If you ask the general baseball world, the early reviews on Mark Trumbo's transition to third base are not good. Like, REALLY not good. What exactly are they saying about his defense at the hot corner?
And I am sure if I surveyed the fans we'd get a few reviews that include the terms "abortion" and "disaster" and so on.
It is hard to blame anyone for these dire reactions considering that Trumbo has already committed three errors in just two games. But by the same token, it is also hard to accept any of these reviews as fully informed since Trumbo has played just two games.
It feels like it was months ago now that Mark was actually getting some optimistic projections for his work at third base during spring training. The coaching staff was talking him up and the reports from training camp were increasingly positive as the spring wore on. But now? He sucks and this was the worst idea ever, apparently.
That statement is partly true, he does suck- right now. But that doesn't mean this is a bad idea and the Angels need to pull the plug. The real problem here isn't Trumbo's defense, it is the expectations of his defense. In the spring, expectations were low because this was just a cute little experiment. But now that the regular season is here, the expectations are suddenly through the roof. He can't be learning on the job, he has to be good RIGHT NOW!
What everyone seems to be forgetting is that Trumbo has been learning to play third base for all of eight weeks. Think back to the last time you started a new job or attempted to learn a hard new skill. You probably sucked for the first eight weeks too. So why isn't Trumbo allowed to suck?
The thing is that I believe we should be more than tolerant of his present crappiness. For starters, he is only going to get better if he is allowed to keep playing third base in live games and not just on the practice field. Mark's biggest issues don't appear to be lack of physical tools, but rather lack of confidence and experience. You can see it when he fields a ball, he is just thinking too much. Way too much, because he doesn't have the reps to just make plays on instinct and muscle memory yet.
But the best reason why the Halos should be tolerant of Trumbo as he advances up the learning curve goes against what all the critics are saying, that they can't afford to have him clutzing around out there and hope to win. Actually, they can. If any team can afford to have a lousy fielder at one position, it is the Angels. Let's not forget that the Angels are one of the best defensive teams in baseball. Every starter they have, except for Trumbo at third, is an above average or even elite defender. They can more than easily survive with one defensive liability at one position for roughly half their games. How do I know this? Because of the Detroit Tigers. Everyone agrees that Detroit is a true contending team but they are a miserable defensive squad. They are strong in center, shortstop and catcher, but everywhere else, they have below average to just plain terrible defenders. Yet nobody is claiming that one specific defender is going to spell certain doom for them the way people are saying Trumbo is for the Angels.
No, the Angels will be just fine with Trumbo at third base, even if he doesn't improve. But the thing is that he will improve. It may not happen right away but if the Angels stick with him, he will be a much better third baseman by the end of the year. And that is the real payoff here. The talent pool at third base in the majors is extremely shallow right now and the Angels owe it to themselves to at least see if Trumbo can't be their long-term fix at a position where they have no surefire in house options in the minors. If it becomes clear that Trumbo can't handle it, they can still pull the plug at anytime, but four games into the season is not the time, despite what everyone else is saying.
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YES! Thank you, Mr. TM! You know who else was absolutely crappy in the field at third AND at the plate in his first full season? Mike Schmidt. And he had no positive fielding record to go on from the minors, either, according to and off-season interview I saw on MLB Channel. At least Trumbo has shown some positive skill set during his time at first last season. Mikey said he just decided to improve every aspect of his game. Not that easy for a guy who committed SEVENTEEN errors and fielded a whopping .954 (while handling the ball way less than any first baseman) AND batting .197 with 18 HR's. You think the Philly fans were happy with that? Well, I think Trumbo has that same level of work ethic even if he never reaches Schmidt's level of play at third. Not spectacular but he will certainly try to become "acceptable".