One Sizemore Fits All (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday May 8, 2007 8:53AM; Updated: Tuesday May 8, 2007 8:53AM
Sizemore, according to the website baseball-reference.com, is statistically most similar to Hall of Fame slugger Duke Snider at the same age, and, as his on-base percentage trend shows (.333, .348, .375 and, this season, .410 at week's end), he's getting better all the time. At 6'2" and 205 pounds Sizemore features a historic combination of extra-base power and speed. Last season, when he hit .290 with 28 homers, 53 doubles, 11 triples and 22 stolen bases, Sizemore became only the seventh player in history -- and the youngest ever -- with more than 90 extra-base hits and 20 steals in the same season. (The others were Chuck Klein, Ellis Burks, Brady Anderson, Larry Walker, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alfonso Soriano, who, at 26, had been the youngest.) He was the first leadoff hitter since Anderson in 1996 to surpass 90 extra-base hits.
"A lot of times an extra-base hit is determined by how you get out of the box," Sizemore says. "Last year was crazy. Just one of those years when the ball found gaps."
At week's end he led the AL in pitches per plate appearance (4.50), was tied for third in stolen bases (nine), ranked fourth in runs (24) and walks (25), and was first in the hearts of baseball aficionados who marvel at his well-rounded skills and humility. The guy is a walking, running, diving, hustling clinic.
Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen calls him "the best player in our league" and "Superman." Two years ago, even as his White Sox celebrated the last out of a division-clinching win, Guillen marched across the field specifically to shake Sizemore's hand and tell him how much he admired him. Sizemore's teammates still talk about the catch he made in the last week of the 2006 season, when he dived headlong on the cinders of the warning track, dangerously close to the wall -- in a meaningless game for an 84-loss team that had long before been eliminated from the playoffs.
"He's the kind of player every manager wants," Toronto manager John Gibbons says. "He can do it all, but what's so great is he plays the game the right way and he gives your team energy every day. He's a dirtbag. He'll do whatever he can to beat you."
Says Shapiro, "I'm sure he'd be in the NFL right now if he weren't playing baseball. He's that kind of elite athlete. The game needs more like him."
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