Is Darwin Barney the Best Story on the Cubs This Year?

By Tony Andracki

He’s a bubble-gum chewing, baseball-smacking Portland phenomenon. Only, now, he’s in Chicago.

Darwin Barney has instantly won over the hearts of Chicago Cubs fans around the country with his hustle, drive and child-like innocence.

Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney throws out Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake during the first inning at Wrigley Field in Chicago on April 24, 2011. UPI /Mark Cowan

He’s the new fan favorite, and why not?

Ryan Theriot used to hold that crown for the Cubs, as the scrappy, lovable all-out player, but after some pointed—and frankly, uncalled for—comments saying he was finally on the right side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry when he was traded to St. Louis, The Riot’s reign with that title came to an abrupt end.

Reed Johnson, of Web Gem fame, could definitely fit the bill, but he’s caught up in the midst of an overly crowded outfield in which youngster Tyler Colvin is the odd man out. So, there’s just not enough playing time to go around for Johnson to be much of a factor.

Barney, on the other hand, came out of nowhere, but looks to be a sticking point at second base for the Cubs for a long time.

Heading into 2011, everybody thought Blake DeWitt would be the Cubs’ starting second baseman. He came over from LA in the Theriot deal and at just 25, the lefty seemed to be a very solid contribution to the lineup.

But, after a dreadful spring, DeWitt played his way out of contention for a starting gig…while Barney did nothing but impress. And in the month-plus since baseball’s coolest named player took over at 2B for the Cubbies? He’s done nothing but impress more.

You can’t help but love the kid. He’s got the passion, the desire. He reminds you what it was like to be playing as a child, just for the love of the game. He doesn’t care about the paycheck, he doesn’t care about the numbers, he just loves playing the game.

The kid has smiled more in the season’s first month than Derrick Rose has all year (though that’s not a knock on my man D-Rose, he just isn’t a smiler). He looks truly happy to just be out there playing.

And the Cubs are happy to have him. His youthful giddy-up lights a fire under veterans such as Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano, guys who have been typical paycheck-players their whole career. They’ve been great, and care about winning, but neither veteran slugger has shown much of a propensity for listening, taking criticism or improving. They just want to do things their way, even if it hurts the team.

Barney’s a great story. He’s only 25, but carries the charm and loveability of a young child. Yet, he shows maturity beyond his years, both on the field and off. He and his wife are already expecting their second child and DB has shown a unique ability to adapt and make adjustments in a very short time.

I read that Barney’s father tried to find his banner at Wrigley Field last month, but to no avail. Each of guy on the 25-man roster is supposed to have his banner hanging, but not the case for Barney, quite possibly because one was not made up for him. Nobody expected DB to stick.

Well, people better get used to it. It looks like Darwin Barney will be a mainstay in the Cubs’ starting lineup for years and years to come. And this guy couldn’t be any happier.

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