Second Base, Chicago Cubs
POB: Portland, Ore.
Height: 5-10 Weight: 180 lbs
Experience: Two Years
Drafted: Chicago Cubs, Fourth Round (127th overall)
Darwinism Takes Hold at Second in North Chicago
Darwin Barney’s walk-off homerun Wednesday night against the San Diego Padres was a firework of power from a second-year pro that has tended to light off more Blooming Flowers than M-80’s with just four homeruns over parts of three seasons.
At 18-32 through Thursday, the Cubs will take any spark that they can get, especally from their second baseman.
The story of Darwin Barney differs greatly from another Asian-American counterpart that caught fire in a major market.
His success has not been lightning in a bottle but rather a stable pulse for a team two games ahead of last in the National League.
The 26 year-old Chicago Cubs second baseman of Japanese and Korean descent has cultivated a small following in the Asian community for his ability to maintain consistency, a trait that’s been entrenched in his life from the start.
Barney’s upbringing resembles a former NL Central rival slugger, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire. Like Mark’s father John McGwire in southern California, David Barney was a prominent dentist, though in the Portland-area.
Coached by his father on many of his the locally-known “Dr. Barney” teams, Darwin excelled at baseball and basketball throughout grade school and middle school, before giving up hoops in high school. At Southridge High School, located 11 miles south of downtown Portland, Barney spearheaded the Skyhawks run to their first big-school state championship in 2002.
It was the first state championship of any kind in the school’s three-year history.
With the University of Oregon on its 28-year hiatus from baseball, and the University of Portland mired in mediocrity, Barney travelled south on Interstate 5 to Corvallis to play for the Beavers.
Under coach Pat Casey, Barney anchored the infield in the shortstop position and was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and was also named to the Freshman All-American team.
In 2006, Barney was a part of history as Oregon State went on an improbable run and became the first team in College World Series history to lose twice and still win the title. They also became the first Northern-based school to win the title since Ohio State in 1964.
His Beavers successfully defended the title in 2007.
Barney’s on-field successes were noticed as the Chicago Cubs took him in the fourth round (127th overall) of the 2007 MLB Draft. Barney rose up the farm system quickly and reached Triple-A with the Iowa Cubs in 2009 where he batted .293 in 137 games.
Although his play earned him an invite to the Cubs’ training camp the following year, he remained in Des Moines until August 11, 2010.
After the San Francisco Giants acquired Mike Fontenot in a late-season trade to bolster their World Series run, there was a spot for Barney in the final two months of the season. During the 30-game call up, Barney transitioned to second base and hit .241 while manning the right side of the infield.
In Sports Illustrated’s 2011 Baseball Preview, Darwin Barney was given little chance of cracking the Cubs roster, especially for the opening day starter.
The position was originally thought to be a stop gap that would feature veterans such as Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker after Barney’s forgetful 2010 outing.
In his first full month in the majors, Barney came out of the gate fast, as he hit .326 and smacked in 14 RBI’s. His numbers earned him National League Rookie of the Month honors for April.
While the numbers dissipated off the torrid pace over the season, Barney still finished the year going .276 at the plate with an on-base plus slugging (OPS) of .686 in 529 at-bats.
Despite the fact that the Cubs have been dreadful this 2012 season thus far, Barney’s numbers have improved. While batting .274, his OPS his .754 in 168 at-bats while hitting in the seventh spot on most days.
What remains to be seen is how Barney will fit into the plans at Wrigley Field under newly-minted executive Theo Epstein.
Despite the outcome, Northwest fans can be certain that ultimately darwinism will continue to hold true. If Barney continues to improve, there is little reason to doubt that he will be a solid contributor in years to come.