Tuesday, April 20, 2010

7 comments Bert Blyleven Writes An Entire Column of Full of Hyperbole

It's that time of the year. The time of the year when sportswriters find it necessary to make a list of players who contribute to their baseball team OUTSIDE of what the box score says. Some players may bake brownies for the road trips, others may keep make outs at the top of the order with runners on base so someone else in the order can get the RBI's or another player may contribute in ways that we can't even see like his mere presence in the room inspires teammates. They contribute something so important, it's not even tangible, but it involves being tough, white and having a lot of dirt on you. Those are the players Bert Blyleven covers today. Get ready for the word "gamer" a lot.

He calls them "gamers" and most of them are white, not Latin or Black, because obviously no baseball players that aren't white hustle because everything in sports comes easy to them.
This is not racist at all. The real problem with this article is that he doesn't include David Eckstein on the list. Doesn't Bert know it is a fucking requirement that David Eckstein be a part of all "gritty and scrappy player" lists? It's in the Constitution, Bible and written on the walls of every bathroom in America. David Eckstein has to be a part of any scrappy player list. No Eckstein? That's a bad way to start off a gritty and scrappy player column.

Along the way, let's examine the thirteen characteristics of a gamer that we can get from this column.

They are known to some as dirtballs, to others as gamers. They are the tough, gritty players who will do anything to help their team win.

They will do anything. Including just throwing a bunch of hyperbole into a column, smile, and call it a fucking day.

They are guys like Ron Hunt, who stuck his elbow out over the plate often enough to lead the NL in being hit by a pitch seven times (including a whopping 50 plunkings in 1971).

That is impressive how Ron Hunt wants to win so badly that he completely shows disdain for the rules of baseball and tries to pretty much cheat his way onto base.

Characteristic #1 of a gamer: Propensity to bend the rules

If a pitch touches the batter (or the batter's clothes), the umpire declares a hit by pitch (abbreviated HBP) and the batter is awarded first base, unless the umpire determines that the ball was in the strike zone when it hit the batter, or that the batter did not attempt to avoid being hit.

Is it cheating if the umpire never calls it? Probably not, but it is actually against the rules even if it isn't called. That's just gritty though and can be forgiven.

Mark McGwire wanted to win so badly that he actually took illegal substances to help his team win games. He actually took the risk of injuring his body permanently to help his team win. That's gritty. Wait? That's not considered noble? Nevermind.

Jumping in front of a pitch, injuring other players, and just naturally being an asshole to help your team win is a player being a gamer. A player using PEDs to help his team win is not being a gamer. So it's fine to hurt other players and bend the rules in an effort to help your team win, but it is not fine to hurt yourself and bend the rules in an effort to help your team win.

Tim Foley was a guy I played with on the Pirates who was another gamer. He was a hardnosed shortstop who had an attitude and a fight about him, and was not afraid to say what was on his mind.

The fight about him was probably because he gritted and hustled his way to a career .303 OBP and never had a OPS+ over 96. That's a gamer there! Don't you see he didn't have time to improve his ability to play baseball, he was too busy fighting with the manager. That's a characteristic of a gamer for sure.

Characteristic of a gamer #2: May not be very good at actually playing baseball.

In fact, I remember an incident where he questioned the tactics of manager Chuck Tanner, and they had an altercation that escalated to the point where Tanner’s hands were around Foley’s throat.

Attempted murder? It's just Tanner and Foley hustling and being hardnosed.

Characteristic of a gamer #3: Prone to physical violence, perhaps to the point of attempted murder.

Ed Ott was a catcher and kind of a troll. He would do anything to block home plate and wasn’t at all averse to physical contact.

Ed Ott may have been a troll, but he was also a comparably better player at the catcher position than Foley was an infielder.

During one incident after he broke up a double-play at second base, he body-slammed Mets infielder Felix Millan so hard he broke his collar bone.

Wow! That doesn't sound it is illegal or would result in a suspension at all if done today! So if I run the hell over the second baseman because I just want to break up a double play and help my team win, this is an acceptable action? How come I don't believe this?

I love how the fact Ed Ott fucking body-slammed a player so hard he broke his (Ott or Millan's?) collar bone. Normally, this is a bad thing, but because Ott was gritty it is really admirable. Milton Bradley doing this would result in a 40 game suspension and God knows A-Rod would be accused of aborting the game of baseball and being a huge dick if he did this.

A few years ago, A-Rod called, "I got it" in Toronto and caused the Blue Jays infielder to drop the ball. He was considered a dick for doing this, but if it was Tim Foley it would have been perfectly acceptable because he is just doing everything to help his team win.

