Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Taking Those Lazy Baseball Players to Task

With thousands of hot takes being written regarding Harper v Papelbon, including one sports writer who is pro choking of young players, some of the most interesting takes are those coming from current and former baseball players. These are the guys who played the game themselves, which means they have been in the clubhouse and locker room and know how the game is supposed to be played. Guys like former pitcher CJ Nitkowski and his army of unnamed, baseball playing sources, veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins, and noted fan of running, former catcher Bengie Molina have come out if not in support of Papelbon's actions directly than at least in support of criticism for Harper's lack of hustle. They say that Harper needs to respect the game by running out every pop up. Clearly, these fore fathers of baseball have earned the right talk about the game they spent years playing, so let's examine the Harper situation and apply the lessons from these vets to the rest of the league to see who else out there is dogging it and deserves a talking to.

According to research from Ben Lindbergh at Grantland, the pop up Bryce Harper hit is turned into an out 100% of the time. Even the statue known as Adam Dunn playing left field would have been able to make a play on the ball Harper hit. Following the logic of the veterans who spoke out on the Harper incident, then, even balls that have a 0% chance of turning into a hit need to be hustled out. Ok, fair enough. I think my little league coach told me the same thing back in the day, and my Dad AND LaTroy Hawkins can't both be wrong, can they? So is Harper the only player out there not running these balls out? Should the Nationals send Papelbon on a mission during his suspension to curse out all those players disrespecting the game by not hustling, and choke them out if necessary? Let's find out.

We start with the Texas Rangers who are battling the Astros and Angels for the lead in the AL West. The Rangers have had a multitude of injuries this year, but one guy who has finally been healthy and producing is Prince Fielder. Prince, according to Moneyball at least, isn't in the best of shape, but his powerful swing means he doesn't have to run too many balls out since he usually just deposits them over the fence. But, in a game against the Astros this month, the team the Rangers are trying to fend off in the playoff race mind you, Prince hit a groundball to the right side of the infield. See what happens next:

I know Prince is a little large for a professional athlete, but you can't convince me he's running hard there. He's maybe halfway down the line by the time the ball gets to first base! Clearly, Prince needs a talking to before he goes on to disrespect the game this way during the playoffs.

At least Prince made it all the way to first base on his groundout. Blue Jay and fellow masher Edwin Encarnacion also makes a habit of hitting the long ball, but apparently disrespects the game so much he won't even jog all the way down to first on this pop up:

I'm astounded current Blue Jay reliever LaTroy Hawkins' head didn't explode after this abomination of hustle and . Won't Edwin think of setting a good example for the kids #EntitlementGeneration!

But Edwin and Prince are veterans, some might say. They have earned the right to be lazy, they may say. Well, Cody Asche has less than 300 major league games to his name over three season, that's fewer than the 500 Harper has accumulated, so he clearly needs to be running every ball out. Plus, he plays on the Phillies, so he had all season to learn the right way to play straight from Papelbon himself. 
But look at that frustrated bat flip followed by a half hearted jog to first! This game was back in July, before Papelbon got traded. Let's hope Papelbon had time to teach Asche a lesson before being sent to the Nationals. How else will the Phillies ever learn how to win?

And here's the thing, these are only 3 examples pulled from recent games. Since I'm obviously part of the #EntitlementGeneration, I didn't put the work in to find more, only because there are too many to fit on this blog. Forget steroids or pace of play, lack of hustle is the biggest issue facing baseball today.

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