Sep
10

On judging a ballplayer’s effort level

By

“He doesn’t try hard enough. He’s not putting in enough effort. That guy’s just lazy, and we see it all the time.” These are common refrains from fans when good players and teams perform poorly. From high up in our ivory towers, we levy judgment on these players, deeming their efforts unworthy. It is apparently our divine right as fans, to decide whether a ballplayer is giving his all or is dogging it.

The reason we do this is simple: humans love narrative and hate the unexplainable. Oftentimes, a slump is unexplainable. Coaches might point to a mechanical flaw, but even then it’s usually not at the heart of the issue. Over the course of a 162-game season, players will streak and slump. It’s the nature of the game, and it’s been going on since its inception.

Rather than accepting that slumps happen, writers, reporters, and fans tend to concoct an acceptable narrative. Depending on the player, it might be that the player isn’t trying. This seems to be the case with Joba Chamberlain, as my man Moshe Mandel of The Yankee Universe notes. Media like blogs and Twitter have given fans a stronger voice, and too frequently they’re using it to express feelings of disgust towards players. Unfortunately, these narratives usually don’t line up with reality. I’ll let Moshe explain.

Unless a player is obviously dogging it, it is impossible to discern whether a player is giving his all by watching on television. We can try and interpret the events on the field, but ultimately, we just do not have enough information about the player’s level of preparation, will to improve, or willingness to try new things. Usually, a player who is not performing or is making the same errors repeatedly is trying to change, but cannot execute. Does anyone truly believe that these players are satisfied with failure on the largest stage for baseball in the world? The assumption should be that the players are attempting to avoid failure unless they clearly show otherwise.

Emphasis mine. Yes, there are players who dog it. Undoubtedly. I would think that most of them would get weeded out before they make the majors, though. There are only 750 major league roster spots. Eventually, if a player isn’t giving a solid effort, his performance relative to those 750 players is going to drop off. Sure, the player might have a ton of promise, and might be on a team that is more concerned about the future than about the present. But eventually either the team is going to have to care about the present, or else the player will grow older, thus removing the “young” part of young and promising. Removing the “promising” tag doesn’t come long after.

R.J. Anderson of DRays Bay covered this topic in depth last week. He took a bit different angle, trying to divide ballplayers into castes. Some, like our own Derek Jeter, are unassailable. Yet there are others, like Joba and B.J. Upton, with whom we grow frustrated. They don’t say the right thing — whatever that may be — at the right time. Even more so, they’re usually a talented lot who make hard things look easy at times. So when things aren’t going right, it’s easy to criticize them for dogging it, because their effortless demeanor isn’t translating into results.

These two paragraphs from Anderson really hit home for me:

Imagine practicing an instrument nearly every single day since you were 12-years-old. For more than half your life, all you know is playing that instrument. You play some concerts, some shows at a club, and as it turns out, people like you. The club starts paying you upfront and things look great, but you’ve been doing this for 12+ years. What drives you to continue? It wasn’t the money until recently; it isn’t the fame because you have little. Is it the desire to master the craft?

Upton has put in more hours at a baseball field than most of us will our entire lives. By suggesting that he doesn’t care about the game you’re suggesting that most of his life is irrelevant to him. I suppose it could be true, but why the hell would he continue to play if he hated and was disinterested by it?

Upton is an apt example here because of last night’s game. He caught a lot of crap for apparently dogging it on a few fly balls. Because he didn’t appear to be busting it on these plays, many fans thought he was just dogging it. The problem with this narrative is that there is a well-known physical issue behind Upton’s play. He recently sprained his ankle, and was removed from the game because he re-aggravated it. Yet even with this information in hand, many will still chalk it up to a lack of effort and write off the injury as some sort of excuse.

I understand why people love narrative — who doesn’t love a good story? — but I still can’t understand why people use them to demonize ballplayers. Is it jealousy? Anderson used a great real life example there, but that’s not the case for most of us. We labor away at jobs we dislike, and yes, sometimes we dog it. But, as with the musician, it’s different for the ballplayer. In most cases, it’s all they know how to do. If Joba Chamberlain didn’t play baseball, what would he do? Does he know how to do anything else?

This isn’t a knock on Joba. In fact, it’s a high compliment. I’m not sure about everyone, but I’d love to have one thing I was really good at, better than most of my peers. Because once you can identify that in yourself, you can work at that harder than anything else. Then maybe you can break the monotonous 9-to-5 cycle and do something you love. Yet most of us don’t get a chance to do something we love. And maybe that’s where envy sets in, because these ballplayers do what they love every day, and they are paid handsomely for it.

