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How one show perfectly represents the season of a Major League Baseball player.
I watch a fair amount of television. Some would say too much. What does that have to do with baseball, and more specifically, the Rays? Well, nothing usually. Until now. I'm going to attempt to combine my two great loves over the next 500 or so words and you're going to suffer through it with me.
We're doing these season wrap-up pieces and I, for some reason, choose to write about Desmond Jennings, perhaps the most boring player on the 2012 Rays. No offense intended to Jennings, but when looking back at his season, a lukewarm tidal wave of blah washes over me. I was trying to come up with comparables, i.e. players with exciting/promising first season that followed them up with disappointing sophomore campaigns and my mind kept pointing back to one thing... The Walking Dead.
How is a 25-year-old like a scripted drama about the zombie apocalypse? Simple. They each had promising yet abbreviated first seasons. The Walking Dead only aired six episodes, about half as many as a usual cable drama. Jennings got 287 plate appearances last year, roughly half as many as a full season. The show was strong in those six episodes, keeping the viewer on their toes, setting up higher expectations for the next season. Jennings hit .259/.356/.449 with a .355 wOBA and 127 wRC+, also heightening expectations for his second season. Both failed miserably in the encore.
The first episode of season two lead me to believe the show would continue on a strong to semi-strong path. The same goes for Jennings' April. He finished the month with a respectable .741 OPS. Then the middle of season happened. For Jennings it was spent first on the disabled list, then on the missing persons' list. He played just eight games in may due to a back injury then returned in June and July to post a combined slash line of .217/.281/.333 over 210 PA. The show slogged through an utterly boring middle section, fueled by a storyline about a missing girl and farm none of the viewers cared about, eventually leading to the dismissal of the showrunner before season's end.
The show improved in the final few episodes, upgrading itself from delete-from-my-season-pass-list to give-it-one-more-go. Jennings' did the same toward the end of his season, scorching the ball in August to remind everyone of the ability he possesses before cooling down again in September.
The season three premiere of The Walking Dead was quite good and gave me hope a better season is ahead of us. Desmond Jennings is fully capable of a stand out 2013 season. Struggling in your second taste of big league action isn't uncommon. He's shown us flashes of what he can become. It's inside him, like the zombie virus is inside all of the survivors on The Walking Dead. However, since this is a season wrap-up post , if I were to give a grade to his 2012 season it would be a C. Not completely terrible, unlike The Walking Dead's Lori, but falling far short of expectations.
Edit: I spoke with Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs fame about Jennings, voicing my displeasure with his season. Being the jerk he's known to be, Cistulli got me to actually think and I came to the conclusion that watching a player day in and day out can skew one's opinion. He noticed Jennings accumulated 3.5 WAR and was a league average hitter, which are both good things. He also pointed out Jennings' ZIPS projection was .259/.339/.392 which wasn't too far off. I stand by my sentiment that his season was a disappointing one, but I can appreciate the fact that as a Rays fan my opinion may be a bit biased.
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