A Critique of Peter Bourjos’ MLB.com Highlight Reel
As Erik Manning is all-too willing to remind us, defensive prodigy Peter Bourjos recently made his major league debut, pushing Angels’ incumbent center fielder, Torii Hunter, over to right in the process.
In their most recent Prospect Handbook, Baseball America calls Bourjos’ defense “game-changing,” and the numbers agree: per Total Zone, Bourjos was worth +76 runs in 360 games started in center field 2006 to 2009.
The question remains, though: of what value is Bourjos to the more aesthetically oriented baseball enthusiast?
In what follows, I hope to provide something like an answer, as I critique each of the eleven videos at Bourjos’ MLB.com highlight reel.
[Note: links to each video are available by clicking on the title of said video. Dates of action are in brackets.]
Bourjos Makes the Basket Catch [04.01.10]
The grainy resolution of the video makes it impossible to regard “Basket Catch” as anything but what it is: the early work of a talented, but immature, highlight-maker. By that criteria, however, it’s a success. Even in this first effort, we see a theme that will recur throughout Bourjos’ corpus — namely, his ability to make the difficult appear effortless.
Bourjos Scores to Win It [04.02.10]
An underwhelming clip from a player still very much experimenting with his voice. Here we see — what? — Bourjos scoring from third on a shortstop Chin-lung Hu’s error, which error occurs with two outs in a tie game. If anything, this work is more about the latter’s identity. “Who is Hu?” one asks. “Perhaps not a major league shortstop,” another is forced to answer.
Bourjos’ Game-Tying Double [04.02.10]
“Game-Tying Double” is the third installment in Bourjos’ spring training triptych, and the first in which we see him at the plate. Like “Scores to Win It,” Bourjos’ contribution is only interesting when considered within the context of the game — a game which, as the title suggests, he ties — as opposed to any sort of conspicuous display of genius from Bourjos. This is a piece whose interest is limited only to aficionadi of his work.
Bourjos’ Strong Throw [08.04.10]
Like a sunrise exploding over the crystalline horizon of the Arctic’s icy plains, Bourjos’ first true mature work is almost too dazzling to behold. This highlight announces Bourjos’ arrival. We see his trademark range as he tracks the ball almost from straight-away, or even right-, center field; the quick release and accuracy (if not strength) of his throwing arm; and, finally, Scott’s reaction, a provocative mixture of disappointment and awe.
Bourjos’ Strong Game [08.04.10]
“Strong Game” is essentially the extended, director’s cut of “Strong Throw,” featuring — in addition to the aforementioned throw — a single off of third baseman Joshua Bell’s glove, a steal of third, and an infield hit also in Bell’s direction. As with other director’s cuts, “Strong Game” (a) is longer and less even in quality than the original and (b) includes a narrative entirely ignored by the cleaner studio version. The narrative in question here is the tête-à-tête between rookies Bourjos and Bell — an encounter won easily by Bourjos.
Bourjos Runs It Down [08.05.10]
The play in question, though excellent, is almost entirely overshadowed by the encounter immediately afterwards between Bourjos and the man whose position he usurped, Torii Hunter. In a brave and refreshing gesture, though, “Runs It Down” totally forgoes the tired Oedipal narrative. Instead, we see the two men celebrating and equaled humbled by Bourjos’ gift. “Bravo, Bourjos. Bravo, humanity,” one is left saying.
Bourjos’ Running Catch [08.08.10]
No player on a field is more isolated, further from his teammates, than the center fielder: that’s the message of “Running Catch.” Here we see Don Kelly line (fline?) a ball to deep center, and see Bourjos — alone, and yet the focus of all attention — make a two-handed grab. For those unconvinced, the Howard’s Appliance and Big Screen Superstore Replay allows us to re-live the action, where we feel the loneliness of the short-distance runner even more piquantly.
Bourjos’ Squeeze Play [08.10.10]
Though still too young to abandon completely all attempts at offensive highlights, “Squeeze Play” serves merely to reinforce the notion that Bourjos’ best work is done on the other side of the ball.
Bourjos’ Diving Catch [08.13.10]
Besides representing yet another instance of Bourjos’ excellent range and body control, “Diving Catch” distinguishes itself for being the first of Bourjos’ highlights featuring a camera angle that allows the viewer to track Bourjos from contact to catch. We see in the replay of said catch, starting at about the 0:25 mark, that the young center fielder begins his path to the ball on contact. We leave duly reassured: Bourjos isn’t merely a showboater, but an instinctual fielder, too.
Bourjos’ Leaping Catch [08.13.10]
As Jonny Gomes is all-too capable of reminding us, not all leaping catches are made the same. Accordingly, the viewer must always question whether a great-looking play is actually a great actual play. As we saw in “Diving Catch,” such concerns are likely unwarranted with Bourjos. As such, we can enjoy “Leaping Catch” unfettered by such anxieties.
Bourjos Is Not Awarded Base [08.14.10]
Make no mistake: in and of itself “Not Awarded Base” is a disappointment — certainly a letdown from the dizzying heights of “Leaping” and “Diving.” But in the context of the Bourjosian oeuvre, it serves as a well-timed reminder: despite the prodigy’s already impressive resume, the Old Guard (and, specifiaclly, Joe West) is not so easily converted.
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.
This. Was awful.