Thursday, August 9, 2007

lunchpail alert!

i think i'm raising the alert status to reddish-orange after this jerry crasnick article on espn.com. in the spirit of the recent hall of fame induction ceremony, jerry breaks down 9 players in their 20s who are somehow similar cal ripken jr. and tony gwynn. he gives some vague lunchpailish explanations for his criteria in his lead-in; pretty generic, "they are good people and try hard" kind of crap. feel free to check it out on your own. i'm just going to jump right in and make fun of the way he compliments/analyzes the players he chose. let's all laugh along at the reasons (excerpted, but i didn't omit anything that contradicts what i say about the piece) jerry thinks they embody the spirit of cal and tony. they're all fantastic players... but as you might be able to guess, in almost every case, jerry doesn't really want to talk about that. he's more interested in other "stuff" first and foremost. i think the title of the piece says it all:

Respect and love ... along with great ability

oh boy.

Joe Mauer, Twins Catcher

For baseball fans old enough to remember the Apollo moon landing, Mauer conjures images of malt shops and lettermen's sweaters. He was a three-sport star in high school, and received a scholarship to Florida State to play quarterback. He was a good student, and helped rescue kittens from trees when he wasn't escorting senior citizens across the street.

this is all totally relevant. great joke at the end there; top notch, leno-quality material.

As a Twin, Mauer remains a model citizen. He takes more pride in a pitcher's shutout than a four-hit game.

according to: the part of jerry crasnick's brain that makes stuff up, or a quote that will go completely uncited for the time being.

He's so sensible and grounded, he gives advice to new teammates who are older than he is. He never makes excuses, and he's humble yet competitive.

wow. don't forget that he plays the game the way it was meant to be played, hustles, bustles, is hard nosed, and brings his lunchpail to the ballpark every day. also he is white.

The Twins know a good thing when they see it. They've had a Joe Mauer Bat Day, a Joe Mauer Bobblehead Night and a Joe Mauer Sideburn Night, and they recently introduced the Joe Mauer Dugout Doll. Mauer is so popular in the Twin Cities, fans actually keep the stuff rather than flip it on eBay.

whenever the twins have a joe nathan or torii hunter bobblehead night, ebay crashes the next day as minnesotans rush to unload their unwanted collectibles. it's very sad. anyways, don't bother talking about how awesome mauer is at hitting. nope. let's just focus on all that other stuff. sounds good (and anecdotal!) to me.

Prince fielder, Brewers First Baseman

Fielder grew up around the game and feels at home in a major league clubhouse, but he lacks the sense of entitlement that comes with familiarity. At 23, he seems advanced beyond his years.

this point is based on _________. what goes in that blank? who knows. it's not like jerry tells us. i'm not saying it's false. i'm saying i have no idea whether it's true or not because crasnick just pulls it out of nowhere and doesn't bother justifying it.

Here's a small but telling example: Fielder knows people are going to have an interest in his strained relationship with his father, Cecil. It's a delicate situation, but he routinely answers the questions patiently and honestly, without a hint of resentment or defensiveness.

yes, that is a small example. no, it is not telling. it shows that he's mature enough to answer interview questions about a personal situation without turning into the incredible hulk. any 23 year old should be able to do that.

He's charismatic, too. Three times a year Milwaukee players appear at an event called Autograph Friday. During the last session, fans rushed to Fielder's table until the line stretched to the door. With time at a premium, some finally decided to give up and seek autographs from other Brewers.

yes. they all wanted his autograph because he's charismatic, not because he's one of the best home run hitters in the game today. they could care less about his skills. this is why david beckham gets harassed for autographs wherever he goes.

Chase Utley, Phillies Second Baseman

Looking for the signature Chase Utley moment? It came on Aug. 9, 2006, when he motored home from second base to score on a routine ground ball in a 9-3 victory over Atlanta.

look out, eckstein and erstad! i hope he bowled over the catcher at the end of the play.

He even sets an example when he's on the disabled list. How many infielders take ground balls with their wrist in a cast, as Utley did during the Phillies' last road trip?

i admit, that is pretty badass (as far as baseball badass-ness goes, anyways). it is also pretty damn irrelevant.

