We could have written this four weeks ago but in the back of your mind you know that as soon as you write a Luis Cruz story, the other shoe will drop. So you wait a week, but the the story gets better. You wait another week, the story keeps getting better. You hit Sept, and boom, two bad weeks in a row. You waited so long the shoe dropped.
Or did it?
If you only look at the box score you notice Luis Cruz has only twelve singles with zero extra base hits in Sept. Yet if you have watched the games, no one is hitting the ball harder time and time again then Luis Cruz. So screw it, time to write the article and if the pumpkin shows up, it shows up.
In a season full of pleasant surprises and baffling disappointments, Luis Cruz is at the top of the pleasant surprise pile. Everybody and their mother is waiting for the other shoe to drop but with only nineteen games left in the season they may have to wait until 2013 to squash the joy of the person who has quickly been taken to heart by the few Dodger fans who show up these days.
CRUUUUUZ cries can often be heard at Dodger Stadium because, he's one of the few Dodgers who is doing anything worth crooning about.
How amazing has his season been? If you just look at the numbers it is not overwhelming.
Rk Player OPS+ PA Age OBP SLG OPS 1 David Wright 148 596 29 .401 .495 .896 2 Chase Headley 138 619 28 .367 .484 .851 3 Aramis Ramirez 134 559 34 .361 .529 .890 4 David Freese 131 518 29 .369 .476 .845 5 Chipper Jones 130 391 40 .379 .481 .860 6 Ryan Zimmerman 124 568 27 .354 .481 .835 7 Todd Frazier 124 422 26 .344 .516 .859 8 Pedro Alvarez 119 506 25 .320 .478 .798 9 Pablo Sandoval 114 370 25 .330 .423 .753 10 Luis Cruz 111 221 28 .336 .433 .769 11 Hanley Ramirez 108 589 28 .321 .449 .770 12 Chris Johnson 105 487 27 .321 .447 .768 13 Joaquin Arias 104 304 27 .315 .400 .715
Yet, Luis Cruz the 10th best offensive 3rd baseman in the NL is a far far cry from the putridity of the previous 3rd base incumbent. Visually his defense has simply been outstanding, I'm not sure I've seen him make a bad throw. His hands are soft, every move is smooth. This man can field, he does not hurt the eyes.
How did Luis Cruz get here. The man was signed by the Boston Red Sox at the ripe old age of 16. Meaning he was signed as soon as he could be.
Cruz bounced around in the Red Sox organization for a few years, then was traded to the Padres. From the Padres Cruz moved over to the Pirates when he signed a minor league deal with them. Basically the Padres gave up on him. He impressed the Pirates enough in 2008 that at the age of 24 he was brought up to the big squad.
This is when it gets fun. His first at bat produced a single against none other then our Aaron Harang joining a plethora of players to get a hit in their first major league at bat.. He played regularly for the rest of the month but did nothing with the bat. In 2009 he made the opening day roster but was re-assigned when old Dodger friend Delywn Young was acquired. Cruz would come back up in Sept again and produce nothing again during his Sept run.
The Pirates had given him two shots and found nothing so they released him and Cruz was picked up by the Brewers for minor league infield depth. He got a few abats in 2010 (17) and did nothing with them. He refused his minor league assignment and became a free agent. Texas Rangers then took a shot and also found him wanting.
His career looked done. He had been released by four teams, had accumulated a total of 154 plate appearances with four extra base hits, no home runs, and not once had an OPS higher then .588.
While with the Rangers they had loaned him to the Mexican League where he blasted an OPS of 1.231 in only 69 plate appearances.
Based on his Mexican League performance Cruz was signed by the Dodgers as a minor league free agent. He didn't make the team in spring training but did impress the coaches. He was sent to AAA and for all purposes he should have spent the year there.
Fate intervened when Dee Gordon went down and on July 2nd, Luis Cruz became a Los Angeles Dodger. It was likely going to be a short run. Except this time Luiz Cruz hit the ball, getting hits in five of his first six games. After watching Elian Herrera burn out after his quick start no one was getting excited about Cruz. When he went 0 for his next 13 it seemed his pumpkin had come right on time. Yet, the Dodgers had no one else to play SS so they kept putting him out there and son of a gun, he ran off a twelve game hitting streak, driving in 12 runs during that streak with his first two major league home runs.
Hanley Ramirez was acquired during this time and when some fans asked what happens to Cruz the snarky reply normally heard was "who cares, it is only Luis Cruz".
Without more intervention Luiz Cruz might simply be a bench player, but Jerry Hairston found his season over. Eventually Donnie swapped Hanley to SS and Cruz to 3rd. While Cruz seemed to be a capable SS, his defensive play at 3rd was eye popping. Even better, his bat got even better.
Check this out, as a 3rd baseman, Luis Cruz is hitting a cool .348 / . 381 / .464 in 118 plate appearances. As baseball wonderman Vin Scully has noted every time Cruz comes up, "he hits the ball hard". His manage noted "when he hits the ball it stays hit".
Sure the shoe may drop, but until it does, our career 5000 plate appearance minor league journeyman Luis Cruz is the guy the crowd has taken to it's heart, not Adrian, not Hanley, not Victorino. If you don't understand why, maybe you need to visit the Wizard of Oz.