Elite Power Hitter Nelson Cruz

Nelson Cruz is a big man, with a big swing. He often gets big results.

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Don't bet against Nelson Cruz.

I've followed the Texas Rangers since 1986. So for 30 years I've watched Texas Rangers baseball live and on television. I listen to the Hall of Fame voice of Eric Nadel on the radio too sometimes. So I'm maybe more familiar with Nelson Cruz than some other people are.

I'm a smart guy, so I think of myself as right more often than not. I'm often wrong, that's part of being human. Anyway, I was wrong about Nelson Cruz on more than one occasion. When the Rangers first started flirting with Cruz as a full time part of the team, I didn't think it would work out. I didn't like the way he stood in the batter's box. I didn't like his swing. I thought Nelson Cruz looked kinda clumsy at bat.

But I was wrong. I was pleasantly surprised at my wrongness as Cruz turned into a monster power hitter. An integral part of two Texas Rangers teams to make the World Series, Nelson Cruz proved one hell of a clutch bat. Then came the failed drug test, and this came after Cruz had misplayed some essential fly balls in the World Series.

So I felt justified all over again for not thinking Nelson Cruz would pan out. Major League Baseball brass determined Cruz needed to serve a 50 game suspension for the failed urine analysis. Cruz could have chosen to serve the suspension the first 50 games of the next season. He could have helped the team finish out the season, maybe the Rangers could have again made the playoffs. Cruz chose instead to start serving his suspension right away. So I felt like he'd done the team wrong. The Rangers had gave Cruz the opportunity to become a star, and this is how he repays us?

Young Nelson Cruz while with the Milwaukee Brewers.

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Nelson Cruz is actually Nelson Cruz Jr. He's from an intellectual family in the Dominican Republic.

Nelson Cruz has had his best seasons after he left the Texas Rangers. He's had his best seasons after he was busted for using performance enhancing drugs. It seems clear he never needed those drugs, as he's become a better player after surely letting them go by the wayside.

The only way to see the situation is the PEDs weren't necessary. Maybe they'd given Cruz some sort of psychological mojo. He's certainly a better player now.

Nelson was seemingly born to be a baseball player. His father, Nelson Cruz Sr., was a professional baseball player in the Dominican Republic. Nelson Jr. comes from an intellectual family, both of his parents became professors.

But Nelson Jr. preferred basketball. He was also a crafty young man. He worked as both a mechanic and a cobbler. Nelson Jr. is now a wealthy man, but he's not forsaken the neighborhood he came from. He'd at one point donated a large sum of cash for the town's acquisition of a fire truck.

Massive and tremendously strong, Cruz became known for launching 'Cruz Missiles.'

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Trading Cruz to Texas was a bad trade for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Originally Cruz was drafted by the Mets, but then he became part of the Oakland Athletics organization, and then on to the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Nelson made his Major League debut with the Brewers, and got his first Big League hit in a game with them. But he first truly made his mark as a member of the Texas Rangers.

The trade sending Carlos Lee, who was certainly a slugger not to be sneezed at, and Cruz to Texas for a package of prospects,Kevin Mench, and hard thrower Fransisco Cordero - is now thought to be one of the worst trades in recent years. Worst for the Brewers' end of things, best for what the Rangers got out of Nelly Cruz.

Early on everyone could see what a big power hitting prospect the Rangers had seemingly got for free. Like Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz was a sleeper, or late bloomer. He was a brainy kid with a lot of athletic talent, so it took him a while to put it all together. Nelson came to the Rangers organization in 2006, but he'd not see much playing time in the Major Leagues until later.

He swings the bat like a war hammer. Like a giant club. My impression was that his swing was all wrong, his open stance was too open, and that he'd wind up striking out so much nothing would come of him. Well, Nelson proved me wrong. People started saying that Cruz was the strongest man in the Major Leagues. Oh he's hugely strong, but any time you say a guy is the strongest man in a big sport like baseball, there's going to be another guy just as big and strong.

Nellie had a huge season in triple A in 2008, winning the Pacific Coast League MVP with 37 home runs. He was also batting a huge .341. It would be 2009 when Cruz would get his big breaks though. He got a lot of at bats with the Rangers in 2007, but didn't show much power. In 2008 with the Rangers, he didn't wow folks either, but in 2009 he was playing full time and playing well. He made the All Star team, and placed second to Prince Fielder in the All Star home run derby.

Big Nelson Cruz hitting a big fly.

2011 ALCS Nelson Cruz walk off grand slam Texas Rangers vs Detroit Tigers

Nelson Cruz with the Texas Rangers.

In 2009 Nellie proved to be a legit power hitter. He hit 33 home runs from deep in the Rangers batting order. So he didn't get a lot of runs batted in, but his 76 for the season were very appreciated. He also batted a respectable .260, and though his strikeout total was over a hundred, he wasn't the sort of guy who you thought badly of for striking out so much. He's not a three true outcomes guy, like Chris Davis.

In 2010 the Rangers would make the post season. This wasn't something anyone truly expected out of them then. The Rangers playing post season ball isn't something one thinks of as a team tradition. Cruz was playing like a true star then. He just had to spend time on the disabled list. His production per the playing time he got was outstanding. He even batted over .300. His on base plus slugging was a stupendous .950. The problems came in when you analyzed Cruz's fielding. Or to be more honest, just watched him play the field. He wasn't someone who could be counted on to track a fly ball so well. His range was also poor.

