I guess it takes residents with money and mansions (and more-than-adequate means to leave) for the federal government to take notice of a distaster

>> Tuesday

Sorry... Short political diatribe that has nothing to do with this post, but I figured I'd slip that in.

Anyway, I wanted to get one last semi-philosophical baseball post in the books before the season ends and these posts become even less tolerable.

Tonight's lecture: Self-sacrifice.

Wanting to watch some baseball tonight, I caught Baseball Tonight featuring baseball-men talking about baseball tonight. They were doing their World Series preview / "Web Gem" awards show, and it got me all riled up about fancy defensive plays.

Ok, so this is a recycled conversation, but the show reminded me that those who make fantastic defensive plays are often hurting their teams and/or themselves.

Is this always the case? Of course not. Nick Punto, for example, was featured prevalently on this show, and--if you've ever seen Nick Punto's hitting statistics--you know as well as I do that if he were ever asked to take the rap on a Johan Santana murder charge, he should confess. Indeed, self-sacrifice may be his greatest asset.

But several players featured--Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin, Eric Byrnes--were shown making reckless plays that maybe, just maybe, they should have reconsidered. Actually, what got me going on this notion was that Coco Crisp catch that ended the ALCS. Yes, it was awesome and as dramatic a play as a play that an 11-2 lead in the ninth can produce, but was it worth risking a knee injury that could have cost him the World Series and, potentially, next season just to save Papelbon a few pitches? I doubt it.

Some featured plays, like Martin's over-the-railing catch of a foul ball, must have made some GMs wince and then die from heart attacks, while others were simply bad risks. One play was particularly egregious--a falling-away barehand scoop and peg by John Smoltz on a slow roller along the third baseline. It was a much easier play for Chipper Jones and should have never been handled by Smoltz.

Do I think that a player should pull up short every time he has a chance to make a run-saving catch? Well of course not. But I cringe every time I see a great player do something risky to make an out that will probably not impact the outcome of a game. One of their "classic" Web Gem clips was the famous Ken Griffey Jr. backhanded catch against the wall in a 1995 game. Of course, that was the same classic play that broke Griffey's classically valuable right wrist and put him on the DL for most of that season. Yes, Griffey returned to dominate the Mariners' incredible stretch run later that season which saw them make up 9 1/2 games in the standings and eventually go to the ALCS. But if Griffey had bailed out before going writst-to-wall at 67 miles-per-hour, I doubt the Angels ever build that lead.

"Don't be a hero" is a pretty tired cliche, but it's one that any MLB star should probably internalize. Great athletes, especially young ones, think they're indestructible, and I think it's one of the burdens of management to drill that into a guy before it's too late. Having said that, I doubt I'd heed that advice if I were a Granderson or a young Junior. It would probably take me at least three or four injuries to make a change in my game.

But as a spectator, I always dread that next unnecessary injury. I dread missing action from one of the game's most enjoyable athletes. I dread that sinking feeling I get watching a guy give up his future financial bonanza and his legacy on a risk that he didn't need to take.

I realize that those things happen, and they always will. But I just wish athletes would realize that they are bigger than the team and bigger than the game. They'll have their chance for heroic self-sacrifice if they so choose, but it doesn't have to be for an out.

Anyway, thanks for skimming. I'll be back in April.

4 comments:

Nathan 11:11 PM  

You'll be back in April? Bullshit.

There's no way we make it through a World Series of "The all-powerful Red Sox vs. the gritty, magical Rockies" without someone saying or doing something so asinine that you will have to post on it.

Anonymous,  5:41 AM  

Vinnie watched Major League for the first time and thought that the wussy shortstop with the million dollar face who tanked plays had a good argument

Zuch 2:32 PM  

Hey, Dorn (a third baseman BTW) had a future to protect, and couldn't risk losing his eyesight.

Matt 5:54 PM  

He's not about to risk injury or deface this property for a collection of stiffs.

He's got a future to think about, year after this he goes free agent, not to mention the fact that his agent and him have a few plans for life after baseball.

And yes, I've seen the movie so many times I could basically re-write you the script.

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