Monday, March 24, 2008

Hustle is a Hustle

Honest to god, if I have to ignore one more misty-eyed salute to brave soldier Reed Johnson, I'm going to cry. The entire cult of the underdog in this city is depressing and predictable.

Does the fact that Reed Johnson looks like he's running fast make him the fastest runner on the team? Of course not. Does getting hit by a pitch mean you've suddenly developed a patient hitting approach? Nope. Devon White didn't get his uniform dirty often, does that mean he isn't as a good a centerfielder as Reed Johnson? If you trot around the bases and keep from dirtying your uniform, is that a bad thing? You won't even break a sweat. Slacker.

Why doesn't John MacDonald play every day? He doesn't swing the bat well enough to help his team win. Would all these hustle apologist rather see Eric Hinkse, Reed Johnson or Aaron Rowand in left field over Manny Ramirez? Manny's a terrible fielder, generally loafs around but also happens to be one of the better right handed hitters of all time. Miguel Cabrera is fat and has had declining zone ratings for the past three seasons. His own pitchers call him lazy. There is reason that he just signed a massive contract extension the same weekend Reed was let go. The goal here is to win games. If you win enough games, you win the championship. There is only one tangible or meaningful way to dirty up your uniform.

I've begun to question what people want, what they hope to get out of investing themselves in teams and players. Do they not want to win? If you are a fan of the team, isn't the team achieving success the desired outcome? We have a lot of fun at JP's expense around here, and despite this depressing article regarding JP's assessment and subsequent passing on Troy Tulowitzki (H/T to DJF), the Jays management are doing what they feel they have to compete. They didn't score enough runs to win enough games last year. They have a fantastic pitching staff that will not suffer by having an inferior defensive team behind it.

These guys are positioned as up-by-the-bootstraps, feel-good stories, but it's a lie. It is more to do with optics than reality. People like to like David Eckstein, but realize how much better the Jays would be with Tulowitzki in the lineup. Again, I like talented people doing things with their rare talents. I like Roy Halladay because he works hard to make the most of his talent, not overcompensate for his lack of it.

Note: The Mockingbird continues to be the polar opposite and intellectual superior of our blog. I'm no stathead but I know that more talent (assembled and coaxed in an intelligent and thoughtful manner) is better than having less talent. You can't hustle away from the truth forever.


  1. There's the cult of the underdog, then there's the cult of smug empiricism. Thanks, respectively, to your Pride of the Yankees and your Moneyballs, both are endemic to the contemporary rank-and-file fanbase — but which is worse? It's hard to say.

    DiMaggio has a fake, hometown-scorer-facilitated 56-game hitting streak, the bulk of which he probably spent disrespecting women and insisting, under threat of summary dismissal, that clubhouse staff not make eye-contact with him.

    What's my point, you ask? Shit is blurry, numbers are fallible, and the "soft attributes" of likability and a humble countenance have to be worth something in the context of a stats-obsessed sport in which, quite paradoxically, the difference between a H and an E lies in the slanted POV of some anonymous company man up in the press box.

    Two summers down, you've sold me on Reed being an expendable commodity (this, even though that .319 average in a platoon arrangement looks awfully similar to what everyone is banking on from the boy named Shannon) but you can't begrudge anyone who'll miss him for no reason other than he was a chill-seeming dogg whose understated charisma got the better of his goatee. Like, I don't think Reed fever owed as much to the narratives of 'up from the muck' or 'like hell I can't' (or at least not as much as you suggest) as it did to the age-old trope of the role-player, the character actor, the capable if unremarkable jobber who has dutifully filled his role with staid competence and occasional heroism (cite: summer 2006 walkoffs vs Red Sox) on every classic championship team in the culture's collective memory. The Babe and Lou had Joe Dugen; Alomar and Devo had Pat borders. There's a reason Tomboy chicks who wore Killington hats with ponytails out the back had crushes on him, even though he's kind of nasty.

    Is the default affection afforded to "the ballplayer's ballplayer" any less gross than the RUDY fetish? I'm saying it's a little better.

    On the real, though, the team has to keep cost/benefit on the front burner, and by any objective standard they did the right thing here. But like Jules said to Vince, "I wouldn't go so far as to call a dogg filthy but they're definitely dirty. But, a dogg's got personality. Personality goes a long way."

  2. I keep a copy of that Nov. 2, 1992 SI in arms reach of my computer.*

    *True Story.

    Ol' C


Send forth the witticisms from on high