And Pete Rose was perhaps the ultimate gamer. Not only was he talented, he played as hard as anyone. Rose did not ever back off, not even in the 1970 All-Star game, when he bowled into Ray Fosse so hard at home plate that Fosse’s shoulder was wrecked.

Characteristic of a gamer #4: Displays a lack of concern for other player's physical health.

Pete Rose was a gamer. He would gamble on baseball and then when the commissioner tried to get him to confess, he was gritty and refused to tell the truth and eventually tried to make money off a book he was selling where he confessed to gambling on baseball. He's a gamer!

They set the tone for their ball club, and an example for their teammates.

"Here's how you break someone's collar bone."

"If you have a problem with your manager you should bait him into choking you."

"Getting on-base is overrated. Getting dirt on your uniform is underrated."

Characteristic of a gamer #5: Set the tone for the team by setting an example through poor baseball playing.

Dirtballs are respected — if not always liked — by other teams and other players. They’re respected by other managers, too.

Unless the manager wants to choke him of course.

They leave it all out on the field, and never spare any effort.

(Bengoodfella choking on hyperbole)

There is a difference between being a gamer and a jerk.

The difference is that there isn't a difference unless Bert Blyleven thinks you are a jerk...in which case he will call you a jerk and not a gamer.

Jeff Kent was a great player who played very hard, but didn’t have respect because he was a jerk.

This means absolutely nothing. It sounds to me like Bert is just naming his friends Ed Ott and Tim Foley as gamers because he played with them and likes them, but he didn't play with Jeff Kent so he is a jerk.

So if a player doesn't have "respect" then he is a jerk. Spoiler alert! The last person on this list is A.J. Pierzynski. I would be hard pressed to believe there is any player in MLB not on Pierzynski's team who likes or respects him. Yet he makes Bert's list.

You might notice that there aren’t any pitchers on the list. As a pitcher myself, I think that a gamer has to play every day. You have to see that they bring to the table day in and day out.

There is no way pitchers can have the respect of their teammates or contribute anything to the team in a "gamer" fashion. Any pitcher who tries to be a gamer is immediately labeled a "jerk."

Characteristic of a gamer #6: Not a pitcher. Pitchers who try to be gamers are jerks.

Derek Jeter, Yankees
Derek Jeter is one of those guys you watch and admire.

Of course Derek Jeter is the #1 gamer. The Jeter defines gamer. In fact, can we quit saying "gamer" and call the rest of the players "Jeters"? I think it is only right to do this.

He plays the game the right way

How many jokes can be made about "playing the game the right way"? It means nothing, it says nothing, and is just a generally useless comment. Can we outlaw this expression?

Characteristic of a gamer #7: Plays the game the right way. Whatever this means.

He goes out and shows an intensity level that is higher than everyone else.

Because there is a definite tangible way to measure intensity. Milton Bradley isn't intense, he is a jerk, because that is how we will label him. He is not white and no one likes him, therefore he isn't intense, but just a raging asshole. Albert Pujols is not a gamer because he isn't intense. Sorry Albert, you get no respect.

Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Pedroia is sort of a miniature Jeter who plays second base.

Right, he is miniature Jeter in that they are absolutely nothing alike, outside of both of them being humans.

He’s always got that little man syndrome going, not backing down from anyone and looking for a scrap. He’s well loved because of how hard he plays.

Characteristic of a gamer #8: Plays hard and is always looking for a scrap.

I hope Bert Blyleven knows that he just named the first two players as "gamers" who are two of the best players at their position. This violates the rule gamers must suck at baseball. Derek Jeter and Dustin Pedroia would be pissed to be put in the same category as Tim Foley.

Aaron Rowand, Giants
In fact, he once broke multiple bones in his face while making a catch against the fence in Philadelphia — and he also brings that fighter’s mentality to his gritty at-bats.

Holy crap. Why do I make myself read stuff like this? My favorite part about this column, or any column about hustlers, scrappers, or gamers, is the author always knows EXACTLY how hard a player is trying or if he is being intense or not. It's like the author can always read minds and knows what every facial expression by a player means. I hate columns like this.

"A fighter's mentality to his gritty at-bats?" I don't know how Bert can write these sentences with a straight face.

If this column is his attempt to lose all credibility as a writer, then well done Bert. Well done. I was actually thinking Bert wasn't a bad writer after reading a few of his recent columns. He cleared up that misconception incredibly effectively with this column.

Nick Punto, Twins
Punto isn’t much of a hitter, but he plays hard and does whatever it takes to win a game.

