When I posed the question in the poll to your right - Should Todd Linden get a chance to start next year? - I expected the supporters of the idea to be few and far between. We'd have secret hand signals; maybe print up some underground leaflets and silently wait for a brave man like Victor Lazlo to come forward and lead us. The Linden who was in the majors last year brought out the amateur scout in all of us. He swung at the balls and took the strikes. You didn't exactly need to go over the game footage too many times to finalize that scouting report.
It was disappointing because of the year Linden had in AAA last year. There are good minor league seasons than can deceive. Graham Koonce had a year in the PCL that had people wondering if he could start, and Damon Minor was always putting up nice numbers in Fresno. Those were good minor league seasons. Good minor league seasons aren't relevant to what Linden did. He hit .321/.437/.682, with 30 home runs in 340 at-bats. To give some context, a major league player hitting at that rate would be enjoying one of the 75 or 100 best offensive seasons ever. The numbers obviously wouldn't translate right over into major league performance, but it was still an amazing season. After searching for a while, I was unable to come up with a AAA player who had a comparable season but couldn't stick in the majors. If you know of someone, give the name in the comments section.
The regular caveats apply: it was still just AAA, the PCL and Fresno can both inflate hitting numbers, and it was Linden's 15th straight season in AAA. But the numbers were so good any concerns should be completely ignored until real world performance proves Linden can't hit in the majors. That 85% of McPolltakers agree is surprising, but the solidarity is reassuring. Linden's major league flailing last year didn't deter me at all, nor did his slow start and injury this season. If another Mark Sweeney-caliber reserve is signed as insurance, Linden should start and get about 200 at-bats to prove his case. His impressive performances in his weekly at-bat haven't let up this year, and at least one outfield spot should open up next season.
You can randomly cherry-pick late bloomers that range from occasional All-Stars to future members of the Hall of Very Good. When it comes to Linden, just getting an average right-fielder out of him would be a coup for the organization. Something more would be huge for a team trying to rebuild and contend at the same time. After two decades of farm system futility, expectations are rightfully modest. That should allow Linden to relax a bit.
The irony buzzer was set off by the last late bloomer link, because the link goes to the stats of a certain man-buzzard with a plummeting approval rating. Steve Finley hasn't hit for a good long while. Over the past 11 months of baseball, Finley has been an above-average hitter for just one of them. He's been a truly dreadful hitter for the majority of the past two seasons. There's a famous colloquial definition of insanity that describes it as doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results each time. I can't really write that Felipe Alou's insane, but he, at the very least, doesn't really care. Finley does not add anything of use right now, and he isn't going to be around next year. Randy Winn has been awful, but he's going to be around next year. Linden might not help the lineup right now, but he will be around next year. Those factors, combined with the minor fact that Finley has a bazillion dollar option that vests after he reaches 600 plate appearances, make it clear who should be losing out in the battle for playing time.
Hoping for a resolution in the short-term is hopeless, but hopefully the new manager will have an open mind next season. Will Linden be as good as Barry Bonds in his prime? Only time will tell. Actually, no, I'll field that one right now. No. The answer is no. But maybe he could perform somewhere between Stan Javier and Moises Alou. That's not too much to ask.