OK, I’m done. I’m through rationalizing this Greg Norton thing. At this late date, there can be no rationalizing it.
Greg Norton is hitting .147. He has 10 hits this season, two of them for extra bases, both of them doubles. He has driven in six runs. (If memory serves, it’s possible in baseball to drive in four runs with one swing.) His last RBI came Aug. 12, that on a walk. He’s pretty good at walking, at least when compared to hitting.
Greg Norton, simply put, might be the worst non-pitching hitter in the big leagues, and yet every game seems to come down to Norton standing in the batter’s box waggling his warclub. I’ve made every excuse possible for Bobby Cox — that Norton has a track record, at least in seasons past, as a pinch-hitter; that managers always prefer veterans to pinch-hit as opposed to younger players — but Wednesday’s game tore it for me.
Seventh inning, Braves down a run, one out, runners on first and third: Norton strides to the dish, waggles the warclub and, rather naturally, whiffs. The Braves eventually tie the game but wind up losing in the bottom of the ninth and fall four games back of Colorado. I’m not going to say Norton alone cost the Braves the game — Javier Vazquez wasn’t very good, and Mike Gonzalez yielded the game-winning homer to Wes Helms — but he contributed.
And now I’ve joined the chorus: Why is this man on the roster? Why is he given key at-bats when a mountain of evidence insists the best he can manage is a base on balls? Why does Cox keep deploying Norton to pinch-hit over Kelly Johnson or Brooks Conrad or — heck, I don’t know — Jair Jurrjens?
I have no answers, and on this burning issue I have crossed over to the other side. (Not that I was ever a Norton fan, but up till now I could at least see some logic. Now I see nada.) As Michael Corleone told his dad in the hospital just before Capt. McCluskey slugged him in the jaw: “I’m with you.”
Come to think of it, that’s not a bad image: Watching Greg Norton strike out is like getting punched in the jaw by Sterling Hayden.
(Now available! My slow-burning mind enflamed by this smoldering topic, I decided to expand the discussion. Who’s the biggest dud in local sports? Greg Norton’s name is mentioned, you should know.)