The story of Hanser Alberto has been retold more times than “The Night Before Christmas.” Except this one is less believable.
A rotund old man in a red suit with flying reindeer sliding down chimneys to hand out gifts to millions of children? Sure, it’s plausible. Even the part about the milk and cookies at every stop.
But Alberto has a chance to win a batting title.
Alberto was selected off waivers four times since November. The Orioles grabbed him, let him go in spring training and claimed him again.
One offseason turned him into a journeyman.
Alberto was a career .192/.210/.231 hitter in 192 plate appearances with the Rangers. He entered last night leading the majors with a .415 average against left-handers and situated in fourth place in the American League batting race.
Mike Elias, hired as the Orioles executive vice president/general manager, is a highly intelligent man with a degree from Yale University. He’s responsible for Alberto being in the organization twice and he never saw this coming.
“I did not expect him to compete for the batting title, but it’s been unbelievable,” Elias said. “I think he’s been a real bright spot for us and he’s exactly what I was talking about. You make some waiver claims, you give some guys some playing time and you never know what’s going to happen.
“He’s somebody that if you look at his minor league and winter league record, he has kind of a knack for winning the batting title everywhere he goes. He does it with a lot of singles and without striking out a lot and a lot of good contact. I just think he’s somebody that’s able to put the barrel on the baseball.”
Gently if you check his exit velocities, though he’s hit 11 home runs this season after producing none with the Rangers.
Alberto should be able to hold a job strictly on his battering of southpaws.
“I don’t know what it is with the left-handed pitching, but that’s really impressive and the energy level that he’s brought to the team I think has been palpable,” Elias said.
“Very excited that we have him. We’re going to keep moving him around defensively and working with him on his defense, but he’s another young guy, 25 years old, that has done about as much as anybody with the opportunity he’s been given here in Baltimore.”
None of it would be happening here if the Giants had held onto Alberto after claiming him Feb. 22. Or the Rangers or Yankees.
The Yankees designated him in order to make room for Zack Britton on the 40-man roster. The Orioles claimed Alberto on Jan. 11 and designated catcher Andrew Susac, then designated him the following month to create space for reliever Josh Osich, who had been obtained from the Giants.
In baseball’s weird circle of life, the Giants selected Alberto off waivers and the Orioles got him back a week later while designating reliever Donnie Hart.
“You saw he got waived a few times this offseason,” Elias said. “The reason that teams do that is they’re trying to get a guy through waivers, so there was a period of time where he appeared to be somebody that you might strategically be able to pass through waivers.
“We tried it. It didn’t work. I kicked myself very hard when that happened and as soon as he went back on waivers again, we felt that we had lucked out and grabbed him right away. It’s a risk you take when you’re trying to game the waiver system over the offseason.”