Thinking back, it’s difficult to wrap my mind around just how poorly Casey McGehee’s season has gone. Sure, it’s been the biggest consistent issue with the team, and his numbers stick out like a broken thumb. Scrolling through his game log, there’s only been one stretch in which McGehee had anything close to consistent success, and that was an eight-game hitting streak in mid-June. Over that stretch, McGehee had a line of .281/.303/.375 — hardly any better before, and still devoid of any real power.
I think, then, we as fans can be forgiven for not expecting much out of Casey McGehee’s pinch-hit appearance in the seventh inning of Wednesday night’s game. Many expected the inning-ending, game-deflating double play; some optimists merely expected a strikeout. Especially after McGehee hit what looked a potential go-ahead double to the right field corner landed inches foul, it seemed like an out was inevitable. Except, as you most likely know, McGehee turned back the clock to May 20th and hit what turned out to be the game-winning three-run home run.
That’s right — McGehee’s home run was his first in a whopping 46 days. And that’s the real reason why so many, including myself, have been so reluctant to believe that McGehee can actually turn the corner. His power numbers were always the shakiest part of his unlikely rise to becoming a Major League starter — he hit all of 32 homers between 2006-2008 in the Cubs’ minor league system — and although power numbers aren’t terribly predictive early on, it was scary to see McGehee lose the ability to put the ball over the fence.
And don’t think Casey doesn’t understand this himself. For as flat as the call of the home run was on the MLB.com broadcast, they got it right with this quote: “If there was ever a player who needed something like that, in this kind of roll…” — and here’s where McGehee slams his helmet to the ground in some combination of frustration and joy and relief — “It’s that guy.”
Personally, I’m not fully read to believe yet. One home run is hardly anything in the long run, even though it meant everything on Tuesday. But there’s a glimmer of hope now, and at least McGehee is giving the optimist in me a reason to think good things can still happen at the plate when Casey is at the bat.