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
“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!]
Projecting the players of the NL Central with ZiPS [Viva El Birdos]
The game theory of swinging at the first pitch [The Hardball Times]