like his former teammate’s.  Javi should serve as a reminder to everyone that the guy you choose to kick when he’s down still could become the next best thing.

Congrats, Javi!

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