Monday, June 22, 2009

Why Wouldn't a Fringe Player Hustle?

Craig Monroe was dismissed by the Pittsburgh Pirates because he did not hustle. Apparently, while playing the Twins, Monroe swung and missed a third strike. The pitch got by Joe Mauer and Monroe only trotted to first base. He was safe anyway as Mauer threw the ball away. It seems that his Pirates cohorts, coaches and manager were not impressed and gave him the heave ho.

Monroe is not the first player not to hustle. Many high-profile player in the past have been fined or set down for a day for not running balls out to first. Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson had their famous dugout tussle because of Jackson's perceived nonchalance in the outfield. And while there is no excuse for not hustling and the Pirates were within their rights to get rid of Monroe (he wasn't batting very well anyway), the question remains: Why wouldn't you bust your ass if you were basically a fringe major league baseball player?

Monroe has been a fringe player the last three years. He had a decent run in Detroit. Not that he was spectacular or even great, but he could hit a home run for you which is always a nice thing. He posted two seasons with OPS+ numbers over 100, but then started going downhill and Detroit unloaded him when he played most of the season at a .222 clip and shipped him to the Cubs. He didn't do anything there and hooked up with the Twins last year. He batted .202 for the Twins in 58 games and lost his job there. This year, he hooked up with Pittsburgh and was batting .215.

Couldn't Monroe see the reality of his situation? He'd been discarded by three different teams in three years and this might be his last opportunity to show he can play. Instead, he trots. Man.

A player only has a shelf life until the late thirties and early forties. After that, there is a long life to support. Granted, he's probably made some pretty good coin in his career. But, wouldn't you still want to put as much cash in the can as possible before looking at that future? If you put the Fan in that situation and gave him a chance to prolong what is the best job in the world, he would never stop running. Never.

As the old saying goes, youth is wasted on the young. A hustling player is always pointed out, which shows you that it is a rarity. Why would that be so? It's the greatest gig in the world. As lucky as they are to be in the majors, every player in baseball should bust their tails all the time.

But wait a minute, if hustling players are always pointed out, meaning they are not the norm, then a lack of hustle is a fact of life in MLB. So why was Monroe singled out? Probably because he wasn't playing very well.


bobook said...

It's character, El Flagrante (and that's what we must call you as you're now in Florida). Pete Rose busted his rearend because that is who he was. And Monroe doesn't.

Josh Borenstein said...

Good post. This isn't talked about enough, IMO. Unless you're God's gift to baseball (Manny Ramirez comes to mind), you should always hustle. Never take anything for granted. Did you see Marco Scutaro steal 2nd on a walk? That was incredible. I was grinning from ear to ear when I saw that.