URL Weaver: Back Up

Yesterday afternoon, Getting Blanked posted a link to a very nice story about the life and times of Mike Trout. Written by Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, the piece focused on how grounded Trout really is, living with his parents in the same town in which he grew up. Stories of eye-popping achievement on the high school baseball diamond, of dirty uniforms and cold weather player bias.

The mythology of Mike Trout is deeply entrenched in Millville, New Jersey. Trout’s parents explain that they might have to sell their home and move farther out of town, sparing Mike (and themselves) from the locals eager to catch a glimpse of the local kid who made it out.

It was a revealing look at the young star and a delightful slice of Americana. After reading it and chewing on it for a while in the late afternoon, I realized I do not care about Mike Trout’s “up from the bootstraps” story. Not even a little bit.

On the most recent Getting Blanked podcast, we discussed the outsized revulsion for anything and everything Alex Rodriguez has ever done. While I get it, I still don’t get it.

The Alex Rodriguez story is no longer one of a baseball player, which is unfortunate. Alex Rodriguez is a terrific baseball player and widely considered to be a lousy human being Why should I care more about the latter than the former? Conflating the two seems like misplaced priorities.

Alex Rodriguez is not charged with making policy decisions which affect my children, he is asked to hit a baseball and play third base on my TV, preferably in October if you’re a Yankees fan.

What if passing mentions of Mike Trout’s love of deer hunting or truck driving or small-town girl impregnating changes my perspective of him on the field? Personally, I don’t want to begrudgingly appreciate the greatness of great players, I want to revel in it. I want to embrace what makes them special: their ability to play the game of baseball at a level I have not seen before.

It is nice that Brandon McCarthy likes Calvin & Hobbes and craft clever quips on twitter. Conversely, most of what Brett Lawrie does in a regular day probably makes me wince, groan, or roll my eyes. Should these trivial personality differences influence the way I watch them work, the way I watch allow them to entertain me? They play baseball, end of story.

Because that is the mandate here. Baseball players are entertainers and performers, men who are rewarded for their ability to put on a show inside the white lines. That’s it.

It is much easier to root for the Good Guys, the guys who Play the Game The Right Way and put on their hardhat or whatever. But cheering for scumbags is easy, too – put up good numbers in the jersey of my favorite team and all is basically forgiven. Twisting ourselves into knots trying to compartmentalize the relative levels of “good” or “bad” wastes energy that could otherwise be spent doing something productive, like thinking about Giancarlo Stanton‘s swing.

Yesterday morning, my daughter peered over my shoulder while I worked, asking me who was “the best” baseball player. I showed her this.

She didn’t ask if he was nice to puppies or called his mom from the road. She simply said “whoa, he’s good.” Yup. He sure is.

And the reset

Former big leaguer Mark Grace was sentenced to four months in prison yesterday for DUI related offenses. Because he lives in Maricopa County, he serves his sentence here. [Big League Stew]

Must read from Jack Moore – Ken Caminiti‘s Goody Bag [Fangraphs]

“High floor, cathedral ceiling” the Cardinals top ten prospects in a nutshell [Baseball Prospectus ($)]

Super duper awesome – Hall of Fame voting trajectories in histogram form [Science!]

The Red Sox signed Lyle Overbay to a minor league contract. As far as Napoli insurance, you could do worse. [MLBTR]

On Justin Upton‘s thumb [Capitol Avenue Club]

Projecting the players of the NL Central with ZiPS [Viva El Birdos]

The game theory of swinging at the first pitch [The Hardball Times]

Scott Rolen wants to keep playing, which is both good and bad. [HBT]

Comments (13)

  1. I will never cheer for a player, no matter how good he is, even if he plays for my favourite team, if he insists on blocking out the sun. I can’t support anyone who is pro-sun blocking!

  2. I think you nailed it…as long as a player is performing well (and also playing for your favorite team) then he is a hero. As soon as the performance drops off like it has for a-rod, then all the other little things you were able to overlook before become excuses to hate on the player

    • I have limits though. There are a few players who I can’t stand even when they are helping out my favourite team.
      But really, to each his own and I can’t get worked up about defending the “integrity of the game” or anything like that.
      When I have kids I’ll be sure to teach them to admire athletes for athletics sake, but to seek their heroes elsewhere.

      • Fair enough. I suppose there are a few players I would not be able to cheer for even if they played for my team and produced. I guess I’m saying its easier to overlook bad personalities if that person is helping your team win

      • Kevin Youklis could come and hit 162 home runs for the Blue Jays in a single season and I would still curse and swear and foam at the mouth every time he came to the plate pointing the barrel of his bat at the center fielder.

  3. Twitter definitely makes it more difficult (and more important) to maintain that separation between “baseball player” and “person”, I think. I generally choose not to follow most players on Twitter because, as much as I’d like to remain completely objective, it’s sometimes difficult not to be put off by pictures of Brett Cecil killing things, or JP Arencibia’s loud-and-proud support of Mitt Romney, or… .whatever the hell it is that Brett Lawrie is saying on there. I’ve always known that most baseball players are the type of guys who I wouldn’t want to hang around with in real life, but it’s definitely a lot more difficult to ignore that fact theses days.

  4. I watched that Mike Trout video… then it dawned on me that he did all of that IN ONE GODDAMNED SEASON!

  5. “small-town girl impregnating”

    Is that the new cool hobby? Sounds interesting

  6. This is why I keep my hate to strictly important, baseball-related issues:
    -like Kevin Youklis’s aggravating batting stance
    -like Fernando Rodney’s aggravating mound celebrations
    -like Dustin Pedroia’s rat face

    you see where I’m going, only important issues like that.

  7. We can schedule a tour of the Tent Jail while Mark Grace is there, two birds with one stone as they say

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