Adam Eaton received his first award as a member of the White Sox on Tuesday, and it's for a role he was born to play. The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association selected Eaton as the team's recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award, meaning he'll be among 30 finalists for the overall award on Nov. 18.
As you might expect, he's pretty pumped about it:
"I'm pumped. My wife and I talked about it today, and it's my first big league trophy, which is kind of cool," Eaton said. "I'm honored. I remember Willie Bloomquist getting it last year when we were in Arizona, and for me it's something you should get every year.
"If you're playing the right way and healthy, and doing what you should be doing, you should definitely compete for that trophy every year. I'm very pleased, and I feel like I'm in with some good company. You've got to play hard every day, and I'm blessed to have the opportunity, and I'm excited."
The hustle half of Eaton's game has been the subject of some discussion, as he's battled a number of aches and pains over the season. He revealed a new one earlier this week, as he's been playing with an injured middle finger on his right (non-throwing) hand, which he suffered during a headfirst slide in Boston two weeks ago.
There seems to be a conflict of terminology regarding the finger. Daryl Van Schouwen said Eaton "confirmed the break" and quoted Daryl Boston calling it "broken," but Doug Padilla referred to it as "jammed," and relayed the fullest quote from Eaton on the subject:
"Gosh, yeah uh, no, I'm fine," he said. "It's not broke. It's just hurt. I'm fine. I don't even want to talk about it. Let's not talk about it. We're good."
Whatever it is, you can look at it in two ways.
Glass half empty: It's yet another injury to add to the list, along with leg, ankle, foot and neck problems at various points this year, which makes it difficult to pencil him in for 140+ games from season to season.
Glass half full: He's playing some of his best baseball despite the bad digit. He's reached base 22 times (15 hits, five walks, one HBP) over the last nine games, raising his OBP 21 points in the process.
You can definitely see the effects of the finger on his spray chart, because he really hasn't been able to pull the ball in the air this month. That also explains the rare feet-first slide into second on a stolen-base attempt. He might not understand the incentive of the allegedly safer method, though, since the throw still drilled him in the head.
Fortunately, Eaton's game centers entirely around getting on base and playing a reliable center field, and it hasn't affected those at all. We've seen some players in the past -- Scott Podsednik comes to mind -- where they had to be at or near 100 percent in order to produce, and the effort to stay in the lineup hurt more than it helped, because the diminished production could've been replaced from the bench. That's not the case with Eaton from what we've seen, so while it still may be exhausting to account for all his bumps, bruises and strains, he makes matters a lot simpler if all he has to do is show up.