Before Carlos González of Maracaibo, Andres Galarraga of Caracas captured the hearts of Colorado fans, winning the first-ever MLB batting title by a criollo and playing five standout seasons. With a chance at becoming one of the all-time franchise greats, surpassing El Gato and others, will Cargo stay, or will Cargo go?
González is a silent superstar: if he continues to play complete seasons–last year’s 153 games was a high-water mark–he’ll average 30 home runs, 30 doubles and close to 100 RBI. Until he dinged his knee at age 27 he was stealing 20 bases a season, too. He’s paid well for this, making $17 million this year, and $20 million next.
But even after a 459-foot homer on Tuesday, Cargo stood in the shadows. Two innings later Mark Reynolds drilled one 484 feet. In the off-season, instead of receiving some props for his first 40-home run season, the train wreck of Jose Reyes arrest and suspension dominated Denver baseball headlines; this spring, Reyes’ substitute, Trevor Story, merely set the NL home run record for rookie shortstops.
The slender maracucho patrols the outfield expertly, reminding some of another #5 who wore pinstripes, Joe DiMaggio (OK, Joe D didn’t wear purple pinstripes, but…). Maybe he reminds you of a player of more recent vintage, the once-agile Carlos Beltran, an excellent fielder to a certain point in his career, and still a dangerous batsman.
Cargo has three Gold Gloves, a batting title, and has played in three All Star games. Yet, in nearly nine seasons he’s played in just four playoff games. Apparently this stings his competitive nature, so he may be open to a trade, out of the rarefied air of Denver and into the heat –and media cauldron–of an actual playoff contender.
In 19 seasons, The Big Cat never played in the World Series. After seeing countrymen Alcides Escobar and Salvador Pérez celebrate with Kansas City last season, Carlos might be thinking how nice it could be to bask in the glow of the ultimate baseball triumph.