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Would Hyun Soo Kim Be Slowest Leadoff Hitter In Orioles History?

March 6, 2017
Sooner or later, the question was bound to be asked. The more Orioles manager Buck Showalter writes outfielder Hyun Soo Kim's name in the lineup as the leadoff hitter, and it figures to happen more than a few times this spring, the more some wonder: Would Kim be the slowest leadoff hitter in Orioles history?

The answer is a resounding, NO! And it wouldn't even be close.

The experiment only lasted a year, but in 1975, with Al Bumbry coming off a down year as a platoon player, manager Earl Weaver opted to go with his best on-base-percentage player -- newcomer Ken Singleton, who had been obtained from Montreal the previous winter. Though he figured to fit into the middle of the lineup, Singleton's penchant for drawing walks  influenced Weaver to sacrifice more three-run home runs for more free bases.

Compared to the Singleton, a member of the O's Hall Of Fame, Kim would be classified as a speed merchant. Singleton was hardly your prototypical leadoff hitter, but he produced a monster year -- hitting .300 with a .415 OBP while leading the American League with 714 plate appearances. Bumbry's eventual resurgence moved Singleton to the middle of the lineup, but for one year he arguably may have had the best year of any leadoff hitter in club history.

Kim would definitely be an upgrade in the speed department over Singleton, but don't bet he could match the other numbers.

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You can, however, bet the Red Sox are holding their collective breath for the next week, waiting for the next report on left-hander David Price. It's only the second year of a monster seven-year contract ($217 million), and once again we're learning that the only thing more fragile than a pitcher's arm is one of those mega-deals.

When the Red Sox heard the dreaded "seeking a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews," it sent shock waves through the organization. The visit with Dr. Andrews didn't turn up any structural damage and surgery, at least of the imminent variety, was ruled out. But the next phrase, "rest for 7-10 days and then re-evaluate," is not exactly a ringing endorsement, either.

Orioles fans don't need to be reminded that they have heard similar words before -- when right-hander Dylan Bundy and catcher Matt Wieters were scheduled for Tommy John surgery. The Red Sox will be riding a slippery slope until Price proves his scare was no more than that.

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Even in spring training games, seeing the Yankees wearing grey caps seems obscene -- almost as bad as those "fans" who wear pin-striped No. 3 jerseys with the name "Ruth" on the back -- as if anybody else wore that number, long before names on uniforms became common.

As for the hats, well it now seems Standard Operational Procedure for teams to have at least half a dozen styles and wear each at least once, even if only in batting practice, to make them "official" and therefore marketable. Even the Yankees, with the most traditional uniforms in sports, are vulnerable to the marketing proce$$.

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You had to love Jonathan Schoop's final spring game before leaving for the World Baseball Classic March 1. The O's second baseman hit a home run so hard nobody else on the field moved while he was jogging the bases.

With third baseman Manny Machado all but unsignable until he reaches his free-agent year in 2018, Schoop remains my No. 1 candidate for an extension, even though the Orioles still have three more years of control.

Speaking of possible extensions, how long will it be before people start asking about Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who are on the executive side of the 2018 class?

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Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com