BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com writer
What are the odds of Shane Doan being recognized if he walked into any random supermarket around Phoenix at any point between 1996 and 2011? I’m not sure, he’s a big guy, but you could find plenty of 6-foot-2, 220-pound bros at your local gym. If you lined him up with Luis Gonzalez, Steve Nash, and Larry Fitzgerald, who do you think an average Arizona sports fan would gravitate to first?
Maybe at this point his popularity has increased incrementally, but over the past 15 years, given the amount of coverage the Phoenix Coyotes have received, I doubt Arizona fans have given Doan his proper due.
He’s the longest tenured professional athlete in Arizona sports today, and a last remaining member of the original Winnipeg Jets when they moved to downtown Phoenix in 1996, but I’m wondering how much he’s really appreciated overall. To give his time here some perspective, there are no current Expos with the Washington Nationals, and it’s been around seven years since that franchise moved from Montreal. You seldom get players to stick around in the same city for an extended period of time, and Doan has done it with the least popular franchise in Arizona.
How overshadowed has Doan been? Let’s think about the other three sports teams in Phoenix.
With the second basemen out of the way, its time to continue moving around the infield, this time stopping at the other middle infield position — shortstop. Here is writer Brett Murdock has to say about the position that is quickly turning into a hot commodity.
Hard to argue with this one, as the Colorado Rockies star is probably the most complete at his position in the big leagues. A powerful offensive weapon, ‘Tulo’ hit .302 last season with 30 long balls and 105 runs batted in, a new career high. For the past three years, he has finished in the Top 10 of MVP voting, finishing fifth twice (2009 and 2010) and has cut down on his strikeout totals tremendously. Injuries have hampered him as he has never played a full 162 games, but nobody really does anymore anyway. Additionally, Tulowitzki is a back-to-back Gold Glove winner and should be a strong MVP candidate again this year.
The Miami Marlins big free agent splash this winter came in the form of the Dominican speedster. Reyes won the National League batting crown last year, topping off at .337 for the season, a full 45 points better than his career average. Never known as a power hitter, Reyes relies on his other weapons, mainly his speed to get by. Injuries have stalled him in recent years but when healthy, he is one of the best base runners in the game. His fielding percentage is lower than what some might expect and his 18 errors last season tied a career high. But, he is a team’s offensive ignition and should be a good fit for the Marlins in a competitive NL East.