Jeff Baker is looking forward to having a legitimate shot at winning the starting 2nd base job for the Chicago Cubs during the 2010 MLB schedule. The Cubs acquired Baker from the Colorado Rockies in early July 2009 and he performed well for the Cubs in the 2nd half of the season. In August, Baker excelled with a .359 batting average in 64 at-bats. He followed that up with a .295 batting average in September. Overall, Baker played in 69 games for the Cubs, hitting .305 in 203 at-bats. Baker had a .362 on-base percentage with 4 HR’s, 15 doubles and 21 RBI’s.
Contrast that with Mike Fontenot who had a horrible year in 2009 – .236 batting average, .301 on-base percentage, 9 HR’s, 43 RBI’s in 377 at-bats in 135 games – and you could see a hard-fought battle in Spring Training next month. Fontenot had hit .305 with a .395 on-base percentage in 2008 and he had earned the starting 2nd base job to start off the season.
For Baker, this is a step in the right direction. Baker also sat 2nd fiddle to Rockies 3rd baseman Garrett Atkins in Colorado. Although he tried to break through by learning to play 2nd base and the outfield, he never saw enough action in Denver. Baker is excited about the opportunity that has presented itself with the Cubs and he has a positive attitude about the competition with Fontenot: “The bottom line is it’s about the team winning. Guys who you’re competing with for the same spot, you’re still good friends and the competition doesn’t change anything. As long as Mike and I have the same mindset that it’s about what’s best for the team and about what’s best for the team that day, I don’t think anything will change. We’re both professional players and we both want to win.”
Baker also cherishes the idea of earning a starting spot at the major league level: “Coming over here was a fresh start and an opportunity for me. The one thing I’ve noticed about the Cubs is if you play well, you’ll get the opportunity to play. I’m going to try to take advantage of it and I’m going to go out there and go 100 percent. It’s not going to be from a lack of effort or lack of preparation… I always prepare like I’m going to be a starter. I believe I can play every day in the big leagues and I can be productive and help a team win… The opportunity to start doesn’t come along too often. I’ve been fighting for one my whole career…it’s something I’m going to try to gran hold of tight and not let go.”
Gotta love his preparation and his attitude. I’d love to see Baker win the starting job. I never thought Fontenot was built to be an everyday player and his numbers last year proved that. Now I don’t know Baker well enough to project whether he will be able to handle the everyday load either, but I hope he beats out Fontenot this spring and at least gets a chance to show his stuff. Fontenot is solid off the bench and if he can get back in that role where he gets between 250-300 at-bats during the course of a season, I think his production will also improve. Let’s just hope they both stay healthy and can compete on even ground in Spring Training 2010…