Since the Marlins broke out of their June slump, a versatile player has emerged as leader and producer. Standing at a mere 5’11” and weighing in at 200 pounds, Emilio Bonifacio has made his presence felt in the Florida clubhouse. His recent success has resulted in attention – attention a little guy like Bonifacio hasn’t received since the opening week of 2009.
Emilio Bonifacio is in the middle of a 24 game hit streak. Actually, I hope it’s not even the middle yet. Bonifacio’s versatility and under-the-radar status have aided him in his game. Bonifacio’s game? Well, Emilio doesn’t rely on power, or blasting the gaps, or scaring pitchers, or anything today’s big name superstars use. He plays the game with raw hard work and speed. Speed is something every sport needs. In today’s world, everything revolves around time: time for work, time for the game, time in transportation. And all speed does is add extra time.
There’s no clock in baseball; therefore, time gets overlooked. But in baseball, every little opportunity can be translated into time. Speed gives more time, speed results in opportunities.
Imagine this: Emilio Bonifacio leads off a game in which Josh Johnson (magically uninjured and an All-Star) faces Roy Halladay, and let’s make this happen on May 29, 2010. So Bonifacio leads off, and unable to make solid contact against Roy Halladay, chops a little ground ball over the pitcher’s mound. Jimmy Rollins fields the ball and sees Bonifacio blazing down the line – he has to hurry. Rollins’ grip on the ball is not ideal and throws wide of the bag forcing Ryan Howard off. Speed is how Bonifacio got on base.
Then with Gaby Sanchez batting, Emilio Bonifacio steals second base, reading Halladay perfectly. Smart baseball. This is made possibly by patience: Emilio waits for a good pitch in the count to run on, and then makes his move. Now there is a runner on second with nobody out. Good position, right?
Gaby Sanchez grounds out to the second baseman allowing Boni to get to third. Runner on third, one out, all without a ball reaching the outfield. Hanley Ramirez bounces out to shortstop, but Bonifacio is able to make it home. Jorge Cantu strikes out. The Fish got one hit, an infield hit, and one run.
The Marlins lead 1-0 going into the third inning. With one out, Wilson Valdez singles to centerfield. Chase Utley then hits a line drive to center, backing up Cameron Maybin who is just barely able to make the catch. Two outs. (On May 29th 2010, Ryan Howard was then intentionally walked and the next two batters struck out). So let’s just say Howard struck out. Marlins lead 1-0 still.
The ninth inning comes, and Roy Halladay has thrown 8 innings of one-hit baseball. That one hit, and infield hit to Bonifacio. Leo Nuñez shuts down the Phillies. Bam! Now there are still only 19 perfect games in major league history. Why? Because of speed.
Unfortunately, what actually occurred on May 29, 2010 was a perfect game by Roy Halladay. Bonifacio didn’t even play.
The other decisive factor in this game was in the third inning when Cameron Maybin misplayed Chase Utley’s liner to centerfield. Had he caught the ball, (seemingly) the game would have been 0-0 after 9 innings.
As of July 23, 2011, Emilio Bonifacio has hit safely in 21 straight games. During that span, his on-base percentage is .472. He has a .382 average to go along with 18 runs scored over those 21 games. I personally hope that Bonifacio beats Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak of 56 games. This would skyrocket the value of Boni’s signature, which I have found to be easily attainable at Marlins games.
He’s one of the most enjoyable players to watch. He’ll give every play his all, running out even the most hopeless of ground balls. His performance in the opening week of 2009 was spectacular, highlighted by an inside-the-park home run. For a player that has hit just one over-the-fence homer in his career, Bonifacio is surprisingly successful.
The utility player began his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but played in just 19 games with them in 2007 and part of ’08. He was then traded to the Nationals where he flourished as a promising, versatile asset. After the 2008 season, the Nats dealt him to Florida, along with several other prospects, in exchange for Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham.
In Florida, Alfredo Amezega was experiencing a downfall. Amezega was frequently sidelined by injuries and Bonifacio was the perfect replacement. When Olsen and Willingham were dealt to D.C., I don’t think the Marlins ever envisioned Boni becoming the all-around player he is, but they’ll certainly take it.
Speed is his game. Hard work is his religion. And success is what has become of him.