None of this will stop anyone from criticizing ballplayers for dogging it. I just think that overusing this line of criticism takes away from situations where a player actually is dogging it. Don’t get me wrong, they do exist. But the natural market forces at work in baseball will weed them out eventually, whether in the minors, for the less talented portion, or in the majors, for those so exquisitely talented that they can play among the 750 best players in the country without giving their all.

Ballplayers slump, and ballplayers struggle. Always have, always will. It happens to the best, and it happens to the mediocre. Our natural inclination is to set a narrative to the players’ failures, and all too often that narrative accuses the player of not putting enough effort into a game they’ve played at a high level since they were teenagers (at least). Most times there is no concrete explanation to these slumps and struggles. They’re the natural ebbs and flows of the game. It’s tough to accept, but it’s the truth.

I realize there are a few instances of “we” in here, and I just want to be clear that I use it in the most general sense. Just so there’s no confusion, and no specific finger pointing. That’s not the point of this post.

Categories : Musings

136 Comments»

  1. CountryClub says:

    Nice catch!! Don’t ever f*cking do it again.

    That sums BJ Upton up in the field for me. He glides out there and it’s fun to watch. But the way he hot dogs almost all of his catches puts me off.

    • So, then, nothing to say about Joe’s thesis? Nothing?

      • I found it shallow and pedantic.

      • pete says:

        “i can’t help it if i make it look easy”
        my all time favorite quote. seriously people it’s like when people talk about manny dogging it when he’s up at 5AM hitting every day of the offseason

      • CountryClub says:

        Well, I tried to imply that I dont think BJ is a dog…but I do think he styles too much. Those two things are different in my book. He definitely was not running hard last night. I’ll go with the ankle story, even though he wasnt limping at all and if you have a bad ankle you usually limp no matter how fast you run.

        It’s tough topic. Cano is very smooth in the field. We watch him every day and we realize that’s just his way. Other people watch him a few times a year and it looks like he’s dogging it. That being said, Cano gets lazy sometimes and players like Jeter and Arod almost never do. I really dont know why one player takes plays off and others dont. I don’t know what the reason is for that.

        • Maybe Cano doesn’t get lazy and it’s just that there are some balls he has, for some reason, a hard time getting to. Maybe his first step is slow, maybe he reads it poorly off the bat, maybe a runner shields him. I highly doubt Cano’s out there thinking “Meh, I’m too tired to get that ball. I don’t want my team to get an out. Have a single, (batter’s name here).” That’s lazy. Lazy is purposely not trying to get the ball and I highly, highly doubt Cano–or any other player with the “lazy” tag–doesn’t want to get to the ball or make a play.

        • Makavelli says:

          OR….maybe Cano is just good at making himself look good when he makes his mistakes…

          Hmmm…

          • Makavelli says:

            should have put the “look good” in quotes…because clearly nobody looks and thinks its ‘good’ but perhaps hes just good at showing that he could almost get things that he normally can’t.

    • The fact that Upton can pretty much amble to balls that other guys have to sprint for makes him a good baseball player. That ball he dropped on the track last night wouldn’t have even been in range for a lot of players, but Upton got to the spot–though still jogging instead of setting–without sprinting all out. He dropped the ball because he very subtly took his eye off of it, not because he was ‘hot dogging’ it out there.

      • CountryClub says:

        He made a catch that could have been routine hard because he was going for style points. There’s no reason for that.

        • Tom Zig says:

          How do you know he was going for style points?

          Style points to me would be like catching the ball and then dancing around. He just makes things look so easy, thats why people get down on him.

          • It’s like when people used to complain that because Carlos Beltran didn’t make diving catches, he wasn’t trying as hard and wasn’t a good defender when the reality was he was making catches others would have to dive for while standing up.

        • Oh, so he was “going for style points”? That’s not just the way he naturally plays defense?

          From high up in our ivory towers, we levy judgment on these players, deeming their efforts unworthy. It is apparently our divine right as fans, to decide whether a ballplayer is giving his all or is dogging it.

          The reason we do this is simple: humans love narrative and hate the unexplainable.

          Complaining that a player isn’t trying hard and complaining that a player isn’t playing “the right way” are two sides of the same coin. I’d like to know how and why you feel Upton is “going for style points” or in any way playing defense in some sort of unacceptable fashion.

          • CountryClub says:

            Actually, that is the way he always plays defense. And no, I dont like it. If I was his manager I would have broken him from, what I think is a bad habit at this point, a long time ago (hence the Major League quote in my original post).

