Undoubtedly the Face of MLB competition was a wild and unexpected ride for many A’s fans. By the power of social media, and with a little help from fans across the country, Eric Sogard transformed himself from a cult hero in Oakland, to a cult hero now nationally known by reaching the finals of the competition. I held my own opinions, which I expressed before the tournament began, and maintained them throughout the competition. I still believe the inclusion of Sogard in the first place was something of a joke. A friend made the comparison to Sanjaya, the quirky, mildly competent singer who made a strong run on American Idol some years back thanks to a strong campaign from VoteForTheWorst.com, which deliberately tries to keep the worst singer on the competition. I believe that’s what happened with Eric Sogard’s run to the finals, where he lost in controversial fashion to New York Mets star third baseman David Wright (who I’ll readily admit voting for, because he’s my favorite athlete on the planet).
In the eyes of most fans of the Oakland Athletics, it was a statement being made that the fan base was of a more passionate variety than others around the league. This competition was not a joke to them, it was dead serious, and therein lies the problem.
Eric Sogard was a little fish, in an ocean of sharks, and he managed to best many of them in the voting competition. The chances of him doing the same on the field though are a bit slimmer. What this competition has done for Sogard’s profile, both locally and nationally may be creating expectations for his 2014 season that he simply cannot meet. After his loss in the finals, there was much talk on Twitter about making a push to get him into the All-Star Game this July, and rest assured if he made the team it wouldn’t be on merits.
Sogard is a useful player, I would never discount what he can contribute to the team. But he hasn’t shown himself to be anything above a complementary piece. In 2013, in what amounts to his breakout campaign, Sogard hit .266/.322/.364 in 410 plate appearances. Nerd Power was good enough for 2 home runs, 24 doubles, and 3 triples. The numbers are competent, but not anything to get excited about. Sogard’s inability to hit left handers kept him on the bench for most games, logging only 72 plate appearances, and posting a .230/.329/.311 line. Sogard was nonexistent during the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers, going hitless for the series, and had gone hitless for the Cactus League going into Sunday’s game.
A reasonable expectation for Sogard in 2014 would be just about the same level of production as we saw in 2013, perhaps with a slight uptick in the OBP. But anything that puts him near the class of the league at his position is simply not in the realm of possibility. Perhaps that’s just how Sogard and his fans like it, being tasked with an impossible challenge, and proving all the doubters wrong. If it means more success for the Athletics, then I’m all for it.