This story starts off in 2014, but very briefly. Every employee of the Texas Rangers got hurt in 2014. Players? Yup. Front office personnel? You bet. Parking lot attendants? A valet went down with an ACL tear as he sprinted to fetch a Lexus (ok, he caught a cramp but he was in pain, man).
So when the 2015 season arrived, the fans, players, front office, and especially that valet — he recovered and is now faster than ever — didn’t want to see another injury ever again. Then Adrian Beltre’s thumb decided to get injured. There was much pandemonium, a lot of wailing, some (a lot) of cursing but eventually I calmed down.
The Rangers had a decision to make. Do they shuffle around a bunch of the infield guys at third? Do they make a trade? Or do they look at the farm and pick a strong ranch hand? The front office chose to go to the farm and a 21-year-old Joey Gallo (who was outside, shirtless and chopping down firewood for some reason in June) got the phone call all minor leaguers long for. Legend has it that upon learning the news of his call up to the big league squad, Gallo grabbed the axe he was using and gleefully chopped down two 50-foot oak trees with one swing, and the trees landed in neat 2-foot bundles by the side of the road.
His chores done, Gallo hustled up to Arlington where the Rangers were facing the Chicago White Sox that evening. A wide-eyed Gallo entered the Rangers’ locker room and took a moment to take it all in. He’d done the prerequisite work to get to this point. Chop down trees all day long? Check. Milk 4 cows all at one time? An efficient check. Be ranked 6th among Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list? An emphatic check.
Joey Gallo had arrived. But he wasn’t satisfied, not by a....long shot.
The team from Chicago’s south side traveled to Arlington but, at least for that night, forgot to pack their defense. The Rangers wasted no time taking advantage of this trip-packing faux pas as Texas spent the first inning pummeling starter (and former Notre Dame great) Jeff Samardzija to the tune of 4-runs as all 9 men in the lineup came up to bat.
With 2-outs in the bottom of the 1st inning, Gallo stepped up to the plate for the first time in his Major League career amid a cacophony of raucous Rangers fans who knew what this moment meant to the 6’5, 240lb kid. Gallo responded by battering Samardzija’s 3rd pitch to right field, and as the severely injured baseball rolled along, 2-runs scored as Gallo stood at first base. The already amped up crowd took it up a few hundred notches as Gallo took in this moment.
Joey Gallo had arrived. It felt good. But he wasn't done, he wanted more.
The crowd was energized. Rays of pure energy filtered down to the Rangers’ dugout. I won’t go into the intricacies involved in the thermodynamic properties of energy transference theory, but suffice it to say Joey Gallo’s energy level was increasing rapidly.
Elvis Andrus earned a walk in the bottom of the third inning and Joey Gallo was up for his second plate appearance in his debut. Jeff Samardzija made the mistake of throwing a baseball in the general direction of Joey Gallo who took the first pitch he saw super, very deep to right field for a mammoth 2-run home run. The shot was estimated at a paltry 430 feet but ask any of the screaming fans who were present that night and they’ll tell you the truth that MLB and the government don’t want you to know: that baseball landed in a crater on the moon. America had (unofficially) returned to the moon.
Joey Gallo had well and truly arrived. He delivered what he was known for in the minor leagues: a mammoth, Richter scale readout-worthy home run. But Gallo-quake had aftershocks in store.
Down 7-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Jeff Samardzija stood on the mound in absolute silence. It had been a rough night already for the former Fighting Irish stand-out wide receiver. Maybe he was thinking about what life would’ve been like if he had been drafted by an NFL team. Maybe he was thinking about the new shampoo he had started using on his immaculate mane. Really, he was probably thinking of anything to avoid the reality unfolding before his very eyes: Joey Gallo was at the plate ready for another at-bat. Five pitches into this round of the battle, Gallo sent a line drive smash deep into right field but just missed another home run. As Gallo stood at second base, Samardzija knew he’d won this round — sure, he’d given up a double, but this also meant that our moon was spared another assault by molten baseball.
Joey Gallo was 3-3 so far in his MLB debut. He was several plates in at an all-you-can-eat buffet but was still famished.
By the bottom of the eight inning, the Rangers’ grounds crew sent word to the dugout. Maybe relax with all the run scoring, they implored. Texas held an 11-2 lead and the base paths were looking a bit shoddy. A man accustomed to hard work, Gallo empathized with the hard working grounds crew, and when he faced Hector Noesi in the bottom of the 8th inning, Gallo worked an 8-pitch walk. He walked carefully to first base and flashed that patented smile — you know that smile — towards the grounds crew. Joey Gallo is a good listener (and enjoys long walks, too). It should be noted that after the Gallo walk, Carlos Corporan promptly blasted a 3-run home run, but the grounds crew members were still smiling because Joey Gallo has that affect on people.
The Rangers beat the White Sox 15-2 and the MVP of the game was undoubtedly the 21-year-old phenom. Almost 28,000 fans were treated to an MLB debut for the ages. Joey Gallo went 3-4 with 4 RBI and became just the 63rd MLB player (since 1914) to reach base four times in his MLB debut. Gallo nabbed seven total bases that night, something only 19 other players had ever done in an MLB debut (since 1914).
How well-received was Gallo’s debut by the fans? When Gallo struck out on 4-pitches in the bottom of the 6th inning, the crowd showered him with a hearty round of applause, something a Rangers home crowd doesn’t do nowadays when Gallo strikes out (a lot, unfortunately).
Gallo stayed on with the Rangers until June 30, when he was optioned to Triple A to make room for the return of Josh Hamilton. Gallo managed to rack up 6 home runs, and 14 RBI in 123 plate appearances (57 strikeouts), and really made an impression on the Rangers.
Joey Gallo had arrived.
Since then, Gallo has become synonymous with mammoth home runs — the guy broke Statcast! Unfortunately, Gallo has also become known for his high strikeout rate coupled with a notoriously sub-Mendoza Line batting average.
As the 2018 campaign winds down, Gallo could very well end up with 40+ home runs, and 100+ RBI — all while accruing 200+ strikeouts and .200 (or worse) batting average. Three years into his big league career, Joey Gallo is a conundrum. Baseball historians and fans alike still find it hard to reconcile the awesome offensive power and the offensive scuffling at the plate.
Be that as it may, the strikeouts and batting average woes are not indicative of Gallo’s hard work ethic. He has played five different positions and no one is harder on Gallo than Gallo.
In the end, it’s up to individual fans to decide what Joey Gallo’s calling card is: are you going to appreciate the mammoth power that consistently produces 35+ HR and 85-100 RBI or you going to be stuck complaining about strikeouts and batting averages?
Either way, Joey Gallo (who turns 25 in November) arrived on June 2, 2015 to much volley and thunder. He has continued to deliver on that, and can only improve from here. And that’s scary good.