Ways of Swinging : Yanks Versus Sox

Building on SF’s anxiety-laden post about his son’s eventual betrayal of family tradition, I’d like to speculate as to which Yankee player SoxBaby will mimic at the bat. I don’t know about you but when I played little league I imitated the swings of my favorite hitters. Some games I’d be the crouching Rickey, other days it would be the very plain Randolph, and other times, the coiled Donny Baseball. So, in all likelihood, when SoxBaby is SoxLittleleaguer, his proud but horrified father will be watching his son  lead off the game doing his best Eric Duncan (star 1st baseman of the defending World Series Champion Yankees).

But for the sake of SF and this site, let’s pretend SoxBaby’s future choice of allegiance still hangs in the balance. If Soxbaby were choosing his favorite team based solely on the one he thought had the most players with the best batting stance and swings, which team would it be? To help SoxBaby pick, I have completed a Yanks-Sox positional comparison below.

Varitek v. Posada
Advantage: even
Both are switch-hitters. To my eyes, Posada looks better than Varitek from the left-side, and Varitek looks better than Posada from the right-side. The lesson here is that the player’s placement in relation to the plate matters. Only cinematographers, mathematicians, psychologists, photographers, and other visual artists know why.

First Base
Youkilis v. Giambi
Advantage: Yanks
Youk’s stance and swing are workman-like (translated: boring), and while I’m not in love with Giambi’s  sudden last second explosive swing, it still has the merit of being kind of memorable.

Second Base
Loretta v. Cano
Advantage: Yanks
Simply put, Cano has one of the sweetest swings in baseball right now and the best one on the Yanks. I vaguely remember watching a San Diego game two years ago and thinking that Loretta’s swing was line-drivey and pretty decent. Still, he’s a righty and thus at a big disadvantage against the young lefty.

Third Base
Lowell v. Rodriguez
Advantage: Yanks
One of the benefits of being a Yanks fan (besides rooting for the most storied franchise in major league history) is getting to watch A-Rod’s smooth effortless swings. I’d venture to say that he has the best right-handed swing in the game today. Alas, Lowell, who I remember being a pull-hitter with a nice stroke, is just not A-Rod.

Short Stop
Gonzalez v. Jeter
Advantage: Sox
For all the love I have for Derek, I’ve always found his at bats aesthetically unpleasing to watch. I’ve always preferred the form of a pull-hitter’s swing, and Jeter is famous for that inside-out stroke. Gonzalez wins by virtue of my dislike for Jeter’s oddly ungraceful at bats. I’m as angry with myself as you are right now.

Left Field
Ramirez v. Matsui
Advantage: Sox
This is one of the better match-ups of the contest, and Manny wins by virtue of being Manny. The way Hideki positions his bat upright and his solid line-drive stroke are all memorable and worthy of immitation, but there’s something about the Manny at-bat that’s visually historical. Perhaps, it’s because  he’s able to so clearly express his personality in his approach at the plate. He just kind of walks up to the plate, relaxed as a guy playing whiffle ball with his buddies, and ends up driving the ball 450 feet. It’s all so unassuming.

Center Field
Crisp v. Damon
Advantage: Sox
This is a difficult one because Damon’s stance and swing fit into the Tom Waits, Lee Marvin, Steve Buscemi category: someone/something that is so ugly, it’s cool. But I just can’t make that leap. Damon’s swing makes him look like a glorified slap hitter. Crisp wins by default.

Right Field
Nixon v. Sheffield
Advantage: Yanks
If you’re a Yanks fan and you play in little league, it’s criminal not to pay homage to Gary. The constant bat movement is a gimmick that lends itself to easy immitation (think Craig Counsell, Julio Franco, for other players who serve the noble purpose of providing easily mimicked models). Plus, you get the chance to swing as hard as you want to (forget what your coach says!). Trot doesn’t have a chance.

Ortiz v. Williams
Advantage: Sox
A study in contrasting styles: Classic upper-cut versus poetic and graceful level swing. If this were the Bernie of a few years ago, it would be closer. But as it is, everytime Ortiz swings I think he’s just hit a homer. Even if he’s just grounded weakly to the pitcher.

Final Score:
Sox: 4
Yanks: 4
1 even

SoxBaby’s chances of staying a Sox fan: 50%

6 comments… add one
  • Pretty harsh on Jeter Nick. I think the only problem with his swing is that thing he does to exaggerate the inside pitch.
    I agree with you on the rest though, unless SoxBaby is going to be Mo Vaugn Huge, mimicking the Ortiz swing will lead to a better career on the golf course than in little league.

    walein March 15, 2006, 6:26 pm
  • Soxbaby is already 3 feet tall and can open doors. So an Ortiz-esque cut might be in his future. Though from his picture he’s clearly not Dominican.

    SF March 15, 2006, 7:22 pm
  • I can’t really argue with much of this post, but the Manny/Matsui one really isn’t, as you say, a good matchup. In fact it’s not even close. Matsui’s swing fits into the solid but uninteresting mold – not many kids will ever copy it looking for the hitting nirvana, even as it’s solid. But Manny’s is amazing. Loose, smooth, and powerful. It would benefit many people to follow his lead, always keeping his hands in position but almost insanely relaxed at the same time. Not easy to do, but worth trying. He looks like he can hit anything. And he can. He has a tremendous swing, so much better than Matsui, who is a fine hitter in his own right.

    SF March 15, 2006, 7:30 pm
  • Yeah, I probably mis-wrote there. I meant that it’s one of the only positional match-ups where both players have notable stances and swings. The way Matsui holds the bat is unique (at least in American baseball) and something I could see a kid imitating.

    NickYF March 15, 2006, 7:37 pm
  • It’s sad that the Sox lost two of the prettiest swings this offseason. Not necessarily spectacular, but Bill Mueller and John Olerud both always made me (one ‘a them crazy visual artists) whistle with sheer aesthetic appreciation whenever they stepped up to the plate.

    Boston Fan in Michigan March 16, 2006, 12:54 pm
  • Too bad Bellhorn is gone for both y’all YFs and SFs. He was the master of the pedestrian swing and the pedestrian in all things. He is the pedestrian god. If not for Josh Barfield, I’d say it’s time to become a Padres fan. Respect the god.
    P.S. Tony Batista.

    MFSeth March 16, 2006, 11:59 pm

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