Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 4/11/12
The Astros need to beat the Braves Wednesday night to take both their opening series to start the 2012 season. One big reason why last year's 106 game losers have that chance is coming from the bat of Carlos Lee. Often maligned for his real or perceived lack of hustle in the past it can not be denied that Lee can still hit the ball better than the average player. In the final year of his whopping multi-year contract that is paying him in the neighborhood of 19-million this season, Lee has been playing and acting well under his 36 years. Tuesday night he went to the plate five times. He was on base five times with two walks and three singles. Two of those hits produced runs. Carlos leads the Astros with six runs batted in after five games. What is more important is that half of those RBIs have come with two outs. The Astros have seven two-out RBIs this year, but Lee has more than one. He rushed a throw and threw the ball poorly on a play at the plate allowing Michael Bourn to score in the seventh inning and was gunned down at the plate himself when he tried to score on a slow grounder to third hit by Chris Snyder in the second inning. So even with his five times on base and two RBIs his game on Tuesday was not flawless. He has brought leadership and yes, hustle, to the young Astros and so far is a role model to be followed. Maybe it is because he is the senior player by a large margin on the second youngest roster in baseball. Maybe it is because he sees the end may be in sight for his career. Once his contract expires after the season he had told many that he plans to retire to his ranches in Texas and Panama and ride horses every day. Maybe he sees that if he wants to change his mind and play more he needs to change perceptions. Astro fans know what those perceptions are. Carlos Lee can hit, but doesn't always (or often) hustle. Carlos Lee is a liability on defense. Carlos Lee cares little about what goes on in the clubhousehe just shows up in time to do the job and nothing more. Whether or not those accusations are or were accurate is debateable. So far in 2012 the only one that fits is: Carlos Lee can hit. The senior member of the team has been a mentor for rookie shortstop Marwin Gonzalez on matters of hitting. What he has been teaching must work. Gonzalez has had four hits in his last seven at bats. Lee has also counseled outfielder Brian Bogusevic who is still trying to get going with some consistency after a strong finish last season and a very strong winter league. Lee is in actuality a happy go lucky guy who plays the percentages. He knows how fast he has to run to get to a ball and make a play. He knows when false hustle is just to make him look good, but really not productive. The problem is that when he measures his running effort it appears to be lack of hustle. Of course, Carlos does hurt himself at times when his judgment is wrong. On Tuesday he hit a ball that appeared to him and most others to be heading out of the ballpark. It took him several steps out of the batter's box before he turned on his full running speed. The ball hit off the wall, but Carlos could not advance past first base. Had he gotten to second a single hit by Chris Johnson later in the inning would have driven in two runs and not just one. The Astros would have tied the game. Instead they fell one run short. Carlos Lee is hardly a perfect player. Even as a hitter in his prime he was step behind the superstars. Lee, however, is a good person who loves the game. And if a team needs a run batted in with two out Carlos Lee is a pretty strong candidate to get the job done.
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