Shi Davidi has part two of his piece on the Travis Snider saga up at Sportsnet, and it starts painting a different picture than the one I thought I saw yesterday, one that almost makes you wonder whether the calm, modest manner we’ve always seen from Snider– that allowed the media to so casually talk about the wisdom beyond his years he possessed– wasn’t just a veneer, but a genuine detriment that helped him internalize all the conflicting emotions and thoughts that he seems to believe largely held him back.
Sure, maybe that’s easily dismissed armchair psychology on my part, but it’s truly striking that, for a guy who came off as so thoughtful and mature, he certainly seems to be the common denominator in a number of communication breakdowns with a number of different people, and his own worst enemy in terms of being able to focus.
In the spring of 2011, we’re told, the Jays and Snider discussed a contract extension, and the club went to Snider’s people with a proposal that the player calls, as you would entirely expect, “very club friendly.”
After being informally discussed in the offseason, Snider’s extension slid down the clubs list of priorities. In camp he was told something was coming, but that was also delayed. The formal offer eventually came, but while he was waiting he was nursing an injury, getting ready for the season, and having a hard time processing it all.
“For me at this point, there are a lot of distractions going on mentally instead of focusing on just the game of baseball and preparing for a long season,” he says.
His camp eventually turned down the offer. Back in Toronto, Anthopoulos had a talk with him, seeming to want to clear the air, make sure they were on the same page and fight off any potential for distraction. Snider, however, viewed it differently, finding the timing and subject matter of the talk confusing, and saying that during the discussion, “there was some pressure put on me: ‘Are you really in this, are you really about what we’re trying to do here.’ ”
“Though Snider says he doesn’t regret the decision to turn down the extension, at the time it weighed on him heavily. Instead of being focused on his swing in the batting cage, his mind would drift to whether he’d made a mistake or not, question why things unfolded as they did and wonder if he had done something to make the Blue Jays question his worth.”
You get the sense from the second installment gives is that this is just how the kid is wired, mentally. Part of me can’t help but hope that’s not true, though, because… I mean… Jesus, there are so many hours in the day, in the week– if really true, it must have been a insufferably draining to bear the constant burden of these thoughts.
But that’s how he says it was.
And thinking back to yesterday’s piece, I’d have to admit that in a way it perhaps casts Cito Gaston and Gene Tenace in a more favourable light, simply because you almost get the feeling here that no one could have reasonably been expected to keep Snider’s thoughts from getting the better of him. Though, surely, the player was done no favours by having been fucked with so badly, or by the useless manager abdicating responsibility for an impressionable, young, wildly talentet player– a serious asset with still boundless trade value– by washing his hands of him and demanding that he succeed with one, entirely unfamiliar approach, or he was on his own.
Again, though, that all comes back to the hopelessly cynical and disgraceful management team who valued the hide-saving PR goodwill of bringing in said legendary manager more than they did the needs of the player who was by far their best prospect, and anyone else who wasn’t going to adapt well to their one-size-fits-all approach– in much the same way that they cynically valued the PR win of rushing Snider to the Majors in the first place.
Of course, that not to say it’s all on Cito and Geno, and the people who hired them, for having fucked up the Golden Boy. Davidi’s second piece certainly crystallizes the notion that Snider was his own worst enemy by a hefty margin. And yet, Alex Anthopoulos and his front office aren’t beyond reproach in any of this either– especially for the still-laughable decision to choose to keep Eric Thames on the active roster, demoting Snider in mid-2011, which he says “was another blow to the confidence of this buildup of this our core group. I was like, ‘man, that’s a short leash, I don’t feel like I was given a shot.’ ”
Did Snider’s mature, thoughtful veneer– assuming it was the same in private as we saw in public– mask the desperate needs of his fragile confidence? It’s impossible to say, but the piece certainly has me wondering as much, even though, as time goes on, and as swing changes come and go, such excuses become harder and harder to take seriously.
It’s funny, I remember that in the early days of the blog I would always push back against commenters’ ridiculous notions of the “closer mentality,” or fragile ballplayers not being able to hack it in the clutch, or just in general due do some outside distraction, by insisting that it would be tremendously difficult for a player to even make it to the Major Leagues without the ability to tune out those kinds of distractions and produce, without having to face adversity and the potential of getting cut or losing his job at several stops along the way, which generally means that the guys we see in the big leagues don’t simply turn to quivering piles of goo under difficult circumstances, the way many of us feel we might if we’d been asked to do what they do in pressure packed situations. Snider’s comments make you wonder if maybe he’s the rare guy, though, who was just so wildly successful the whole way through that he didn’t get weeded out.
The constant need for swing changes suggests there’s more to it, of course, but Snider sure seems to believe that it was the mental aspects of the game where he was left wanting– and it’s a credit to him, at least, that he admits as much.