Monday, March 23, 2015

Valdespin and Andrus: Youth is Wasted on the Young

The quote in the heading by George Bernard Shaw could also be modified as, "Talent is Wasted on the Young." Two different stories have caught my attention this spring. Both involve the people behind the baseball players.
The first story  caught my attention early in Spring Training and involved Elvis Andrus being in the best shape of his life (BSOL). And the second story was much more recent concerning Jordany Valdespin and how his mother told him to grow up. Andrus is 26 and Valdespin is 27.
It is easy to forget that baseball players reach their physical peak early in life. We also fail to understand that most males do not reach their maturity peak until much later. I used to tell my son that boys were always three years younger (in maturity) than their actual ages. Sometimes that is optimistic.
And yet for every Mike Trout who bursts onto the scene with nothing but determination and a level head, there are a dozen others that don't figure it out until much later. The result is losing a lot of time and talent and sometimes it is too late.
Let's start with Elvis Andrus as his is perhaps the less harsh story of the two. Andrus has been a millionaire since the age of 23. When he signed a long-term deal with the Rangers that runs unti 2022, his future became secure and he had nothing but years of money heading his way.
Andrus' reaction to that was him coming to Spring Training a year ago really out of shape. I am not being unfair here, he says it himself. As such, he wasn't ready to play and ended up having the worst year of his career when he should have been peaking as a player.
Andrus has been in the spotlight since he arrived in the Majors. The arrival coincided with the Rangers having great teams and making two World Series in a row. Andrus wanted to be talked about in the same breath as Jeter. But it never happened. While he was a much better fielder than Jeter ever was, his offense has been below league average for every season he's been in the Majors.
It appears that last season made the bell go off and he went into the off season with a plan and is having a fabulous spring. This could be the year that he actually becomes the offensive player it was thought he could be.
It's just a shame that it took him so long to figure that out.
Jordany Valdespin has an even harsher story. The Mets were excited about his talent and either thought he would be the team's future second baseman or a weapon as a super-utility type player. The trouble was, the young man was poison to his fellow players.
Valdespin has a track record of immaturity which included altercations with his manager when he didn't play or was sent to the minors. And when he did play, he angered his teammates by showboating. His results definitely show a guy who should not have been showboating.
How bad was the antipathy with his fellow Mets? When he got caught up in the Biogenesis scandal and was suspended for fifty games, his own teammate said the incident, "definitely confirms his stupidity." Ouch.
Valdespin handled the adversity the way most immature young people do. He wanted to quit after the suspension in 2013. He was frustrated. He probably felt that where he landed was everyone else's fault.
That's when his mom stepped in. She did what every decent parent has to do at some point in the life of their child. She told him to grow up. To his credit, he took that advice and accepted it.
The Miami Marlins gave him another chance. And he is having a great spring and will make the decision on whether to keep him in the Big Leagues a tough one for the Marlins. I find myself rooting for him...and for Andrus.
You have to root for someone who finally gets it. Andrus is guaranteed to be a rich man. Jordany Valdespin is fighting for his baseball life. Both have wasted their prime years and a serious chunk of talent by their immaturity.
But that's what makes this game interesting if you care to think about it. We are talking about human beings here. And human beings who try to improve themselves and grow up are human beings to root for and make an interesting story in counterpoint to the cold, harsh reality of statistics and results.
Talent is often wasted on the young. That happens. Some take longer to figure it out. Some never figure it out. Elvis Andrus and Jordany Valdespin have apparently figured it out. I hope they are rewarded with the the physical time they have left in the game. If they never get where they were supposed to become, at least it won't be because they were their own worst enemies.

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