If Nick Punto will do whatever it takes to win a game, how about sitting down and letting another player play so his career .248/.322/.326 line doesn't drag the team down? Perhaps he could improve how well he plays baseball and that help his team win also.

Doesn't actually playing well and having talent count as "doing whatever it takes to win?" Nothing against Nick Punto, and I am sure he plays hard, but a lot of players do whatever it takes to win and they are better players than Nick Punto. Perhaps they should get recognition.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was a gamer himself, likes Punto for his enthusiasm and how he goes about his business. He often finds himself saying “if Punto doesn’t make that play, we don’t win.”

Gardenhire often probably also says, "if Punto doesn't play well, we can still win." Or "I have a feeling I can put a league average player out there who would outperform Punto, perhaps I should try that sometime."

Of course I am sure a league average player isn't a gamer like Punto.

Brandon Inge, Tigers
Inge played through two bad knees last year and didn’t come out of any games. And he has always been open to doing whatever his team needs.

Characteristic of a gamer #9: They should actually be called utility guys.

I like Brandon Inge, but his career numbers don't blow me away, but I do have to say there is something to be said for versatility. So, I give him a somewhat pass for being on this list.

So far, out of 10 gamers 4 of them are white guys and the other is 1/2 white. All of these players are from the United States, even though 27.7% of players are foreign-born.

Characteristic of a gamer #10: Most likely is from the United States.

Eric Chavez, Athletics
Chavez was a very good player earlier in his career, but has often had trouble staying healthy.

And now he is just a bad baseball player and has been since 2007. When Chavez was a good baseball player, he wasn't a gamer, because he didn't bleed for his team or try hard. Now that he sucks, he magically becomes a gamer!

Through all the pain he has been in, he doesn’t want to give up. When he was in his prime he was known as a hardnosed third baseman.

This is absolutely terrible writing. Bert is just throwing words like "hardnosed" and "gritty" around to the point it is self-parody.

Now he’s the designated hitter and trying to resurrect his career by playing hard.

And according to his statistics so far, failing miserably. Perhaps he should be less like a gamer and more like an actual good baseball player.

I like how in Bert's point of view Chavez used to be talented, but now that he has suffered injuries he is playing hard now...like Bert is almost saying Chavez wasn't trying hard previously because he had so much talent. Therein lies my problem with this list of gamers and any list of gamers that is ever made. Those players who are good aren't seen as scrappy players and scrappy players are not seen as having any talent and are said to get by on an oversized heart and love for his team.

Characteristics of a gamer #11: If a player loses his talent for any reason, but still tries to stick in baseball, that makes him a gamer.

Torii Hunter, Angels

Some people may think Hunter is a jerk for his comments
Latin American players, but that was just him being gritty. Get it? He is gritty, not a jerk, while Jeff Kent is a jerk. The difference? Only Bert Blyleven knows.

He came up with the team as a second baseman, but shifted to shortstop once Alex Rodriguez left.

(Rangers ownership) "Michael, you are switching to second base. We just signed Alex Rodriguez to play shortstop."

(Michael Young) "But, I like short---"

(Rangers ownership) "Shut up. He is much better than you. You are playing shortstop."

Then, when Elvis Andrus emerged, Young made another switch, this time to third base.

(Rangers ownership) "We are calling Elvis Andrus up. You are moving to third base."

(Michael Young) "But, I like second ba---"

(Rangers ownership) "Shut up. He is like 20 years old and will be better than you in 2 years. You are now the third baseman."

He’ll accept what is best for the team.

He was pretty much doing whatever was best for the team, as long as he could throw a hissy fit first. He accepted the change while kicking and screaming. Apparently Bert loves some revisionist history and will pretend Michael Young gladly went to third base...which isn't true at all. Unless Michael Young thought demanding a trade was good for the team.

Characteristic of a gamer #12: Changes positions when forced to by his team acquiring a better player (or a player who could be better) than he is .

I think Young is underappreciated, and if he was playing in New York, people would be talking about him as a Hall of Famer.

People can talk about anyone as a Hall of Fame player, that doesn't mean it is true. I can talk with someone about Bengie Molina being a Hall of Famer, but that doesn't mean he should be one. Plus, Young can't play in New York for the Mets because that is too many gamers at shortstop in one city. He and Jeter would just out-scrap everyone and the city would ignite into one huge scrappy fire leaving behind only bits of burning heart and guts behind.

Chone Figgins, Mariners
Figgins made his mark as a leadoff hitter with the Angels. Now he’s with the Mariners, and he knows who the leadoff hitter is in Seattle.

