Sunday, April 03, 2005


April 3rd, 2001

David Eckstein Debuts

In 1933, an electrical draughtsman (whatever that is) named Harry Beck took some time after his day job working for the London Underground--the Tube--and designed a new map of the route. Beck's map was remarkable in that its creator had stumbled upon a remarkable notion: so long as the map correctly illustrated the order of stations for the Underground and the transfer points, it need not bear any resemblance to what was going on above ground. Beck's employers were initially doubtful of the map's possibilities, and introduced it first in limited pamphlet form. It was an instant success, and Beck's concept remains the basis for the modern Tube map, although that one has been altered so it bears at least a vague resemblance to the goings-on above ground.

Just like the Tube map's relation to the world above itself, David Eckstein bears only a vague resemblance to the real thing, in this case, a Major League shortstop. Eckstein is baby-faced (and a fan of wearing the Charlie Brown style hat) and his listed measurements of 5'8" and 170 pounds suggest the Cardinals conducted his physical while Eckstein was soaking wet with rocks in his uniform pocket and wearing a pair of high-heeled shoes. In the field Eckstein sometimes appears comical, often needing a hop-step to get his throws to first base, and with a goofy batting stance, compounded by his fondness for the Charlie Brown style helmet as well. In contrast, Christian Guzman looks like a shortstop. He is listed at 6'0" 190, both believable measurements. His hat fits, and he's got a little goatee thing. Guzman looks foolish neither at bat nor afield.

The only problem with these judgments is that they are mostly baseless. Eckstein isn't a significantly better player than Guzman, but he offers a little more stick, and despite all appearances, better defense. Both were free agents this winter. The younger Guzman signed a four year deal with the Nationals good for 4.2 million a year while Eckstein received a three-year contract from
St. Louis good for 3.4 million a year. Harry Beck and the London Underground understood the value of functi0n over appearance. Evidently that lesson hasn't quite crossed the Atlantic.

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