This season has already been magical and I hope for it to get even more magical before the Cubs head home for the winter. When your team is doing well and everything seems to just work you can see it and feel it. You can do no wrong and this year seems to be that case yet again. I wanted to write about some of the players that have showed me how magical this year has been. It will end up being a series of posts because I want to give credit to one player at a time to get them all their fair share of time.
I have a number of players I am going to cover but it was hard to decide where to start. After I thought about it awhile I decided to save my most magical player for last. With that being said I am going to start with Reed Johnson. Before the season started, Jim Hendry had been looking for someone to come in and play centerfield. We heard names like Coco Crisp and Marlon Byrd mentioned numerous times. Somewhat out of nowhere we sign a guy by the name of Reed Johnson. I have to admit I had never heard of the guy before. After all, he played in Toronto for a team that had guys like Vernon Wells, Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett and Alex Rios. It is not hard to see why Reed Johnson got lost in the mix. Even though I didn’t know of him then, I sure do now.
Reed Johnson is one magical piece of the Cubs puzzle. He isn’t leading the club in home runs, RBI’s, stolen bases or outfield assists. What he does lead the club in is H&H, Heart and Hustle. Reed Johnson goes all out every day and it has a positive effect on the rest of the team. What is magical is about Reed Johnson is his production this year versus last year. Johnson has always been a solid player but he had a down year last year for the Blue Jays. After a 2006 season in which he hit .319 with a .390 OBP, 12 home runs, 49 RBI’s and 86 runs scored he dipped to a .236 average with a .305 OBP in 2007. He played in only 79 games last year, due to injuries, after playing in 134 in 2006.
His injury plagued year was likely the consideration for the Blue Jays bringing in Shannon Stewart and their eventual decision to stick with Stewart instead of Johnson. The Blue Jays loss was the Cubs gain. If Toronto wasn’t being second guessed already for letting Johnson go, word comes on Monday August 11th that the Blue Jays had released Shannon Stewart. I guess Toronto made the wrong choice.
Good teams have guys like Reed Johnson. Guys that will not necessarily play everyday but when they do they go out and give it their all. They show fans they want to play and are happy to do it. That is why I love having Reed Johnson on the Cubs. He isn’t flashy but he gets the job done. You won’t see him on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Sporting News or ESPN but he is a valuable part of the 2008 Chicago Cubs. He isn’t one of those guys you build a team around but you sure want him there once you have a lot of the pieces in place.
There is one thing about Reed Johnson and the Chicago Cubs I have yet to mention. If you are a Cubs fan and have seen most of the games you probably thought of this when I first mentioned Reed Johnson. For those that don’t know Reed Johnson very well you can watch one play that shows you what Reed Johnson brings to the table. It can be summed up as “The Catch” and it was one of the greatest plays I have ever seen. If you haven’t seen it or want to see it again here is the link – The Catch – Reed Johnson
I think the best part of the video is how amazed Mark DeRosa seems to be. Johnson catches the ball, gets up and is running in as the inning is over. DeRosa stands there for a few seconds in utter amazement. In fact, the catch was made right by the Cubs bullpen and I remember watching one of the replays that showed more of their reaction and they were amazed as well. As I was looking for a link to the video I came across a remark that someone left on a blog site saying he didn’t really have to dive for it. I beg to differ. If you stop the video at about the 9 second mark and adjust it so it is right before he catches the ball, you see him in his dive already with the ball still 3 to 4 feet from him. If he doesn’t dive, he doesn’t make the catch.
Reed Johnson, you have been magic this year. I hope you are rewarded for the mistake that Toronto made in letting you go. You are sure doing what you can to help the Cubs and I can speak for a number of the Cubs Faithful when I say, Thank You.