Ichiro, who is a better baseball player than Chone Figgins. Congratulations to Chone Figgins for not demanding to be the lead-off hitter over a player who is clearly a better baseball player than he is. Some would say this is common sense, others would call this gritty and doing anything to help his team win.

Figgins will do whatever it takes.

Whatever it takes to win that is.

He knows what his job is and takes to it eagerly. He’ll take extra pitches to help give Ichiro a chance to steal. He’ll never quit learning the game.

Is this a serious column? I am starting to wonder.

Shane Victorino, Phillies
The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” doesn’t get the notoriety of the other hitters on his team, but he’s a big part of their offense and plays great defense in center field.

He did accept a move down in the order for Placido Polanco, so that automatically makes him a gamer.

A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox
A lot of people don’t like Pierzynski, but he doesn’t care. He just wants to help his team win.

As opposed to many other catchers in MLB who are actively trying to help their team lose.

He did it the other day by convincing the umpire he was hit by a pitch in a game against the Blue Jays, even though he was not. The next hitter, Alex Rios, hit a home run to break up a no-hitter.

Do you know why Rios hit a home run? Because Pierzynski willed himself onto base and Rios was so inspired by this he hit a home run. Rios only hit the home run because Pierzynski is a gamer and was on first base. There is a direct correlation between Rios hitting a home run and Pierzynski willing himself on base.

Pierzynski will say things to irritate his opponents.

Characteristic of a gamer#13: Gamers are assholes.

He’ll annoy people, and get into scraps.

But will he annoy Ozzie Guillen to the point he tries to choke him to death? If not, then AJ Pierzynski will never meet the gamer-ness of Tim Foley. Does Pierzynski look like a troll? If not, Ed Ott says go screw yourself.

But in the end, he makes the White Sox better.

Because he is a good catcher, not because he is a gamer or scrappy or a hustler or because he is a dick to the other team...but because of his baseball ability.

When I am President, I will outlaw all baseball columns, such as this one, about players that are gritty and have intangible qualities that make their team better. It's terrible.

So out of the 11 players Bert Blyleven talks about here, all 11 of them are American and that means none of them are Latin American. Apparently Latin American players aren't gritty and don't do anything to win games for their team.

The good news is the list included 2 African-American players. That should please Orlando Hudson. Welcome to our little white, scrappy hell African-American players. Welcome. If you are white and look like you try hard, you are scrappy. It's an attempted compliment that is a bigger insult.


Anonymous said...

Also helpful? Being white and playing on the infield.

Martin said...

How the hell can a DH be a gamer? He gets up and swings the bat 4-5 times a game. Wohoo! I guess in Chavez's case if he doesn't get hurt it qualifies.

Bengoodfella said...

White and playing in the infield always helps.

A DH can be a gamer if he is trying to stay in MLB despite the fact he probably shouldn't be there anymore.

Chavez probably has clauses in his contract giving him bonuses for not getting hurt.

pedros rooster said...

Pour out a 40 of hustle juice for Darin Erstad---free agent and not on this list. He was a punter in college, you know--brings a football mentality to the ballpark!


rich said...

Going off the criteria for a "gamer," I'd have to think Jeter would be off the list.

Isn't this the guy who threw a hissy fit when they got ARod? So the guy who is 'willing to do anything to win' wasn't willing to switch positions to allow the better player to play the natural position.

Bengoodfella said...

Erstad is a football player in a baseball player's body. He was a punter, widely known as the most manly of all football positions.

"Hustle juice" sounds like something David Eckstein should be promoting. Someone get his agent on the phone.

Rich, I actually had a paragraph in this post about Jeter not switching to 3B with the arrival of A-Rod and how that wouldn't make him a "gamer" because of that, but I took it out because I didn't feel like it fit in.

You are absolutely right though. He did not want to switch positions despite the fact A-Rod was a superior SS at that point to Jeter. Any list that includes AJ Pierzynski as a guy who has other player's respect is obviously a list that isn't factual. Jeter isn't willing to switch positions probably means he isn't willing to do ANYTHING to help his team win.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Blyleven's article is subpar, especially for his position in baseball media.

And yeah, his article suffered from what you call hyperbole. But you disparage him as a writer for misusing hyperbole when you yourself write articles drenched in ceaseless, unrelenting sarcasm. I personally forgive his shoddy writing skills because he is originally and foremost a superstar athlete. Also, check the extra word in your blog headline ("of").

PS I'm posting this anonymously because I am uninterested in a response.