So, this is really happening, huh? Brian Anderson is headed to Idaho Falls to begin his new life as a relief pitcher for the Chukars. And sometimes I trick myself into thinking there's nothing left to write about the Royals.
Anderson is making a really poor decision, and the Royals are rather bogglingly allowing him to do so with some degree of sanction. Three months ago, the Royals saw in Anderson someone who might be one of their outfielders, perhaps even their starting center fielder. Now, they're going to play a part in a likely career suicide. Trust the process.
Usually, I think most of us here on the outside, have a really tough time accurately guessing what Major League baseball players are thinking. We're frequently wrong about them (without knowing it really) because our lives and their lives just don't have much in common. As far as I can make it out from my one bedroom apartment, the life of a Major League player is something like what many of us experienced in college. Well, except that everyone has money. And there's no classes. There's also constant travel, but the kind of travel that none of us have really experienced, with charter planes and four star hotels. And people interview you, or want to, often.
So there's a certain amount of freedom from quotidian responsibility, though it actually also seems fairly regimented: you show up at the park every day, usually at the same time, you do the same things before and after the game. Then you leave, and twelve hours later you come back. It sounds very tiring, except nobody seems tired.
And this is baseball, which means a high percentage of the people involved have been doing this from high school on. Even the college guys are mostly baseball lifers who took a kind of half detour for awhile. There are like six guys in the Majors right now with college degrees. Seriously, its a small number. (Ok, actually its something like 26, including managers.) Not so much that these guys are dumb or incurious, its just that they are busy. They play baseball. Constantly. They drill. They practice. They do film work. They played in Cape Cod and in Puerto Rico. Baseball is the lifestyle. When I was in grad school, everyone seemed the same, but we were the United Colors of Benneton compared to a big league roster. Ok, maybe that's going too far.
What I'm trying to get at here is a really basic point that I'm muddling. So here it is: I really don't know what I would have been like if, at 18, I got on a bus with a bunch of other teenage dudes and essentially never left it. I don't know what its like to be rich by age 25. I don't know what its like to buy my mom a house. I don't know what its like to constantly feel from the outside: from the media, from fans, from little kids, from women, that I'm wanted, that I'm important. I don't know what staggering success and adulation feels like, and I can't imagine what its like to get used to those things. Can you?
But I do know what it feels like to fail. I know what it feels like to not make the team. I know what it feels like to be evaluated and passed on. To me, this looks like a guy who has taken that disappointment and responded with some combination of "I suck" and "They suck". With a dash of "@#* it". And ninety percent of the time, you just can't respond that way. You can't let your emotions at the moment dictate a life decision of this magnitude.
It'd be one thing of Anderson was leaving baseball. If he was going to try to pursue another career or become a volunteer or a family man or whatever. He isn't. He's staying within the cocoon, just trying to do the most drastically different thing he can while in it. I wouldn't feel comfortable telling him that becoming a lawyer or a insurance broker or a teacher was a mistake, but becoming a relief pitcher... that is a mistake.
- He's 28. Which means he's probably too old to pull this off. Who is going to want a 29 or 30 year old with one year of experience in the low minors? On the flip side, people want athletic outfielders in their late 20s. Quite a bit actually. Anderson may feel like he sucks or that the world hates him and he should quit, but look at how many chances the White Sox gave him. Look at how quickly the Red Sox added him to their organization. Look at how quickly the Royals signed him. You get signed in December in this day and age, that means something. This response is like that of a 24 year old who just flamed out in High A ball, which just isn't his situation.
- Was making or not making the Royals the issue? Has he been paying attention? The odds are good that David DeJesus will get traded. The odds are good that Scott Podsednik will be terrible or get injured. The odds are good that Rick Ankiel is freakin' hurt right now. There are about eight different paths that have him in the Royal outfield by June.
- And if not the Royals' outfield, somebody's. The current industry fad is players just like Anderson, which is why he got a Major League contract and $750,000 from the Royals, while Jermaine Dye is sitting at home. He can play center field and people like his defense. (The stats are kinda all over the place.) Um, even the dumb teams are trying to go for that now. What Anderson is doing is like a guy who runs a Cash-4-Gold business telling his wife in 2008, "honey, I think we should shut this down, just no market in this economy for desperate people who want to sell off their old jewelry for a third of its value."
In our society, we hear constantly about the successes. Everyone knows that Bill Gates quit school to start Microsoft. No one, except family and friends, know about the thousands of other guys who did the same thing, only their companies failed. We hear about the mutual fund that paid out big. We hear about the guys who started Five Guys, not the sixteen bazillion other people who started restaurants and lost their life savings, then went into debt, then folded. Everyone knows that Tim Tebow's mom didn't have an abortion and she lived. We hear about the person who tried the experimental cure or risky procedure and lived, not the person who did so and died.
The bold thing and the drastic thing, is very often the very stupid thing. Now, I'm not going to take much emotional stake in what happens to Brian Anderson, he's made some good money already and he's and he's an adult, but I wonder just what exactly is going on here. Why are the Royals, seemingly, playing along with this? Why didn't they tell Brian Anderson that he can pursue this new plan in the Independent Leagues? Or better yet, why didn't they actually have him talk to wise Jason Kendall, who might have told him to calm down, don't say anything he'll regret, and go have a few drinks somewhere close to ASU's campus and come back tomorrow ready to kick ass.
It scares me that the Royals allowed this situation to ever get to this point. How did they sign this guy back in December, before Pods or Ankiel, and now they're going along with this. Are they also insane? Are they so cheap that they don't want to release him and move on?
So here's what I'd tell Brian Anderson: just because you're never going to be an All-Star, doesn't mean that you petulantly quit and go home. If you want to keep playing baseball, which you obviously do, how in the hell is starting over at Idaho Falls better than being in Omaha? A month ago, you wanted to be a Royal. So you can either be three years away, or you can be one sore Podsednik hammy away. Please don't be insane.