As a workplace, a baseball clubhouse is anything but typical. Save for the manager, there are no offices. Your privacy extends only to the five or so feet between the teammates on either side of you. “Outsiders” in the form of media are a daily and continuing presence both before and after games. You live the six months of a season in a bubble separated from your family half of the time. You have good days and bad days on the field. Your team wins some and they lose some. There are some guys you like and others you despise. You get up every morning knowing that but for the grace of god, a career ending injury could be on the horizon tonight. You have a lot of acquaintances but very few friends. If you are a position player, you fail seven out of every time you come to bat. You have agents and handlers telling you what you should be doing with your money. You are a big league ballplayer……..but you are also human…………
And because they are human, some ball players can handle it and some cannot………..
Maybe Yogi Berra unwittingly summed it up best ….”90% of the game is mental and the other half is physical”. For some, they never quite “get” the fact that the game is far more than talent. For others, they had personality issues long before they ever signed a baseball contract. And for others, they can’t seem to get out of their own way and constantly shooting themselves in their foot causing their brief career to self combust……or to end up in the baseball annals as a misfit, or a cancer in the clubhouse, or surly with everyone and especially the media, or……..for just making a habit of saying stupid things that not only displays their ignorance but shows a ego gone wild for all the world to see….and have to listen to.
Here’s the manager of the White Sox talking about superstar Frank Thomas, “Believe me, it’s not easy to deal with an idiot,” Williams said. “And this man, over the course of the years, has tried my patience and tried it and tried it, and if he was any kind of a man, would quit talking about things in the paper and return a phone call or come knock on somebody’s door. If I had the kind of problems he evidently has with me, I’d go knock on his f—— door.
Or, here’s Manny Ramirez talking about himself and his time with the Red Sox…….The Red Sox don’t deserve a player like me,” Ramirez said after the trade. “During my years here I’ve seen how they mistreated other great players when they didn’t want them to try to turn the fans against them. The Red Sox did the same with guys like Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, and now they do the same with me. Their goal is to paint me as the bad guy.”
Really? I guess that’s why you always seemed to have a need to draw attention to yourself with stunts like disappearing behind the Green Monster and thereby delaying the game being played. Or, maybe that’s why you received a 50-game suspension for a drug policy violation in 2009, and got ejected after one pitch from his final game in L.A.
Or, how about Jose Canseco who was once hit on the head by a ball he was trying to catch before it bounced over the wall for a home run. Everyone hoped the shock would knock some sense into him, but it didn’t as witnessed by this maniac description of his new book…..”It’s going to blow ‘Ball Four’ out of the water,” Canseco said when asked about his upcoming book in 2002. “It will make waves. Monstrous waves. It’s going to be a hurricane with an earthquake thrown in for good measure.”
Sammy Sosa had the same problem. He just couldn’t get enough of himself even after his disastrous appearance before Congress crying to the media……..”That number (545 home runs as a Cub) should be untouchable because of the things that I did for that organization,” Sosa said in the magazine interview. “That right there shows me that they don’t care about me and they don’t want to have a good relationship with me.” But perhaps, broadcaster Steve Stone blamed the Cubs for indulging Sosa and allowing his ego to spiral out of control. “If you create Frankenstein, you can’t be too surprised if he eats the village,”
And that, after all, seems to be the point. Are there simply some players who are misfits and therefore are not worth the baggage they carry? Or to put it another way, are there cases when talent just isn’t enough?
This piece started off with pointing out the challenges that ballplayers face day in and day out. It’s pressure not only to perform on the field , but pressure not to screw up off the field. True, we can all probably say……”Just give me the chance”………. But someone is simply not doing their job if as Steve Stone says that these monsters are created by general managers and owners who look the other way until their patience runs out and they pawn off the problem to yet another gullible team that believes THEY can change the behavior.
In a few weeks for instance, Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins, and Met fans will be asking the real Yoenis Cespedes’s to stand up. One could say their whole season depends on his doing so. And then, over in the Dodgers camp, they have a decision to make on Yasiel Puig. Both of these players have all the talent in the world……….. But what will be the cost of their production, both on and off the field………….. And is it too late for them to be what they can be?
And what of a player like Bryce Harper who has shown signs of being temperamental and more interested in personal stats than winning as a team………..does he need to be reigned in and mentored…….and is Dusty Baker the right man in the right place to do it…..”
Soon, we’ll see how it plays out……..
SPECIAL THANKS TO JERRY CRASNICK FOR HIS RESEARCH IN ASSEMBLING THE QUOTES USED FROM AN ARTICLE THAT APPEARED ON ESPN GO