            I honestly dont care enough about BJ Upton to get into an arguement about him. If he was on the Yankees I might be more passionate about it.

            • Raf says:

              so you would prefer to make a kid who is extremely naturally talented at baseball change the way he is comfortable at playing the field just because you dont like how it looks? nevermind the fact that he gets the job done very well?

              i think Upton just fits into the Beltran category like someone said above. he makes things look so easy that it becomes easy for the fan to be critical because they perceive less effort with not hustling or whatever.

              • CountryClub says:

                I’m not trying to change your opinion. To me, catching the ball at your waste when you have plenty of time to catch it the proper way, is just asking for trouble.

        • I really doubt he was going for style points. He took his eye off his glove/theball at the last second, that stuff happens. The fact that he was even in position to catch that ball, especially considering how shallow he normally plays, is impressive in and of itself.

        • Raf says:

          he also made a play that is hard for a great deal of OFs look routine because of his talents out there. even while injured. 98% of the time he makes that catch, last night he just didnt.
          i dont think he was trying to show everyone in Yankee Stadium how he makes basket catches, its just how he fields deep fly balls. hes done it in the past and made those catches look easy.

          • CountryClub says:

            I’m not so sure this is true. Melky and gardner would have both gotten to that ball.

            I’m sure Upton does get to balls that others dont…but the one hit last night wasnt one of them.

            • I highly doubt Melky gets to that ball. Gardner might, but he’d have to be busting it. Upton wasn’t busting it, probably because of his ankle, and still got to a ball that not many other guys get to without going all out. And, Upton did get to the ball, he just didn’t make the catch because he took his eye off the ball, a physical error that happens every so often.

              • CountryClub says:

                BJ Upton is not so fast that he can run half speed and get to a ball that other guys wouldnt get to if they were running full speed.

                • So Upton does run full speed? You said above he was gliding. Which one is it? No matter how he does it, B.J. Upton gets to a hell of a lot more balls than your average CF.

                • Tom Zig says:

                  BJ Upton…ranked 3rd among qualified CFers in UZR/150 (12.2), 2nd in UZR (12.1).

                • CountryClub says:

                  I used the term glide in the good sense. I think he is moving full speed most of the time but his running style is just so effortless that it looks like he isnt. However, he cleary wasnt running full speed last night and as I said, it was probably because of the ankle.

                • CountryClub says:

                  I’m not sure why you’re giving me his metrics. I never said that he’s not a good CFer.

                • Tom Zig says:

                  Just backing up Matt’s point that he gets to more balls than the average CF

        • rbizzler says:

          First off, that was anything but a routine play that Boss man Junior flubbed last night. Yes, he coasted to the ball when he could have done the little league coaches preferred turn-and-run-to-the-spot, but Robbie took a low pitch and lashed a ball with a lot of back spin on it toward centerfield. That ball had a ridiculous amount of carry to it and BJ may have mis judged it a bit but not enough to take any drastic action. In the end, he put himself in position to make the play, and despite all of the posturing by Kay/Flash/PeteAbe, that is all that matters. No, he did no make the play, but let us not forget that BJ isn’t a career OF either.

          Just like with Cano, because he is talented enough to make plays look easy, when he makes mistakes let us not assume it is because of a lack of effort.

      • Tom Zig says:

        His ankle could have been slowing him down as well.

      • A.D. says:

        Well the fundamentally sound catch is to get back to the wall and catch it over your head, like any other catch. Since he didn’t do that, and it appears he had time (albeit the ankle could have been a factor) to do it, there is something there on him not being fundamentally sound on that ball.

        Generally non fundamentally sound, when one could be will be translated to style points.

  2. Makavelli says:

    Jeter tries too hard…

  3. A.D. says:

    We labor away at jobs we dislike, and yes, sometimes we dog it. But, as with the musician, it’s different for the ballplayer.

    It actually isn’t necessarily different for a ballplayer, you hear of guys that actually loved another sport more, or grew up dreaming to be a doctor, but they realized their natural ability to play a given sport they could work on and become one of the best, be beloved by fans, even whole cities, and make a ton of money.

    Almost no kid grew up with the dream of being an investment banker, but many do go into those professions, and work incredibly hard to master their craft, and try and become one of the best 1,000 bankers in the world, all the while potentially still wishing they were doing something else or at least not completely loving their job.

    Just as you say no ballplayer wants to go out and suck, no one wants to go to work and suck, its the same human competitive streak.

