You’re Mike Aviles and you’ve have to prove yourself as a ballplayer every day.
You are not like some of these Bonus Baby prospects, who were born on third base and have convinced themselves they hit a triple. To get to third, you have always had to hit the ball.
They have always treated you as the “Nobody from Nowhere” ballplayer. So, you are accustomed to being required to earn their respect every day, every game, every at bat, every play. That chip on your shoulder has grown larger over the seasons and so has the motivation it gives to you.
“There’s always somebody that either doubts that I can do a certain job, or doesn’t feel that I may be able to be the best option at a certain position, or whatever the case may be…So I always do have that chip on my shoulder, it’s the way I always played.” you said,
It was that way with the re-building Royals and now with the high-expectation Red Sox; you have to prove you belong on the team, on the field, at shortstop.
You know you can make the routine plays expected of a Major league shortstop and you wonder if anybody has taken the time to look you up at Baseball Reference and notice that you career [4-year] batting average is .288. You are sure Valentine has read up on you; that is the way he is; he does his homework.
You’re Mike Aviles and you didn’t attend a Big College with a renowned “baseball program,” like USC, Stanford, Cal. St. Fullerton, or Florida. When you answered “Concordia College,” they just stared at you, and, when you said “Division II,” they just seemed to try to avoid rolling their eyes and moved on. But, In 2003 you were named Division II Player of the Year, after hitting .500 with 83 runs, 22 homers and 65 RBI in 45 games.
You were not a First round pick; or a second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth round pick. The Royals selector yawned and pulled you out of the pool like a random leaf, before it got caught in the filter.
There were 191 players drafted ahead of you; the Royals selected seven players ahead of you: Chris Lubanski [#5], Mitch Maier [#30], Shane Costa [#42], Robert McFall [#72], Miguel Vega [#102], Christopher Goodman [#132] and Ryan Braun [#162].
And, it would have been some small “claim to fame,” if the guy drafted just ahead of you was THE Ryan Braun, “The Hebrew Hammer,” but, just your luck, it was the OTHER Ryan Braun, a pitcher, who made it to The Show in 2006-07, won two and lost one with a beastly 6.66 ERA and was released by the Royals.
You’re Mike Aviles and long after the stars were paraded up to the stage for a “money shot” with the Commissioner, holding up their new jersey, all wondering why they weren’t drafted even higher, you signed in anonymity, but with a sense of pride and confidence in your abilities.
“It was either that or go work a real job,” you said. “And right from there, I was out to prove that I was worth more than $1,000. I said to myself that I’d get that $1,000 back someday.
I knew I was worth way more than that. I just had to go and prove it all over again.”
Another insult: You had every right to feel “dissed” by the Royals, when you found out that they gave the guy chosen before you $130,000 and the one they signed after you for $138,500. They were bonus babies and you were a short [5’ 9”] stocky Puerto Rican kid who played shortstop for an obscure Division II college in Bronxville, New York, 20 miles north of Manhattan. They gave you a “take it or leave it” offer of just $1.000, an amount a columnist accurately called “an insult.” [http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news;_ylt=Anghhv59IoqXffDiLLFyrqsRvLYF?slug=jp-aviles081208]
You’re Mike Aviles and the Future Phemoms, Round One guys signed for big money: #1 Delmon Young signed with Tampa for $6.75 million; the Cards drafted Daric Barton #28 in Round One; he was a 17 year-old High School catcher and he got $975,000. You signed for $1,000, glad to be getting a shot at the Big Time and confident you would show them that a Puerto Rican kid can make it to The Show, even the Hall of Fame. Hell, what about Roberto Clemente; how about Roberto Alomar; Javy Lopez and Yadir Molina; Vic Power and Jose Posada; Bernie Williams and Rey Sanchez, he played 110 games at shortstop and hit .286 in 357 at-bats for the Red Sox in 2002.
Another insult: The Royals left you unprotected in 2008, although you mashed 17 home runs at Triple-A, the Royals did not place him on the 40-man roster. Any team could have taken you from the Rule V Draft for $50,000, but, none did.
Royal’s general manager Dayton Moore said. “The game’s the ultimate evaluator. A scout’s judgment, a player-development (person’s) judgment matters. But not as much as a player’s judgment of himself.”
