On Chris Getz, Willie Bloomquist, Hustle, Character, Etc.

The "Chris Getz play" is up on the MLB.com-related sites now, so I figure it's early enough to talk about it. For the second time in a month, a Royal made a fairly egregious mental mistake/lack of hustle mistake. You'll recall back in New York, the bizarre Jorge Posada appears to be insane game, when the Yankee catcher made a handful of weird plays, including one in which he was bailed out by a lolly-gagging Willie Bloomquist. In Getz's case, after a close play at second he turned and argued with a umpire, while play continued and a run scored.

My first reaction, to both of these plays, is anger and frustration. Anger and frustration directed in a variety of places. Towards the players, towards the people who kept telling me Yost was a great improvement because the team was playing harder and more focused and more fundamentally sound, etc. I also feel this weird misplaced, future investment anger, because I know I'm still going to hear all about how scrappy Chris Getz is. And I'm especially going to hear about Willie Bloomquist... for-freaking-ever. You just know he's going to be a bench coach with the Royals someday, and we'll be watching a game in 2025 when Ryan will say something about how you could build a team/the pyramids with a lineup full of Bloomquists.

 

I also feel a strong sense of injustice. We've endured hustle-based controversies involving Hanley Ramirez and B.J. Upton this season. A Upton+hustle google search brings back over 1.4 million results. Willie Bloomquist hustle brings back 98,000, which mostly appear to be positive. Maybe I'm just cynical, but I don't even think those Upton/Ramirez plays were necessarily even that bad. I saw both a zillion times when they happened, and there's no clear evidence that the other team gained a single base because they weren't running 20% harder. Neither was even in the Getz ballpark in terms of a mental decision directly hurting the team. I know that's not the point, but it's also a point that should probably be brought up. We actually see this in baseball all the time, and for good reason. On a huge percentage of plays, there's really only one best case scenario for the hitter. Unless someone falls down, he's not making it to second or third or whatever. Again, I know that's something we don't say out loud, but basically 90% of the doubles ever hit are like that. When Kevin Youkillis bangs one off the Monster, he's actually hurting the Red Sox if he busts it down to 2B and gets caught taking too large a turn or tries to stretch it to a triple or whatever.

I think, however, when I divorce myself from my own emotions, what these plays most remind me of is fielding debates. No one actually keeps hustle/non-hustle stats, much like the handful of stats we officially keep for fielding are pretty useless. Imagine if there were no hitting stats? Year after year, no hitting stats. You'd probably have a good sense of who the very best and the very worse hitters were, but 80% would just be a huge glob of mystery. (Kinda like the National League for me.) We'd all end up having strong opinions about guys who do weird/oddball things like hitting for the cycle or a player who hit 3 HRs in a game in April. HRs, remember, are just like diving catches, we see them, but we don't record them.

So, what I'm trying to get at is this: Willie Bloomquist had a bad moment, Chris Getz got caught up in his emotions and acted petulantly and let his teammates down. It's one play. One play out of thousands this season. I already dislike those players, so for me it's really annoying. For the guys in the Bloomquist nation, a Willie jog is barely worth noticing. In the end, we just confirm our own biases. Just like we do with fielding.

Maybe our human character is reliable and dependable in some clear way. Some people are good, some are bad. Maybe. Or maybe, we have good days and bad days. I've seen some of the nicest people I know do some devastatingly mean things too, and vice versa. I tend to think baseball character is the same way. Sure, on the whole, some guys do hustle more or less than others, and some players are smarter or dumber than others. (But what gets constituted as smart or dumb is still all messed up.) But everyone has bad days. It's baseball. It's a game built around failure.

I am still going to flip out the next time someone lectures me about all Willie Blooomquist does that "doesn't show up in the stats."

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