    That said I agree most players get nailed on dogging it because they’re underperforming to some fan expectation, and that it can’t just be mechanical or a bad stretch, it has to be he’s not trying.

  4. I’m not sure about everyone, but I’d love to have one thing I was really good at, better than most of my peers. Because once you can identify that in yourself, you can work at that harder than anything else.

    Just because you’re hung like a moose doesn’t mean you have to do porn.

  5. Ed says:

    By suggesting that he doesn’t care about the game you’re suggesting that most of his life is irrelevant to him. I suppose it could be true, but why the hell would he continue to play if he hated and was disinterested by it?

    I’m going to disagree with this. Caring about “baseball” and caring about “Major League Baseball” are two VERY different things.

    Just because you like something when you do it for fun doesn’t mean you’re still going to like it when it’s your day job. Your mental state is completely different when you’re doing something because you want to instead of because you have to.

    I’m sure all players loved baseball in high school. But at that point of their lives, no matter how dedicated they were, baseball took up a fraction of the amount of time it takes up when they reach the majors. I doubt many of us know what it’s like to live out of hotels, moving from one to the next about twice a week for 6 months straight, squeezing in time at the gym before a long day of physically exhausting work.

    I’m sure over 99% of players absolutely love the game when they make their debut. But there’s got to be a significant chunk of players that keep their careers going just because they can get a 7 figure salary and a couple months of time off each year.

    • That’s a good distinction, one I didn’t even think of. Thanks, Ed. Might have to rework this topic for the off-season.

    • Yup.

      Derek Jeter didn’t become a big leaguer because he loved the game, he became a big leaguer because he has a lion’s competitive spirit and an abiding burning passion in his heart to hit as much top-shelf poon as humanly possible.

      Baseball, and the championships, are merely a means to that end.

    • Makavelli says:

      I agree. Very intuitive post. I’ve become a pretty big fan of Ed’s posts lately. Knowledgeable, insightful, and takes a different approach if he disagrees with you or if you make a mistake.

      Keep up the good work, Ed!

    • Klemy says:

      I can definitely see that side of the argument. I bet most really appreciate what they are doing though. Kind of related:

      I had a physical therapist after my elbow surgery that also had a retired pro football player as a patient. This player was an offensive lineman and can no longer lift his arms higher then parallel with the floor. She told me that he’s been through numerous surgeries and he has pain in his shoulders all the time.

      She asked him one day during therapy, knowing what he’s going through now, was it worth it? Would he still do it all over again? She said he didn’t even take the time to blink and immediately said, “Yes. I wouldn’t change a thing.” She said that he went on to explain the friendships and memories he has and that it means everything to him.

      We should all be so lucky as to have those experiences with our day job, IMO. So, while I can expect that there are people who may dog it, I bet most cherish every second of it.

    • JGS says:

      agreed

      Hence Yadier Molina saying his walk-off hit in the WBC was the biggest hit of his career, this from a guy who hit a GW home run in game 7 of the NLCS a few years ago

  6. Jerkface says:

    Another lazy article by Joe, he should be traded for a gritty writer like Lupica.

  7. Ross says:

    Joe, you’re a cool guy and I enjoy talking baseball with you (same with Moshe), but you BOTH really come off elitist in these anti-criticism rants.

    Upton’s ankle had ZERO impact on his not using two hands to catch the ball on multiple occasions last night.

    Further, Buster Olney had the following regarding BJ Upton on his blog the other day:

    “After being dropped in the lineup, Upton publicly expressed dissatisfaction with Joe Maddon’s decision and fell into an even deeper slump. A rival talent evaluator recently clocked Upton — before he sprained his ankle — at 4.6 seconds as he ran to first base on a double-play attempt, the kind of time that is simply inexcusable in the minds of scouts.”

    http://insider.espn.go.com/esp.....ney_buster

    Unfortunately, these facts don’t fit in with your anti-narrative, anti-criticism angle. Sounds like you have created a narrative to voice your criticism. You’re just like us on Twitter! Yay!

    By the way, you know I am very critical of Robinson Cano, but after watching Upton the past couple of days, I am beginning to think you are right – he isn’t lazy. He just loses focus sometimes. I am going to cool it with the Cano criticism, even if I can’t stand his approach with men on base.

    • at 4.6 seconds as he ran to first base on a double-play attempt, the kind of time that is simply inexcusable in the minds of scouts.”

      So one bad run makes him a lazy player? That’s the same type of logic we all dismissed when the “anonymous scout” said A-Rod looked like he was moving like a first baseman.