It would be the 2011 World Series where Nelson would prove he was no outfielder. We may seem to be unfair here, but there is nothing fair in sports, not when you gaffe badly in the World Series. Sports Illustrated would term Cruz's defense as unforgivable.

In 2011 Nelson played more than in 2010. He dealt with some injuries in 2011 too, but he got more playing time. His production was fine, but less per time played than the previous season. He hit 29 home runs, and drove in 87. He'd moved closer to the middle of the Texas lineup. His batting average and OPS were less than in 2010 though.

Despite how disappointed everyone in Texas was with the outcome of the 2011 World Series, we can't blame the loss on Nelson Cruz, as we'd likely have never seen the Rangers in either the 2010 or 2011 World Series without Cruz's 'cruise missiles' - but the point was observed he'd serve best as designated hitter. What was truly devastating to the Texas Rangers was the Nelson Cruz positive urinary analysis in 2013. And Cruz left the team in the lurch, opting to end his season to begin serving his 50 game suspension.

The Wikipedia page on Nelson Cruz, at the time of this writing, is terrible in comparison to what is there for other comparable Major League players. There is little there read about Nelson's time as a Texas Ranger. Other things stated as fact seem very dubious. There is a line on the page claiming Cruz is only the second right handed batter to hit a ball into the second deck of the right field bleachers at Globe Life Park. This is untrue. There have been few, but more than two balls hit in that area by right handed batters.

Nelson Cruz becomes an elite slugger with the Baltimore Orioles.

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Nelson Cruz and his 'boom stick' in 2014 with the Baltimore Orioles.

Nelson Cruz goes to Baltimore, proves things to the world.

Nelson Cruz was already a proven performer. A proven power hitter, but his problem was he'd just been busted with a performance enhancing drug in his system. So for there on out, Cruz is going to be pulled for a urinary analysis more frequently. Major League Baseball is not playing around with players insofar as the use of PEDs goes. Baltimore's Chris Davis got popped for a drug legal in baseball, Chris just hadn't filled out all the forms.

So Cruz signed with Baltimore knowing he couldn't use any sort of steroid or hormone again. We in Texas, including this writer, felt like the Orioles were likely to get something less than we'd seen from Nellie here in Texas. Also, he's not a great outfielder.

Cruz proved us all wrong. He became a better player in Baltimore than he'd ever been in Texas. He also started getting paid like a star. He signed with the Orioles for $8 million dollars. One season contract. Nelson had things to prove to the Big Leagues, and probably himself. He damned sure proved those things. He wound up leading not just the American League in home runs, but the Major Leagues, with 40. Now forty home runs doesn't cut it some seasons, but it did that season. He helped the Orioles to the playoffs, where Nellie promptly kept up his post season image, hitting a home run off of ace Max Scherzer. Nelson is now literally tied with Babe Ruth in post season home runs. He's a clutch performer, and the playoffs bring out the best in his hitting abilities.

Nelson Cruz with the Seattle Mariners in 2015.

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Autographed Nelson Cruz Jersey - BOOMSTICK!!! ALT - PSA/DNA Certified - Autographed MLB Jerseys

Signed Nelson Cruz Photo - BOOMSTICK!!! Walkoff 11x14 #1 - PSA/DNA Certified - Autographed MLB Photos

Nelson Cruz - the boom-stick.

Nelson Cruz is a big strong guy, and of course he can look as intimidating as hell itself. He's strong as an ox. But he's a nice guy. He's also a lot more intelligent than you would automatically assume. I don't know if other people do this, but I don't just up and assume any athlete has much in the way of brains. Athletes are mostly bodies, so to speak. Well, Nelson is a smart man too.

He also can light up a room with his smile when he's happy and things are going celebratory in direction on the field. Baltimore paid him 8 million for a season of service, and he more than returned the value for them. He also helped himself tremendously, as he moved on to Seattle for a bigger and longer contract. He's also another of those guys we seem to be seeing more and more in baseball who beats the age curve, gets better in the years past the athletic prime years. Maybe the whole idea of the athletic prime from between 27 and 32 years of age is off now. But baseball is forever a statistical analysis in motion, so all statistics will be evaluated as the accrue

In any event, the Seattle Mariners signed him to a four year and $57 million dollar deal. His first year in Seattle showed he earned the pay, at least last year, he did. Rudy Jaramillo can likely be attributed with loads and loads of the progress Cruz has made late in life by MLB age standards. I'm nowhere nearly alone in thinking, as I did back in 2009, Cruz looked very awkward in the batters box Like he was holding a cudgel and not a baseball bat. Of course now he's famously said to be holding a boom-stick. Something of a rare player specific term, used almost exclusively for Nelson Cruz.

So Cruz started his career kinda late. I bet against him twice, and lost. He had his best season last year at 35 years of age, 44 home runs, I won't make the mistake again. I hope for the best for Nellie, just so long as he's not playing against Texas. Thanks for reading.

Nelson Cruz 'boom stick' highlights in 2015.

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