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Last week, I wrote a post about aversive racism in sports analysis. In the post, I provided an example in the perceived effort levels of Dustin Pedroia and Robinson Cano, and suggested that it is almost impossible for us to judge whether a player cares and is giving his all. Mets pitcher John Maine, in an interview with Matt Cerrone, touched on this same issue:
John Maine: I think, especially here in New York, you see a lot of negative things in the papers and you see a lot of negative things from the fans. I personally don’t mind it, I know they want to win… But, they’ve got to realize that we want to win too. We are not going out there to try and lose. We are not going out there to try to give up a home run. We are not trying to boot balls. We’re not trying to lose 100 games. We are out there to try and win too. Even if somebody has a bad week or a bad month, it’s not a reflection on their personality. They are good guys and we are out there busting our butts. Sometimes it’s just doesn’t happen… We are out there trying to win for us and the fans.
Matthew Cerrone: I notice some fans who feel certain players don’t try hard enough…
John Maine: Try harder? Why don’t I try to maybe throw harder? That makes no sense. We do care.
Maine is speaking very strongly here while emphasizing a point that was discussed in last year’s RAB article that spawned my racism post. In that article, Joe built off the following two quotes, one from a post I had written, and one from RJ Anderson of DRays Bay. Here is mine:
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.
And here is RJ’s:
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?
All of these excerpts point towards a single conclusion: as fans, we should assume that players are trying unless we have convincing evidence to the alternative. Robinson Cano provides a perfect example of a guy who has been bitten by the propensity for fans to judge a player’s effort by one or two plays rather than looking at his entire profile. He is a guy who has gotten a reputation for being lazy despite constantly showing willingness to work on his craft during his “free time.” Cano certainly cares, yet any instance in a 162 game season where it does not look like he is giving every ounce of energy to beat out a ground ball serves to reinforce this false reputation.
I am not suggesting that every player goes all out on every play, because that is simply not a realistic expectation. It is possible, and likely, that a player will have days where he is just not feeling it and simply cannot reach down and find an extra bit of energy to help the team. But to conclude that there are players who are generally lazy or do not care based upon the little information that we can glean from our couches seems irresponsible to me. As Maine stated, they do care.
Do you agree? Are you more confident in our abilities to judge effort? Chime in below.
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