      • Tom Zig says:

        I love anonymous scouts. They are full of so much useful and insightful information. It is truly astounding.

        • JohnnyC says:

          At one point, I entertained the idea of being a major league scout for the Yankees. But, in the end, the only job I could get was as an anonymous scout. Sure, I don’t get to be affiliated with a team per se but my interaction with baseball writers is frequent and quite rewarding to my ego.

      • Ross says:

        My main point was that the BJ Upton criticism last night was not baseless, and shouldn’t automatically be dismissed by the Joe and Moshe’s of the world. It is a valid topic of debate and discussion.

        That being said, if every moment of me doing my job was televised, observers would probably note that I was “dogging it” 90% of the time.

        No, I’m not proud of that.

        • No, he’s not free of criticism. He made an error, and that should be criticized. However, it wasn’t made out of lack of effort but rather the fact that he seemed to take his eye off the ball after successfully getting to the spot.

        • “My main point was that the BJ Upton criticism last night was not baseless, and shouldn’t automatically be dismissed by the Joe and Moshe’s of the world. It is a valid topic of debate and discussion.”

          See, this is where people start to lose me with the whole ‘you may disagree with me but my opinion is still valid so you shouldn’t criticize me’ thing. You’re right, you can go ahead and discuss and debate this topic. And Joe, and anyone else, can go ahead and tell you they think you’re wrong about it. Nobody ‘automatically dismissed’ anything. On the contrary, Joe actually wrote a rather lengthy post (it’s above, it’s the post we’re all commenting on) about why he disagrees with your opinion on this one. You have the right to speak your mind, and Joe has the right to speak his mind and tell you he thinks you’re wrong. It’s the circle of life.

        • KayGee says:

          Let’s not forget this either,,,,

          http://mlb.mlb.com/news/articl.....8;c_id=mlb

          or this

          http://www.usatoday.com/sports.....3348_x.htm

          While it is not fair to look at just a couple of plays and judge a player’s effort, there is some history here. I have spoken personally with a number of writers covering the Rays (Marc Topkin, Joe Henderson) and Upton’s effort is absolutely a concern within the organization. While last night’s events may have been related to the injury, i certainly don’t think it is wrong of people who have followed Upton’s career to question his effort considering what we say.

        • Moshe Mandel says:

          Ross, as I noted in the cited piece, the assumption should be that the player cares unless he gives us legitimate reason to believe otherwise.

          Speaking in the Joba context, the fact that he is continuing to nibble has been taken by many to mean that he is just stubborn, unwilling to change, and is satisfied with the way things are, basically that he is not really interested in trying to improve any way possible. I said that logic would dictate that Joba wants to succeed and wants to throw strikes, but he just cant execute. If a player gives us indication that he is in fact not trying, then you can question his desire or effort.

          That being said, this becomes a very difficult judgment to make that people come to much too quickly- Upton dropped the ball and the assumption was that he was not trying. Isn’t that a bit hasty? I have never once seen a CF go back on a liner over their head and come around the ball and catch it with two hands. The one handed catch is the S.O.P. for every CF these days.

    • Klemy says:

      So, would it be safe to say that Buster Olney’s next ESPN commercial will have a slightly smaller blackboard to explain a formula that equals BJ Upton?

    • rbizzler says:

      I am not sure that ‘elitist’ is the proper term here, or even applicable at all to this scenario. One of the things that grinds my gears about unforgiving fans is their lack of acknowledgment that what baseball players do (both in the field and at the plate) is really freaking hard. Ross, you anti-Cano rant reminds me of a passage in Moneyball where the dorky video guy is showing a player (John Mayberry maybe, I don’t have my copy handy) footage of a pitch that is not a strike but often induces swings anyway. The video guy basically says, “don’t swing at it” while the player retorts “it’s not that simple.”. The point being is that you are micro-analyzing what people do in situations where they only have a split second to respond (Cano at the plate) or adjust (BJ in the field). These situations are ripe for failure and the fact that players succeed at such a high rate is reason to celebrate their abilities, so pardon me for being able to look past the occasional mistake.

    • Twitter reference… Hmmm… Methinks this isn’t just about this particular post.

      (I keed, I keed.)

  8. Mike Pop says:

    They all need one of these clauses in their contract.

    http://www.theonion.com/conten.....o_the_best

  9. Esteban says:

    Also, a player’s skin pigmentation seems to have an effect on judging a ballplayer’s effort level by many in the mainstream sports media.

