Major league teams head to spring training about the time the NBA rolls into its second half. It’s a time ripe for optimism for baseball’s downtrodden, and fans need look no further than what’s going in with the New York Knicks to find hope.
While we baseball fanatics are set to scour spring training reports, the story dominating sports headlines is that of NBA reject-turned-phenom Jeremy Lin.
Whether you’re a basketball fan or not, you can’t help but be captivated by the overnight sensation of an Ivy Leaguer who sleeps on a sofa every night after lighting up the likes of Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitski.
A guy no one had ever heard of has led his Knicks back from the grave, and the world is tuning in to watch them rocket into playoff contention.
The Kansas City Royals could use a Jeremy Lin.
Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and others didn’t fly under any radar. They didn’t arrive without fanfare. We all waited breathlessly for their arrival, then heaped unnatural expectations upon them. They are the hope for the future in KC, but they can’t do it alone.
Kansas City needs a Jeremy Lin if something magical is going to happen.
When I was a kid, 20-year-old Fernando Valenzuela came from out of nowhere to lead the Dodgers to a World Series win over the Yankees. “Fernandomania” rivaled “Linsanity” at its time. And the same could happen again at any moment. Could it happen in KC?
If it does, it won’t be Hosmer or Moustakas or Danny Duffy or even Mike Montgomery or Wil Myers shocking the world. It will have to be someone from whom nothing is expected.
I see just the candidate in pitcher Luis Mendoza.
The 28-year-old Mendoza has been waived twice and traded twice (Lin was only cut twice), and he’s labored the last six years at the Double and Triple-A levels of the minors. (Heck, Lin only spent part of a year in the NBA’s Developmental League).
But before you write off Mendoza’s chances, take a look at what he did last year. While KC’s pitching staff was scuffling along, Mendoza posted a sterling 2.18 ERA, going 12-5 in Omaha.
When he finally got a chance in KC, Mendoza was nothing short of Lin-like. Two starts, two wins. A 1.23 ERA.
Sure he’s been too prone to surrender walks. And sure he’s not been a strikeout artist at any level All the more reason to believe he could catch lightning in a bottle.
This spring the media will be focused on Aaron Crow’s conversion to starter and on newcomer Jonathan Sanchez. Duffy and Felipe Paulino will duke it out for rotation spots. Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi will have their every pitch scrutinized.
But if KC is to have a little Linsanity of its own this year, my bet is it will come from Luis Mendoza.