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The Sports Daily > Monkey with a Halo
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

reggie-willits-77-mlb[1]
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

a3a1fea6_davis[1]
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.