    • Klemy says:

      Is it pigmentation or country of origin?

    • KayGee says:

      Please elaborate…if you are going to say something like that, at least have some specific examples and back up your claim

      • Off the top of your head, quickly…

        Name 5 white athletes who get knocked by fans and/or the MSM for being lazy or coasting on their natural talent.

        Now name 5 non-white athletes who get praised for being gritty or for succeeding through hard work when they don’t have the natural talent to be as good as they are.

        • Tom Zig says:

          Adam Dunn is known to hate baseball

          CC Sabathia has been called gritty by the YES crew and the John Sterling Magical Circus.

          Aside from that…can’t name any

          • Tom Zig says:

            Probably should have put known to hate baseball, in quotes

          • rbizzler says:

            Adam Dunn “hates the baseball,” that is why he hits it so hard.

            Also, JD Drew is known in some circles as The Great White Coaster. Is Alex Cora possibly a gritty Latino with all the ‘he wins games’ garbage?

            All in all, I agree with the premise that these labels are out there and thrown around wantonly by sportswriters and fans alike.

            • Ross says:

              Carl Pavano, Chuck Knoblauch were lazy headcases in a lot of fans eyes.

              Daryl Strawberry was known as gritty and tough.
              Chone Figgins is definitely known to be gritty
              Carl Crawford is a gamer (never heard him called lazy).

              The racism thing is urban legend. Perhaps less knowledgeable and tolerant people allow stereotypes get in the way, but I think it is WAY overblown – those type of people don’t really have the power to sway public opinion.

              • Ok… We’re just cherry-picking examples now, but I’ll play along. Even these examples aren’t so great.

                Pavano – No arguments. Although I will note that he’s an extreme case, the man barely played during his 4 years under contract with the Yankees and even the other players in the clubhouse let their disdain for his character and work ethic be publicly known.

                Knoblauch – Disagree. He was seen as a headcase, but I don’t remember him ever being described, by the general public or by the MSM, as lazy. In fact, upon his return to NY after he left the Yanks, he got a standing ovation. The fans appreciated his effort and pitied him for his throwing struggles.

                Strawberry – Disagree. You seriously think he was praised more for being gritty and tough than for being an amazing natural talent? I’ve never heard anyone make that argument or describe Darryl Strawberry that way before, that’s a new one to me.

                Figgins/Crawford – No arguments.

                You call it urban legend, I say there’s a long history of racial stereotyping by both sports fans and media alike.

                • Yup.

                  Knoblauch was portrayed as a ‘grinder’ and Strawberry was definitely a talented but disinterested lackadaisical coaster.

                • rbizzler says:

                  Agreed. Straw has become a posterboy for wasted talent and for overindulging in the excesses that celebrity at a young age affords. I cannot recall him ever being viewed as gritty/gutty/Gardneresque.

                  Also, I know that Ross is invested in the notion that racism in sports commentary is overblown as he has repeated that sentiment numerous times in this space, but I refuse to accept the notion that pigeon-holing does not exist (or that we are a post-racial society/community).

                  One needs to look no further than the disdain that certain (white) people have for the NBA for evidence of bias. Ever hear a sports fan/commentator pass judgment on an NFL lineman for having a bunch of tattoos?

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  I agree to an extent. I thing that this is a lot of the time definitely overblown to epic proprtions. I used to think Cano was lazy (that was when I wasn’t nearly as educated as a fan as I am now, not to mention he was having a terrible season and I admit to being way too reactionary) but it had nothing to do with beinjg Dominican. People who use the lazy idea may be wrong, but are they doing it as a racial bias? I don’t think so. I’ve always thought, for example, A-Rod was the hardest working player in the game. I also think Pena works hard. Juust because I can’t think off the top of my head of any white players I’ve ever construed as lazy, doesn’t make me racist. Remember, correlation does not equal causation.

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  Notto mention that the NBA is packed full of balck people. This is not a racist comment, not at all. It is a statement of fact. Yet nobody calls the NBA prejudiced toward white people.

                • “People who use the lazy idea may be wrong, but are they doing it as a racial bias? I don’t think so.”

                  That’s the whole point about biases though. Unless you’re a proud bigot, you don’t know you’re biased. The whole point is that a bias is something silent that exhibits itself in how you see certain events, something that colors your understanding without you knowing it’s happening. (RRR – Seriously, this isn’t an accusation that you’re a racist or anything even close to that. It’s a general comment. And, honestly, even if you have some biases… That’s life, we all do. Nothing wrong with thinking about your own thought-processes and really examining this stuff. I don’t know, maybe your thinking Cano was lazy was slightly affected by him being non-white, maybe it wasn’t. Even if it was in some small way, it’s no biggie, it’s just something to think about and fix.)

