People are starting to talk.
And by “people”, I mean the kind of baseball fan who casually glances at stats or catches morning highlights, sees or hears the name “Chris Taylor” at the top of many offensive lists and says to him or herself “Who is Chris Taylor?”.
It is a fair question, but not to those of us who will one day be able to say we “knew him when”.
Let’s revisit last season for a brief moment.
It’s July 15, 2016, and the Dodgers are playing in Arizona. Bud Norris is on the mound, and the boys in blue have just returned from the All-Star Break 6.5 games behind their NL West rival Giants. We have no way of knowing this at the time, but the team is about to embark on a memorable 2nd half comeback and overtake the Giants by the third week of August. Before that, however, there is much work to be done, with many improbable things still yet to occur.
And that night, improbable things occur, mainly in the form of a then relatively unknown fresh young face named Chris Taylor who had recently come over from the Mariners for one-time prospect Zach Lee and was starting at second base. Taylor proceeds to have a (then) career night, coming up a single shy of the cycle, blasting a dramatic late-inning grand slam and driving in six runs in total. Dodgers Twitter erupts.
Taylor would go on to bounce most of the season between OKC and LA, not making the playoff roster, and beyond his big night in Arizona, not do much of anything memorable at the plate. He did, as many fans could attest to, become a player who was easy to root for and was always a welcome sight in the lineup, which is why his excellent, consistent offensive and defensive play in spring training this year was such a pleasant surprise.
One of the most fun parts of being a Dodgers fan, in this writer’s opinion, is that you really just never know what’s going to happen. In the first week of the season I put out a list of wishes/predictions for the season, and although the team entered the season stacked with depth and high expectations, not a single thought was paid to listing Chris on my list of amazing feats that were going to take place this year. This is not to say that he didn’t impress during spring training. In one of the three fantasy drafts I entered this season, mainly on a whim, I picked Taylor as my utility player, having been so impressed with what I saw in that month before the season began.
Not many experts/pundits/fans could have predicted this, though.
Less than a year after that near-cycle in Arizona, Chris is on a tear, having remastered his swing, and is now authoring the kind of at-bats that make fans sit up and take notice, most recently with another late-inning grand slam vs the Brewers. I had that game temporarily on mute as I had supper with friends, and remember glancing at the game and thinking they were showing a replay of last year’s grand slam in Arizona, briefly thinking “There’s no way he can do it again, can he?”. Answer: yes, he sure can, and he sure did.
As a Dodgers fan, one quickly becomes accustomed to often being a lone torch bearer in a parade full of fans from other teams, often east coast teams who tend to get more attention and press than our boys do. My theory is that this is why we can often feel overprotective of our troops if and when we hear so-called expert analysts trash the team, or comment on something we don’t feel they have knowledge on. Recently, though, there’s almost a feeling of pride when we hear Chris’ name mentioned by analysts not associated with the Dodgers – like watching one of our own grow up and do well in the big world.
Now, if someone were to ask you about “Chris Taylor’s grand slam”, and you just smile and reply “Which one?”, you can truly say that you knew him when.
With various players returning from and heading to the DL, how will Taylor continue to fit into this team? Only time will tell. The truth is, anything is possible in this Dave Roberts era. Regardless of his role on the team – official or Roberts-ized, Chris Taylor has already endeared himself to fans across Dodgers Nation. We now just have to learn how to share yet another talented, productive star on the rise with the rest of the baseball world.
Fortunately, this fanbase has a lot of experience with that. (But we saw him first!)