You’re Mike Aviles and now you are sandwiched in between an older veteran player , who is as good a fielder, but is not as good a hitter [.249] and a younger player  with a flashy glove, who people hope can hit .250-.260. The bloggers are blathering that ‘in four big league seasons, Aviles has cracked 100 games played twice….He hasn’t ever played a full season…’
Your new manager is getting his first chance to see you play; he is giving you more playing time than any other player; to date [3/14], Valentine has had you at SS for 47 innings; in three years you have played SS for 1,121 innings, the equivalent of 125 games [9 innings].
You said : “I know Bobby hasn’t really seen me play. You know, other than reading reports, I’m pretty sure that’s where he gets most of his knowledge of how I play and what tools I bring to the table. But, in all honesty, I don’t even read too much into it.”
You said: “Every single day I come to the field, [I have something to prove]. Not just this year, but my entire career. I really don’t need somebody to rah-rah, yell at me to get me going. I’m inside getting myself going.”
Based on what he has observed, Valentine is very positive about you:
“Real small sample, defensively,” Valentine said. “He looks OK. Offensively, he looks very aggressive, as advertised, and can hit the ball to all parts of the field with authority.”
You said: “I come to the park…with a chip on my shoulder, trying to prove I can play…That’s really all that matters.”
You’re Mike Aviles, street-smart and game-smart, and you can read the signs and signals:
“I think there’s a remote chance,” Lucchino said. “I like him [Iglesias] a lot, it’s fun to watch him play, it’s fun to see the growth and development both physically and developmentally from the last year or two, and it’ll be fun to watch him for the next couple of years. But Mike Aviles is playing extremely well. He had a couple of hits [Monday], and he can be a key component of this team this year. But Iglesias has a great future.” [CEO Larry Lucchino on WEEI]
You’re Mike Aviles, you re-read what Luccino said: “he can be a key component of this team this year. But Iglesias has a great future…“and you cannot say it publicly, but you now believe you will be the “starting shortstop,” the one at the top of the depth chart for 2012; you are earning $1.2 million, which you will put into savings, since it is just 1-year deal.
Your teammate, Nick Punto, is 36 and will never be a starter again and, unless Iglesias applies your batting tips and learns enough to hit above .260, he will not be the starting SS for the Red Sox, but a late-inning defensive replacement, who gives the starter a day off. No doubt, the Cuban kid has Gold Glove-level defensive talent, but will he become another A-Rod or another Rey Ordonez?
You’re Mike Aviles and you are finally feeling healthy; you feel fully recovered from that Tommy John surgery 9/07/2009 and you think that will improve your strength and power stats; you have always been known for your high contact rates. They say that pitchers are usually even better after the TK procedure; arm strength on defense was always the rap on you in scouting reports.
Worst case scenario, you think, would be that Iglesias comes up to MLB standards in hitting and is ready to play next year; he dazzles everyone in Spring training next year and takes over as starting SS; but, if I do well this year, I can expect to at least be his backup and I have value as a UT, who can play infield and outfield, as well as be a bat off the bench.
Mid case scenario, you think, Iglesias barely comes up to MLB standards in hitting and becomes your backup for two years, as Valentine works him in gradually over a year or two. Then, I could be his backup [2-3 years] as I have value as a UT, who can play infield and outfield, as well as be a bat off the bench.
Best case scenario, you think, I’m a “late bloomer” at 31, but I will finally blossom into a Gold Glove contender and raise my BA near .300 and recover my power for 25 HRs and 85 RBIs per season and establish myself as the Red Sox starting SS for many more years. I will retire as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
You’re Mike Aviles and, given a fair opportunity to show what you can do, you may someday be able to retire that chip and put it in your home trophy case, right next to a Red Sox World Championship ring.
Topics: (2003), 40-man Roster, At-bats, Bernie Williams, Bobby Valentine, Bonus Baby, Chris Lubanski, Christopher Goodman, Concordia College, D, Dayton Moore, Delmon Young, Division II Player Of The Year, Draft Pick, First Round, General Manager, Javy Lopez, Jose Iglesias, Jose Posada, Miguel Vega, Mike Aviles, Mitch Maier, MLB Draft, Nick Punto, Puerto Rican, Red Sox, Rey Ordonez, Rey Sanchez, Robert McFall, Roberto Alomar, Roberto Clemente, Royals, Rule V Draft, Ryan Braun, Shane Costa, Vic Power, Yadir Molina