                  “Juust because I can’t think off the top of my head of any white players I’ve ever construed as lazy, doesn’t make me racist. Remember, correlation does not equal causation.”

                  No, it doesn’t. But the fact that there’s a historical tendency of people to view white players and non-white players in different ways is evidence of racial stereotyping. No reason to be defensive – thinking something about a black player or a white player doesn’t make you a racist. Hell… I love A-Rod the baseball player and think he’s annoying as a person, and think Don Mattingly’s just about the coolest most bestest person to ever live. I’m certainly not calling someone a racist based on their like or dislike of one or two particular players. But we’re talking about a general stereotype here, not a specific like or dislike of a particular player or some particular, small group of players.

                  And yeah, I know correlation doesn’t equal causation, and I’m pretty sure you know I know that. In this case there’s an historical record of racial bias in how athletes are portrayed in the media, and there’s a history of racial bias in our country, and there’s a history of racial segregation in our media (history of being disproportionately caucasian), and a zillion other reasons why it’s a relatively commonly-held belief that there’s racial stereotyping in the way we, and our media, view athletes. This isn’t a new idea that someone brought up here, it’s pretty well-established.

                  The NBA example… I don’t really get. Of course those biases that we’re talking about exhibit themselves in the NBA. You don’t think black players are praised more for their natural ability and dinged for their personalities in the NBA, and vice versa for white players? I certainly think that happens.

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  I don’t think that happens in the NBA. The NBA has probably 90% or more black people, yet nobody considers it racist when a team doesn’t draft white players, it’s only considered racist when a team with a lot of white players decides not to sign black players-Larry Bird was semi-villainized for this.

                  I don’t think it’s fair.

                • But nobody here is talking about whether teams sign black guys or white guys, we’re talking about fan and media racial stereotypes. You’re kind of veering off a bit into a different conversation.

                  Do you not think the stereotype we’ve been discussing is true when applied to the NBA? (Per comments above and below in this thread, things like praising certain players for natural ability vs. praising others for effort and smarts, etc.)

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  Also I always had a little bit of a minor issue (want to make it clear I don’t go through the day bitter or angry at the world) with the idea that America, and western civilization, is horribly racist. It’s actually the opposite. EVERY civilization has had bigotry and prejudice and slavery. What all/most Western Civilizations have in common is the ABOLITION of slavery and the making of great strides toward racial equality.

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster) says:

                  Yeah, I guess…but then the NBA could be racist/prejudiced in a different way and yet it’s never discussed.

                • Moshe said it well below and I think rbizzler addressed this above, too.

                  Have we made great strides towards racial equality? Of course. But that doesn’t mean we’re a post-racial society. We’re far from it.

                  And, frankly, nobody here is saying we’re some horribly racist society. We’re just saying racial stereotyping exists and happens to athletes today and has happened to athletes for a long time.

                • So what’s the reason you think this thing you perceive about the NBA is applicable here? Because you perceive racism in the NBA does that have any affect on the conversation we’re having about racial stereotyping of athletes by fans and the sports media?

                  I just don’t see why it’s relevant to this discussion.

              • Moshe Mandel says:

                I have a hard time believing that the racism thing is an urban legend. I mean, there were racial conflagrations in American cities in the 90′s. Race is still a touchy subject, and one that still touches many issues. Just because there is not overt racism in the judgment of ballplayers does not mean that long standing beliefs colored by racial undertones have not seeped into those judgments.

        • KayGee says:

          That’s not the issue…saying that hispanic/black athletes are singled out for that reason by the media as a whole is not right…ive read plenty about the williams sisters beating the odds through hard work and dedication and I’ve ready plenty of stories about black/hispanic athletes coming up through poor countires/broken homes and making a life for themselves and their families…

          cases against players like upton, manny, jimmy rollins and cano are not baseless…it was pretty obvious what manny was doing in boston at the end of his time….rollins and cano have admitted to dogging it and were benched for it…and upton has been benched multiple times….can you show me where this unfair bias exists?

          • KayGee says:

            Quick name 5 hispanic/black athletes benched for lack of hustle in the past 2 years

            Now name 5 white athletes benched for the same thing

            Are we going to say managers are in on this bias too? Dusty Baker benched Brandon Phillips….Bias?