Utley's career .895 OPS is a testament to his offensive ability. But it's just as easy to be wowed by his baserunning or the way he's transformed himself from a defensive liability into one of the game's better second basemen.

baseball history is littered with the forgotten names of guys who were above average defensively and on the basepaths but couldn't hit for crap. it is not, however, littered with second basemen capable of OPSing over .900 and driving in tons of runs. what "wows" jerry crasnick and what "wows" me would make for an interesting venn diagram. it would probably be two circles on a giant sheet of paper, strategically placed to be as geometrically far away from each other as possible. notice my word choice here: it's "nice" that utley wants to be a good defensive player. it's "sensible" that he wants to improve his baserunning. it's "fucking amazing" how good he is at hitting. call me crazy, but i do not look at each of those 3 things equally.

Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies Shortstop

Any list of talented young shortstops begins with Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez. But Reyes sacrificed his spot on our All-Ripken-Gwynn clone team when Mets manager Willie Randolph benched him last month for failing to run out two grounders in four games. And Ramirez, while a terrific player, still lacks that seasoned veteran demeanor.

hooray for intangibles (or lack thereof)!

Tulowitzki, just a rookie, gives the low-key Rockies a feistiness they'd lacked in recent years. He won't tolerate fundamental lapses, and he was self-assured enough to call out Toronto's Jason Phillips for diving at his knees on a play at the plate in June. What Tulowitzki lacks in experience, he makes up for in chutzpah.

hooray for chutzpah! most young players smile and tip their caps to older players who try to injure them. but not troy.

David Wright, Mets Third Baseman

When you have your own charitable foundation, your name adorns a Delta Airlines jet and your teammates still aren't resentful, that says something. In a New York Times profile last spring, Mets closer Billy Wagner described Wright as "well-mannered, well liked, well disciplined and well rounded.''

if billy wagner says so into a microphone, it's good enough for me.

That's a tribute to Wright's upbringing. His father, Rhon, was a police officer in Virginia, and Wright learned a sense of responsibility as the oldest of four brothers.

tough luck, major league players who didn't have cop dads and 3 younger brothers. you will never fill the shoes of tony gwynn and cal ripken jr., because you just flat don't know how.

Accountability is part of the equation. Earlier this season, when his mysterious lack of power became a big issue, Wright kept plugging away.

jerry, jerry, jerry. you know better than that. the correct verb there is "grinding", not plugging.

Three months later, he has 19 homers and ranks fifth among big league third basemen with an .897 OPS. Sometimes leadership is just another word for perseverance.

in the exact same way that sometimes purple is just another word for airplane.

Grady Sizemore, Indians Outfielder

Sizemore makes the veteran scouts misty with his old-school approach,

read: he is a small, fast, white guy who sometimes dives to make defensive plays.

and his numbers are so overwhelming, the SABR guys can appreciate him, too.

even those nerdy nerds with slide rules and popping out of every pocket can see this guy is good! of course, they think he's good for all the wrong reasons, but it doesn't matter. the point is, he's a small fast white guy who sometimes dives to make defensive plays.

When Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro is asked which young players embody the Ripken-Gwynn ideal, he immediately cites Sizemore and Joe Mauer. "The only thing that matches Grady's passion and energy level is his athleticism and raw ability,'' Shapiro said. "He's not consumed by anything other than winning, being a good teammate and playing the game the right way.''

as opposed to adam dunn, who has recently tried to increase his range in the field by playing on a segway. or chone figgins, who has quietly been tripping opposing runners as they round third base for years.

Last September, with Cleveland going nowhere, Sizemore dived headfirst on a gravel warning track to make a catch on Chicago's Brian Anderson in a game the Indians trailed 7-1. When staff members told him he might want to exercise more caution, Sizemore looked at them as if they were space aliens. He only knows one way to play.

high comedy. this story makes sizemore sound like your average renegade-cop-with-best-intentions-who's-going-to-solve-the-crime-even-if-he-has-to-bend-the-rules-and-fight-departmental-beauracracy-and-a-lazy-and-inept-captain on a tv crime drama series. *coldly*: he'll let you know if he's intersted in your bullshit safety tips. he's got criminals to stop and fly balls to catch.

