What is it about Will Venable that draws us in to love him so much? Maybe it can't be put in words, but if it can, Michael Bates will give it his best effort right now.
Dear Will Venable,
This is going to sound creepier than I want it to, but I love you. I do.
Not in a romantic way, obviously. I don't think we're soul mates or anything. How could we be? We've never met each other; frankly, I don't think I could pick you out of a lineup if my life depended on it. I mean, I kind of know what you look like since I've seen you play baseball on my TV on occasion, but I've never seen you out of uniform and if I did I don't know that I'd regard you any differently than any other athletically-built mid-20s American male I come in contact with, which is to say, as a threat to my masculinity.
I don't know what you like to do in your spare time, what kind of music you like, whether you've gotten around to watching "Firefly" yet, or when you'd like to do that. I have all the DVDs, by the way, plus the movie, so if you want to come over and watch them that's fine. I'll just make some popcorn and...you know, that's ok. You're probably busy. And if we spent time together it would only ruin the illusion I have of you.
There were entire years where I didn't appreciate you like I should have. You were trying to get my attention with your solid rookie year. But I didn't give you the time of day back then. You're what I used to think of as a tweener; a guy who can't hack it in center field, but who doesn't really hit enough to play the corner. That was before the offensive environment around baseball took a nose dive, and we learned about how valuable good defenders at the outfield corners could be.
Guys like you used to be horribly overvalued. Think about how much money the Diamondbacks sunk into Eric Byrnes or the Blue Jays and White Sox have spent on Alex Rios. Now, you guys tend to be underpaid since you're more likely to get non-tendered than receive a huge contract extension. Guys like Cody Ross, Nate McLouth, and David DeJesus bounce from team to team, never staying longer than a couple years. You have become a hole-filler, a stop-gapper, but you're still integral.
You also don't have one exceptional skill that casual fans would use to identify you or that tends to get you paid in arbitration. You are never going to blast 30 homers, or hit .320, or win a Gold Glove. You're probably never going to steal 50 bases or have an OBP over .360, yet you do so many things well enough that the sum of your above-average abilities makes you a very good player. You're Hunter Pence with an inferior publicist (and without the look of a homicidal drifter who's been featured on "Unsolved Mysteries.")
But it can never work between us, Will Venable. I love to gaze at your stat lines and think about what a big star you'd be in any other ballpark or media market, but I readily admit that I don't know you. I don't really know your faults like the people of San Diego do, and if I had to watch you on a regular basis, I might feel differently. Familiarity breeds contempt, whereas my distance breeds only pure, unbridled love. That love is not for the real Will Venable, whose warts I have trouble seeing from so far away, and who I might tire of like I did Jacque Jones. The love I have is for the two or three wins above replacement I've gotten to know through Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs. I think I'm not in love with you so much as I am in love with the idea of you, the hidden jewel of San Diego. I dare not ruin a love this pure and innocent by looking closer.