Player to Be Named Later: The tantalizing tease of Jayson Nix
A couple weeks back, a friend of mine suggested I check out Jayson Nix for my fantasy baseball teams (the friend's in a different league, obviously). My pal was intrigued, because Nix had seemed to have come from nowhere, hit his first homer of the year in just his third game, and showed a bit of speed on the paths. Jayson is also the younger brother of Cincinnatti Reds outfielder Laynce Nix, brothers united not just by blood, but by unnecessary y's, which appeals to me, aesthetically. Nix is a natural second baseman, but what's most tantalizing about him is that he possesses that beautiful—if slightly overrated—rare commodity: multi-positionality.
Since being called up on May 3, Nix has started two games at second base, two at third base, three at shortstop and now, thanks to last night, one in centerfield. This is the sort of thing that really only baseball can offer us: a hydra-headed monster who fights for the good guys. The multi-positional player fits into all of those important myths we recite for each other about baseball: It's "gutty," it's the same in the arena as it is on the playground, it's an everyman's game so long as every man isn't taking syringes to the glutes. It also allows us to believe that it's more valuable than, say, having a solid starting second baseman, shortstop, third baseman and centerfielder. Why bother with those tired, one-dimensional players, when we have this dimension-expanding paradigm crusher to disrupt the continuum? It's like the ultimate software upgrade. And Nix not only fits the bill, at 5'11" he's small enough that we can call him "scrappy," another important mythological baseball trait. The Trib can call him a "jack of all trades." But what if he isn't that good?
Nix couldn't hold down a job on a pretty thin Colorado team last year. He hit 20 homers only once in eight minor league seasons, and that was in high-A ball in 2003. He has some speed, and can take some walks–invaluable to a team with a stalled offense like the Sox. But I'm not buying the idea that this guy is the Sox's answer to the multi-positional maniac Mark DeRosa, who the Cubs are sorely missing nowadays. DeRosa has been a bona fide major leaguer for years. So we shouldn't expect too much from Nix, aside from some always entertaining lineup-card cross-hatches. He's never played the outfield before this year, and it's not as easy to just become an outfielder in the majors as we'd like to believe.
That's not to say I don't believe in Nix. I just don't believe that having an unproven player who can take that unproven play into the outfield is as valuable as we like to think. But I like that he stole two bases Monday night, and I'm rooting for him. These scrappy guys who you can plug in anywhere, they're what myths are made of.