Curtis Granderson, Tigers Outfielder

Granderson plays the game with zeal. He has 63 extra-base hits this season -- one more than Alex Rodriguez --

careful jerry! that's some pretty hard analysis there. better counteract it with something anecdotal.

and you can see the fire in his eyes when he's churning for another triple.

much better.

It said a lot about Granderson's team-oriented mind-set last spring when he reached out and befriended Cameron Maybin, the Tigers prospect who's on track to take his center-field job and force him to move to left.

stories like this might be among the most annoying in all of sports. this kind of thing (player befriends his eventual successor) happens all the freaking time. tell me the last time you heard about a veteran being bitter and mean towards his young successor. what a shitty non-story. OH MY GOD... WHAT WILL DONOVAN MCNABB DO NOW THAT THE EAGLES PICKED A QUARTERBACK IN THE 2ND ROUND OF THE NFL DRAFT? YOU THINK HE'LL TRY TO SMOTHER THE GUY IN HIS SLEEP? no, idiot. he will take the kid under his wing. just like the way things happen 98% of the time in that situation. what a classic non-story.

If Major League Baseball is going to succeed in reaching out to young African-American athletes, Granderson should play a role. Last year he traveled to Europe on behalf of MLB, holding clinics and spreading the gospel of baseball.

side point/joke: shows you how much baseball cares about its declining popularity with african american kids when they're spending money flying players over to europe to promote the game.

Jeff Francouer, Braves Outfielder

wait for the obligatory mention of the fact that he used to play college football... wait for it...

Francoeur made an impression with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic when he confronted Alex Rodriguez after A-Rod berated a clubhouse kid for bringing him the wrong sandwich. That's one way to earn points with your peers.

that's a pretty funny story. wish i was there. keep waiting...

Francoeur has started 277 consecutive games, and he plays with an aggressiveness befitting a former football star.

there we go! you know, i will say this: at least he was a safety. erstad is still getting respect for being a fucking punter.

In the clubhouse, Francoeur is popular with teammates and rarely has a down day. "He's everything he appears to be,'' said Frank Wren, Atlanta's assistant general manager.

and that is: a white guy who used to be a football player and sometimes dives to make defensive plays.

Johan Santana, Twins Starting Pitcher

how did a latino guy sneak onto this list? who's screening these articles? i think they should have just added reggie willits as the 9th guy even though he's not a pitcher.

Santana created a stir at the nonwaiver deadline when he took some shots at the Twins' front office for trading Luis Castillo to the Mets.

just like ripken and gywnn used to do. hell, sometimes they made a stink abou the team trading a guy who hadn't even been traded! they just had a 6th sense for how to light a fire under the squad.

The person least offended by Santana's comments? Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan. "It's not exactly my desire to have that be public,'' Ryan said. "But I'm up here [in my office] and the players are down there busting their butts, and they didn't see me do a thing. What do you expect them to say? He was trying to be a leader. I had no problem with what he said, because he was standing up for the clubhouse.''

if a guy who wasn't one of the best, if not THE best pitcher in baseball said what santana said, i am guessing ryan's reaction would have been different.

Santana is bilingual, an icon in his native Venezuela, and he never misses a start.

ripken seaks japanese. true story. gywnn? well, let's just say he's still a big hit in norway.

That's why it must gall Twins fans to hear Yankees and Red Sox backers speculate on their teams signing Santana as a free agent in late 2008. Will Santana spend his entire major league career in one town, like Ripken and Gwynn, or follow the money trail elsewhere? That's a question for another day.

let's hope that day is: never. jerry crasnick should be permanently assigned to covering the little league world series and the WNBA.

2 comments:

dan-bob said...

what Moses lacked in looks, he made up for in chutzpah.

that's how he parted the red sea.

pnoles said...

Again, fuck you, Larry Bailey, for beating me to this article.