Are We Seeing a New Era of Entitled Baseball Players?

The Houston Astros played the Chicago White Sox last Friday night in Chicago. The Astros’ Justin Verlander, arguably a future Hall of Famer, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. The White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson had other plans though. Anderson broke up the no-no in the bottom of the fifth with a single, but that’s not what angered Verlander. With a 3-0 count on the next batter, Anderson attempted to steal second base, but the next batter walked so the steal didn’t count. It was Anderson’s apparent celebration of the walk that upset Verlander. Was Anderson wrong to showboat on the field? Or is Verlander a part of a new era of entitled baseball players?

“I wasn’t upset with him being excited about getting a hit,” Verlander was quoted asentitled baseball players saying in a Yahoo! Sports article. “But he celebrated [trying to steal on a 3-0 in a 5-0 game], though.” When told about Verlander’s annoyance at him, Anderson replied, “I’m out just playing and having fun. If he took it to heart, so what?”

There’s no doubt that players get frustrated, especially pitchers. But does Verlander have a point about the unwritten rules of baseball that apparently say it’s not cool to try and steal on a 3-0 count? Or is Verlander just being a crybaby? After all, Verlander got the win and the White Sox never scored on him. So what’s he complaining about?

Baseball players have always been cocky. Reggie Jackson once said, “After Jackie Robinson, the most important black in baseball history is Reggie Jackson, I really mean that.” Rickey Henderson used to talk about himself in the third person, calling himself the greatest of all time. Bob Gibson refused to talk to members of the opposing team. So what’s the difference between Verlander and these Hall of Famers? First of all, these HoFers were very competitive. That’s not to say that Verlander isn’t. But fans didn’t usually hear the kind of petty complaining from these guys. That’s not to say they never complained. But the difference is that Verlander is throwing a fit over a game that he and the Astros won 10-0. How much is enough for him? And if the White Sox were down that much, why WOULDN’T they try to steal bases to try and get ahead? Who is Verlander to say what they can and can’t do?

Entitled Baseball Players Ruin the Fun

On April 1st, the Orioles’ catcher Chance Sisco dropped a bunt against the Minnesota Twins’ pitcher Jose Berrios and reached first safely. While Berrios won the game 7-0, the Twins were mad at Sisco for bunting. According to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier wasn’t happy about the bunt. “Obviously, we’re not a fan of it. He’s a young kid. I could’ve said something at second base but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there. I’m sure they’ll address that. It’s all about learning. You learn up here.”

Again, what’s the problem here? The Astros and Twins won both games by hefty margins, but they didn’t like the opposing team’s attempts to exploit their weakness. It’s like hearing a mugger complain to the police because someone squirted pepper spray in his eyes as he tried to steal a purse. What did you think the other party was going to do? Just roll over and give up because you’re overpowering them?

Verlander and Berrios need to remember what the great Orioles manager Earl Weaver once said, “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” The White Sox and Orioles, respectively, got another chance and did what they could to overcome the deficit. That’s the whole point of the game of baseball, if not most other sports. Verlander and Berrios should focus less on being entitled baseball players and focus more on being a good sport.

Players refusing to question these “unwritten rules” not only puts their team at risk of losing but emboldens the arrogance seen in these entitled baseball players.

Former Red Sox Frustrated by Unmotivated Players

The death of the Reserve Clause and the birth of free agency in the mid-1970s ushered in a new era of baseball that saw skyrocketing salaries and multiple-year contracts. For the players, it was a victory over the owners who had sought to limit their salaries and leaveFormer Red Sox them with no room to negotiate. Since then, however, some former Red Sox are saying that huge salaries and multiple-year contracts are leaving current players with less motivation to play as hard as they can.

I recently spoke with Jim Gosger, a former Red Sox reserve outfielder who played for the team from 1963 to 1966. Known as a line-drive hitter, Gosger played in the major leagues for a dozen years, and won a World Series with the New York Mets in 1969. Gosger told me that his years in the big leagues were the best years of his life, and that most players back then played for the love of the game. He said that many players today just don’t have the drive and enthusiasm to play because to them it’s all about the money. “There’s no loyalty to a team anymore,” Gosger told me, “We used to have to be at a certain weight when we arrived at spring training. But now look at Pablo (Sandoval). How do you even get that far overweight?” Gosger’s words echo what many other former players like him are saying today.

I sat in on a Q&A last summer with members of the 1975 Boston Red Sox World Series team that included Jim Rice. Rice said that fans would start seeing players play much harder with more motivation if they got one and two year contracts instead of the six or seven year contracts many of them are accustomed to receiving. Rice makes a good point. If you’re an outfielder with a six-year contract making $5 million a year and you want to take a day off, who’s going to stop you? You’re a millionaire, so what do you care if someone gets on your case for not hustling? For a million dollars I’d lean in and let pitchers peg me if it meant getting on base to help the Red Sox win!

Former Red Sox Players Knew How to Hustle!

A lack of hustle used to get a player benched immediately. During a game in 1977 against the Red Sox, the New York Yankees’ Reggie Jackson got yanked from the game by his manager, Billy Martin, for not hustling to field a hit. Jackson seemed to almost jog to the ball as Jim Rice pulled into second base for a double. While Jackson said he misjudged the depth of the hit, anyone watching the footage can immediately tell he wasn’t giving his best effort. It’s worth mentioning that Jackson was one of the game’s first $1 million players.  What’s bothersome to former Red Sox players and old-school fans alike is this lack of hustle makes the game less exciting, which is the last thing baseball needs. Games already last for hours, and while I love every minute of it, I’d love it even more if I saw outfielders diving for catches, or a hitter run his butt off trying to beat out a bunt.