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Efren Navarro: the Angels’ latest outfielder-cult hero

For reasons that I have never fully grasped, Angels fans have a unique way of glomming onto an unheralded reserve outfielder and turning him into something of a cult hero among the fan base. The newest entry into this long lineage is non-prospect-first-baseman-turned-reserve-outfielder-fan-favorite (sorry, internet, I think I just used up the entire supply of hyphens), Efren Navarro.

Why has Efren captured the hearts of fans? I don’t really know. I don’t even know why predecessors like J.B. Shuck and Orlando Palmeiro have been so popular. That really leaves me no choice but to investigate.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels-Photo Day
J.B. Shuck
Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Never a top prospect
  • Undersized (not really, he’s 5’11 and 195 pounds, but people think he is undersized)
  • Fast (sort of, he doesn’t really steal bases)
  • Gritty
  • White
  • Goofy name (so many fun things rhyme with Shuck!)
  • Made highlight reel catch (sort of, it was overrated, but it covered up the fact that he’s a terrible defensive outfielder)
  • Good rookie season

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Reggie Willits
Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Never a top prospect
  • Homegrown talent
  • Undersized
  • Fast
  • Gritty
  • White
  • Ridiculous lip snarl while at-bat, despite being the opposite of intimidating due to his total lack of power
  • High socks
  • Literally lived in a batting cage
  • Goofy name (on name alone, everyone assumed he was black until he got called up and everyone saw him)
  • Good rookie season

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Tommy Murphy
Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Never a top prospect (sort of, he was a third round pick)
  • Homegrown talent
  • Small-ish
  • Fast
  • Gritty
  • White
  • High socks
  • Fun nickname (“Happy,” at least according to Rex Hudler)

Jeff Davanon
Jeff DaVanon
Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Never a top prospect
  • Fast
  • Gritty
  • White
  • Wore a double-earflap helmet
  • High socks
  • Kind of DERPy
  • Hit three homers in a game
  • Good rookie season

Orlando Palmeiro
Orlando Palmeiro
Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Never a top prospect
  • Homegrown talent
  • Undersized
  • Fast-ish
  • Gritty
  • Fun name (Orlando is unique and it rhymes well with Palmeiro)
  • 80-grade DADHAT
  • Good rookie season

The list goes on and on, but that at least covers the entirety of the 21st century. Compiling the results, far it seems that to be a cult hero outfielder one must tick off most of the following checkboxes:

  • Never a top prospect
  • Homegrown talent
  • Undersized
  • Fast
  • White
  • Gritty
  • Goofy name or nickname
  • Quirky appearance or personality
  • Good rookie season
  • One or more memorable highlight/achievement

So where does Efren fit into this?

  • Never a top prospect? CHECK! 50th round draft pick.
  • Homegrown talent? CHECK!
  • Undersized? NOPE.
  • Fast? NOPE. Not even a little bit.
  • White? NOPE. But he is Mexican, which is almost as good for the Southern California fanbase.
  • Gritty? CHECK! Probably. This is non-quantifiable and based entirely on media narrative.
  • Goofy name or nickname? CHECK! C’mon, his name is “Efren.”
  • Quirky appearance or personality? NOPE.
  • At least one good season? INCOMPLETE. But so far so good.
  • One or more memorable highlight/achievement? CHECK! Two game-winning hits in one week. I’m not sure if those memories will hold up long-term, but they are good enough for now.

So Efren meets six of the ten requirements. That’s a “D” average and that’s good enough for Angels fans. Welcome to the Cult Hero Outfielder Club, Efren! May your membership last longer than Tommy Murphy’s.

Garrett Wilson

About Garrett Wilson

Garrett Wilson is the Supreme Overlord of Monkeywithahalo.com and editor at The Outside Corner. He's an Ivy League graduate, but not from one of the impressive ones. You shouldn't make him angry. You wouldn't like him when he is angry.

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