Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's The Hottest?

The Dodgers placed a number of first-rate prospects at Jacksonville this season which has been rewarded with a first-half title as a result. Very nice. So, which of those budding stars is the team's top hitter? Joel Guzman ? James Loney? or, maybe, Russell Martin?

If you answered none of the above, you've been paying attention. Oh, they're all doing nicely, thank you. But the guy who's been the hottest hitter on the team; no, make that in the whole Southern League is Jon Weber. And that's ironic because the only way he's made the headlines before is by being one of the first minor leaguers to be suspended for using an illegal substance.

Let's clear that matter up, first. Actually, the infraction occurred late last season when he was a member of the Oakland A's organization. It happened, he explains, "Because I really tired so I bought an over-the-counter energy booster. I didn't know that it contained a substance that was ruled illegal."

Since the infraction was discovered as the season was ending, the penalty wasn't imposed until this year. Weber, thus, served his 15 days, reported back and began hitting the ball solidly as the numbers to date -- .341-9-41 -- will attest. He's slugging .541 and it's no coincidence that when he got hot so did the team and it carried them to the East Division championship which assures that they'll be in the playoffs come September.

That's the kid of news that Weber had been hoping to make when he signed on with the Dodgers for he's typical of those who, for the most part, have been relatively unnoticed in a career that's included a lot of scuffling.

He wasn't drafted out of Texas Tech, signed as a free agent with the Reds, who wound up releasing him, played a year and a half of independent ball before the A's purchased his contract, only to become a free agent after the 2003 season despite doing well enough with them to rise to Triple A.

Well enough to be noticed by Paul DePodesta, though, for he brought Weber along with some other refugees from the A's system into the fold via a minor league contract and a promise of an invitation to spring training with the big club as a non-roster addition.

His spring training showing didn't get Weber a spot withe team. It didn't even get him a job with Las Vegas. He did, however, show enough to be placed at Jacksonville. Now, he's showing so much that they're beginning to wonder there if he won't make the trip to Vegas shortly.

For Weber, the trouble is that there's no shortage of outfielders who can hit with that team. That's why he was sent here (along with another player with like credentials, Tydus Meadows.) One of the oddities of his success is that he says he gets tired as the weather heats up and, yet, he's from Southern California, played collegiately at a school in the West Texas desert and had a measure of success in a similar climate last year at Midland, another hot, dry Texas town.

Part of his success, though, he feels, is because at Jacksonville, they're taking batting practice in the indoor cages, away from the scorching sun. Then, when the games start at night, he's ready to heat up as the sun goes down.

Whatever does it, he's blazing. Since he's 27 now, he knows it's time to make a move. Vegas, a trade, wherever, he's earning some attention now for all the right reasons.