As legend goes, on May 30th, 1982, Orioles utility infielder, Lenn Sakata was so inspired by the hit film of the day, Conan the Barbarian, that he dressed in animal skin Jockey underwear “borrowed” from Jim Palmer and carried a cardboard sword into the locker room. Now whether Cal Ripken (then Cal Ripken Jr.) knew the power in that cardboard sword or if he was just patronizing Sakata no one knows, but Ripken knelt on the floor in front of Sakata and asked him to touch his shoulder with the cardboard sword. With a grand gesture, that was probably unnecessary, Sakata obliged. As we all know, May 30th, 1982 began The Streak. On the record, Ripken thanked his family and teammates for their support for making The Streak possible. Off the record, of course, Ripken knew it was Lenn Sakata that forever changed history. This year, Lenn Sakata returned to the Orioles locker room, dressed in only faux leather boots and a loincloth. Most of the Orioles thought Sakata was a homeless person that snuck past security… Some thought he was the Asian guy from The Hangover… But Matt Wieters knew different. Before security could escort Sakata out, Wieters knelt in front of him and asked Lenn to touch him with the cardboard sword. The same cardboard sword that once touched Ripken’s shoulder. (It also touched a young Jeffrey Hammonds’s shoulder. Nevertheless…) For the superstitious, this is enough for Matt Wieters to be a 2010 fantasy baseball keeper, but for the non-believers, let’s look at some other reasons.
In nearly 700 plate appearances in the minor leagues, Wieters had a line of .343/.438/.576. At 6 feet 5 inches, he had some saying he was “Mauer with power.” Turns out Mauer had power, which worked out for those who love to rhyme, and Wieters had rookie hiccups. It wasn’t until the tail end of the year when Wieters started to show some of his promise, hitting .362/.425/.511 in September. In 2010, Wieters could get to a line of 70/17/85/.300. If those numbers look familiar, you might be Pablo Sandoval. Check your midsection for confirmation. That was near my 2009 projections for Sandoval; Wieters isn’t far off. Those numbers are also a baseline. There’s definite upside. So there may just be magic in that cardboard sword of Lenn Sakata. Heaven knows there’s magic in his loincloth.