Today I salute the reigning American League Player of the Week. It's astonishing how quickly and fervently the fans in Baltimore have embraced Luke Scott, and I'm sure it's a pleasant surprise for Luke himself. When he arrived during the winter, he was not exactly the centerpiece of the Miguel Tejada trade. The outfielder was known as a power hitter who was not complete enough to crack the Astros' everyday lineup, and as he neared the age of thirty, he wasn't a prospect in any sense. But sometimes all a guy needs is a fresh start and the faith of the higher-ups.
So far this year, Luke has been streaky, but the hot streaks have made his presence on the team more than worthwhile. He's within one home run of his career high, and is on pace to best his high-water marks in most other offensive categories. In the first four games after the All-Star Break, Scott earned the recognition of the league office by hitting .538 (7-for-13) with four runs scored, two doubles, three home runs, and six RBI. That's a pretty small sample size, but a 1.956 OPS is never something to sneeze at. The exclamation point came in Saturday night's come-from-behind thriller. The Birds had trailed 6-0 before they even came to bat but battled back to take a 9-7 lead, only to relinquish the advantage in the sixth inning. After Ramon Hernandez's leadoff homer in the ninth tied the score, Luke sent everyone home happy with a monstrous longball onto Eutaw Street beyond right field in the tenth inning. Giddy over his walkoff shot, Luke rounded third base and saw his jubilant teammates waiting to mob him at the plate. With a huge grin on his face, the left fielder doffed his helmet and rolled it home like a bowling ball. He then took a few halting steps and slid legs-first into the plate.
So we all know that "chicks dig the long ball", but that alone doesn't explain Luke's popularity. I'd say a large part of it is the simple fact that he's seemingly brought an end to the parade of horse crap that the Orioles trotted out to left field for the past few years: sagging veterans (Jays Payton and Gibbons, Kevin Millar, Jeff Conine, B.J. Surhoff), hastily converted infielders (Brandon Fahey, Eddie Rogers, Freddie Bynum, Fernando Tatis), and suspect prospects and 4-A types (Luis Matos, Larry Bigbie, Jeff Fiorentino, Luis Terrero, David Newhan)...and then there's Eric Byrnes, who deserves his own category of futility.
But Luke also seems like a truly personable, nice guy. He's shown gratitude to the fans that shout "LUUUUUUKKKKEEEEE" whenever he comes to bat, strokes a hit, or even catches a routine fly ball (I've seen it myself), as well as those who pack the left field reserve section and cheer him on. He evens seems amused by the guy who shows up to home games dressed as Darth Vader (get it? Luke?). The two best-known non-baseball passions of Luke's life are Christianity and gun ownership. Many jaded fans roll their eyes whenever a professional athlete suggests that God is responsible for his success, wondering aloud if God wanted the other players to fail. It seems cliche, a crutch for simple-minded, conservative, or image-conscious men. But with Luke Scott, there is a genuine note to his declarations of faith. I don't get the impression that Jesus is a buzzword to him, an easy answer. Nor do I suspect that he's trying to convert the masses in one fell swoop. Regardless of his motivations, I like Luke Scott, and I hope he's found his place in the baseball world.