Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Jones, Thames Combine To Make An All-Star-Caliber Left Fielder

In 1983, when the Baltimore Orioles won the World Series, their left fielder had 34 HR, 124 RBI, scored 97 runs, and batted around .270. It was MVP-like production.

Only, the Orioles' left fielder wasn't one person. It was the two-headed monster of John Lowenstein and Gary Roenicke. Lowenstein started against right-handers; Roenicke was the guy who got most of the at-bats against left-handers. Together, the two of them made one helluva player.

The Tigers, 2008 version, have the same kind of two-headed monster in the making, if pre-season indications are correct. The at-bats figure to go largely to the left-handed hitting Jacque Jones, and the right-handed hitting Marcus Thames. Manager Jim Leyland is expected to platoon those two, barring something unforeseen.

And the two of them might just make one helluva player.

Jones (top) and Thames (above) might be better, together, than any left fielder in the AL Central

Not that they aren't solid players all by their lonesomes. Jones, who came over from the Cubs in an off-season trade, was on fire after the All-Star break last summer. And he has a decent resume, including some serviceable years with the Twins, where he was a sort of Tiger killer. Thames is very well-known around these parts -- a brutally strong man who has been slugging one home run every 12-14 at-bats in a Tigers uniform.

The Tigers haven't really used the two-headed monster approach with any success in recent years, so it'll be fun to see Jones and Thames share left field and the no. 7 or 8 spot in the batting order -- flying under the radar amongst all the All-Star sluggers the Tigers employ.

Jones arrived early to camp in Lakeland, Fla., getting in some swings before the complex begins to grow in population today, when position players are expected to report. Some analysts believe his slow start last season was due to that being his first year in the National League. But now Jones is back in the more familiar AL, and back in the Central Division, as well. He could be primed for a big year, combining with Thames to give the Tigers an All-Star-like performance in left field.

Too many cooks may occasionally spoil the broth, but in left field, the mantra for the Tigers is "two heads are better than one."

Especially when each of those heads is strong on their own merit.


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