Dan's Dugout: Can Cruz Help M's Cruise to Crown? • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Can Cruz Help M’s Cruise to Crown?


Like Rodney Dangerfield, Nelson Cruz doesn’t get any respect.

He’s hit more home runs than anyone in baseball over the past five years. He’s the only player to collect six home runs and 13 RBI in a single postseason series. A five-time All-Star, he could be on his way to the July 17 game in Washington.

Nelson Cruz has more homers over the last five years than anyone else

This month, he’s been a one-man power surge, with five home runs in six games through June 12, pushing his career total to 338. He’s led the Seattle Mariners to the top of the American League West, just ahead of the World Champion Houston Astros.

Especially important to the Mariners since the PED suspension of Robby Cano, Cruz is still producing at prodigious levels despite his advanced athletic age.

He’ll turn 38 on July 1 but seems to be earning every penny of his $14,250,000 salary.

The 6’2″ Dominican, used primarily as a designated hitter by the Mariners, has led his league in home runs once and also won an RBI title.

A righthanded slugger used as an outfielder in his younger days, Cruz actually started his professional career with the New York Mets. But he languished in the minor-league systems of both the Mets and Oakland Athletics before making his big-league bow with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005. He later played for the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles.

The one blemish on an otherwise-sterling resume is a 50-game suspension related to the Biogenesis substance abuse scandal four years ago.

That was forgotten and forgiven last year, when Cruz hit 39 home runs, collected a league-best 119 runs

Approaching age 38, Nelson Cruz hasn’t stopped hitting

batted in, and led the Mariners in both runs (91) and extra-base hits (67) as well as slugging (.549).

He also went to the All-Star Game in Miami.

Cruz could be in the right place at the right time: the Mariners are one of two current teams, along with the Washington Nationals, that have never won a pennant. Both are expansion teams that have come close, notably the M’s in 2001 when they won 116 times before falling in the playoffs. The Nationals, always a preseason favorite in recent years, have failed multiple times, never advancing beyond the first round.

Players usually fade by the time they approach 40 but Cruz has managed to conserve his considerable strength by serving as a DH. Last year, he was honored for his achievements with the Edgar Martinez Award, named for the former Seattle standout and Cooperstown candidate.
It was the first time Cruz won it.

Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton may generate more headlines – especially in the New York tabloids – but in Seattle, Nelson Cruz is just as big.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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