          • Look… Of course you can find a few isolated examples that go against what I, and others, are saying is the general rule. Although, I must note, I disagree on that Williams sisters example*. But the issue is that there are a disproportionate amount of white athletes who are seen a certain way and a disproportionate amount of non-white athletes who are seen a certain way.

            Try this for fun… Take the two questions I asked above, and reverse them. Not so hard to answer anymore, are they? That’s where the unfair bias exists.

            Unless you’re going to argue that a disproportionate amount of non-white athletes are praised for their natural talent and not their effort, and are dinged for their perceived lack of effort, attitude issues, showboating, etc., because more non-white athletes actually exhibit those traits, and, conversely, that a disproportionate amount of white athletes are praised for their effort and smarts and not for their natural talent because they actually are just smarter athletes who actually have to and do work harder to overcome the deficit in natural talent that they face… Then I’m not sure what you’re arguing here.

            *Sure there’s an accepted narrative that they overcame obstacles, but their success is generally attributed to their natural talent and they both get criticized all the time for not playing in enough tournaments and not applying themselves enough to tennis.

            • KayGee says:

              I am not saying it does not exist at all…bias exists in all parts of life …but i don’t know where the idea that the media has criticized an inordinate number of black/hispanic athletes against white athletes…basically where is the baseless criticism? a few examples would help me understand your argument

              • Just quickly, off the top of my head: David Eckstein, Dustin Pedroia, Darin Erstad, Robinson Cano, BJ Upton, every black quarterback and every white quarterback in NFL history, the historical lack of black quarterbacks in the NFL, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, John Stockton and Karl Malone.

                Just look at how different players are described. Non-white players tend to get dinged for not being motivated enough and when they’re celebrated they tend to be celebrated for their natural, innate athletic ability. White players tend to get dinged for not having as much natural talent and celebrated for being gritty and gutty and trying harder than everyone else.

  10. This reminds me of the Manny Ramirez discussions.

    Miscellaneous Schmoe X: I don’t like Manny Ramirez, he only plays at 50% effort.
    Me: 50% of Manny Ramirez is still way better than 110% of damn near everyone else.

    Lazy Cano and Hot-Dogging Upton >>>>>>>>> The haters

  11. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    TJSC (I think)
    ‘people don’t go to work to suck at their jobs’

    You clearly don’t work in my office….

  12. mr yankee says:

    My only issue with Joba from day one has been that he seems to not want to throw the ball hard. Last night it too Derek Jter getting in his face and he finally threw the ball with purpose and was great. I think he is trying to be like 10 different pitchers, one time a power pitcher, then a finesse pitcher and then someone else. Joba needs to stop thinking and just throw. I get angry when I se 91 and then boom 95 95 95-why not just pitch like he knows he can. Look at his best start last year against the soxhe should watch that tape every pregame. I dont like the excuse the Yankees are new at grooming young pitchers, the yanke coaches are paid very well andthey should not be fumbling around while other young pitchers are able to throw on a consistent rotation turn.

  13. Zack says:

    “By suggesting that he doesn’t care about the game you’re suggesting that most of his life is irrelevant to him. I suppose it could be true, but why the hell would he continue to play if he hated and was disinterested by it?”

    What else can you do to make 500k without a college degree? People say the same about Eddy Curry, he doesnt like bball (wanted to do gymnastics) but since hes 7 feet tall he just rolls with it

  14. Lanny says:

    It’s a race thing. The white guys are the gritty hustlers who have dirt everywhere. The latin and black guys glide and have “natural” ability and are smooth.

    Who was the last white guy they said was lazy? Who was the last black/latin guy who worked hard and got everything out of his talent?

  15. JP says:

    Didn’t read the comment thread….but the article basically contends that

    1) We can’t really judge whether players are dogging it or trying hard simply by watching them play on TV,

    but

    2) In the absence of such knowledge, we are supposed to assume they are trying hard and care.

    I’ll buy #1, but #2 is a crock. If you don’t know, you don’t know. I’ve spent the better part of my life on a career, too, and yeah, on some days, and during occasional weeks or even months of my career, I’m sure my effort level has fit the description of “dogging it.” I hope there have been more periods where I was giving the proverbial “110%,” but I’d never suggest to anyone that this was the norm.

    We’re all human; only the rarest of the rare put forth 100% effort all the time, no matter what the cliche’s say.

  16. [...] ways, sports have become post-racial. I have a hard time accepting that viewpoint. As I have noted elsewhere, there were racial conflagrations in American cities in the 90’s. Race is still a touchy subject, [...]

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