Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Happy & The Unhappy

While everyone with the exception of Theo Epstein is congratulating the Yankees on their heist in broad daylight of Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle, a few pundits have noticed the guys left holding the stickup note haven’t fared too badly themselves since that day.

It would be an exaggeration to say Abreu had worn out his welcome in Philadelphia. After all, career .300 hitters are hard to come by, especially ones who can also steal a base and draw bases on balls at an astonishing rate. I prefer to say Abreu was in serious need of a change of scenery. Bobby was a very good player during his days in red pinstripes, but in the end he wasn’t the sort of player his team needed. He was admired and respected by his teammates but it is highly doubtful they looked to him for leadership. That concept may seem like an overworked and unsubstantiated factor in a team’s ultimate success, but a quick look around the majors reveals that most successful teams possess just such a player or players. The consensus was that Abreu would thrive in New York, which already had plenty of stars and leaders to deflect those expectations from him, and, the majority was correct. Far from being the straw that stirs the Yankees, Abreu has quietly gone about his business of hitting, drawing bases on balls and fielding adequately.

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, the mantle of leadership was quietly passing on to the next generation, even while Abreu was still in town. All that was needed to consolidate the transition was his actual departure. Once he was gone, the Phillies no longer thought reticence at the wall or patience at the plate were paradigms. That didn’t mean they suddenly became free swingers over night or careened recklessly into barriers or each other (at least not most of the time). But it did mean a new tone would be set, that standards would include busting it down to first base on ground balls and barreling over catchers on plays at the plate. The free pass was still esteemed, in its place, but the preference was to take one’s hacks.

The end result was a more exciting team than the one Abreu left. A far more exciting team.

* * * * * * * *

Some people aren’t happy unless they are unhappy.

How else can we explain the whispers and outright accusations that Ryan Howard is using illegal substances. Jason Weitzel has written a superb repudiation to such nonsense at Beerleaguer and Tom Goyne reminds us over at Balls, Sticks & Stuff that these home runs are nothing new, but with every home run Howard hits the discontented come out of the wood work.

I am not required to presume Howard’s innocence because never, for one nanosecond, have I entertained his guilt.


Oisín/Wizlah said...

It should be noted that aside from scepticism about the general nature of ballplayers today, I've not seen one article which yet says Ryan Howard is cheating.

But judging from the comments over at beerleaguer or the philliesphans messaging board, fans have got mighty het up about articles which suggest you have to take every record now comes with a disclaimer. People are quick to assume its whispering and mud-slinging howard's way. I don't think these articles reflects any more on howard than it does any other ball player.

I accept that bounding in yesterday and sounding a note of caution sounded too much like I was casting suspicion Howards way. Jason and tom G have both made good valid points about howard's career numbers, and I see no evidence to the contrary.

I do however remain critical of the focus of a number of columnists who are saying that Howard is now on a 'clean' legitimate run at maris record. To me it infers that the bad days are gone. In fairness, only stephen A. Smith (when did we ever rate him?) has said in his article that howard is some kind of torchbearer for a new era, so perhaps I'm reading too much into the other articles.

And as I've said repeatedly, I'm not being miserable. I'm plenty happy with howard's performance right now!

RickSchuBlues said...

After the appropriately brutal backlash of the steroid revelations, I think one can safely say that baseball is never again going to allow or turn its back wholesale on any kind of performance enhancement, be it that which exists now or which doesn't yet exist. Maybe some here and there will find ways around the testing - it would be naive to believe otherwise - but I doubt there'll ever be another full-scale equivalent to a "steroids era". Both the players and those in charge are going to be considering these artificial means in a far more critical light from here on in, with good reason for the sentiment of "it isn't worth it" to ultimately prevail on both ends. To this end, Smith's view that Howard represents a 'clean' chase of 61 homeruns holds a certain validity as far as I'm concerned. It doesn't mean that there will hereafter be no cheating, but it can presumed that it will revert to being the exception and not the rule.

In regards to Abreu, what can I say, you've nailed it. People want to say well, no, they've been winning more because the pitching's better, the bottom of the order has hit, etc, etc. All true, but why does it have to be one or the other? The Phils immediately began to take on a new identity and spirit after his departure, a factor which I believe has contributed along with the other more tangible factors to the heightened success they have begun to experience. At the end of the day, it was something that absolutely needed to happen.

Corey & Carson said...

I think it's a shame that Howard has to endure the steroid speculation. He is huge, he should be hitting homeruns! His huge is musclebound huge either, it's more good ol' boy from the South huge. The media has a knack for taking a great story and spinning a negative light on it.

I love baseball, it's my passion. I'm not dumb enough to think steroids aren't still in the game. Though I am confident that steroids are used by less players presently than a season or so ago.

You want to talk about punishment and testing for performance enhancers...well what about the NFL, NBA, and NHL? I believe MLB is taking the proper steps to "clean up" the game, when will the others follow suit?