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winning-isn-t-everything | July | 2013 Articles

Winning Isn't Everything

Written by Chop-N-Change on .

I do not believe in absolutes.

Yes, I recognize the paradox inherent in that statement. But as a general rule, I feel confident saying that you couldn't tell me one statement of opinion for which I can't present an opposing viewpoint. Feel free to try me in the comments.

But I was idly browsing the internet earlier today when I came upon something that caused me to rethink the one thing that I've considered a Belief in the last few years. And, as is the wont of such things, that something was on Facebook. 

No, I don't mean the genius-level copywriting produced by an overworked, underpaid intern with a B.A. whose job it is to produce pithy sentences to get fans excited. Nor do I mean the fairly terrible Photoshop work performed by, um, well, probably the same guy. Nor even do I mean the fact that pitchers and catchers REPORT IN ONE MONTH, YOU GUYS!

What caught my eye was that they used Jason Heyward in the picture.

Now, on one hand, the association is natural. Not only are Heyward's Spring Training feats as close to legendary status as Spring Training feats can be -- who among us doesn't remember the story about him breaking the assistant GM's car window with a home run? -- but the two are irrevocably associated on an internal level as well. Heyward, like all top prospects, represents something more than just a baseball player; he's the physical embodiment of Hope and Future. And I can tell you that on Opening Day 2010, Braves fans were pretty thrilled that their version of Hope happened to be a linebacker-sized fella from Atlanta who mashed a home run off the starting pitcher for the Mercurial All-Stars, Carlos Zambrano.

But there's always an other hand, and if we fast forward two seasons, we see it in stark relief: people who feel personally offended that this 23-year old struggled through injury on his way to a season that was as disappointing for the young outfielder as it was for the team.  We saw people who believed Doctor Chipper Jones' sub-moronic advice that Heyward needed to be playing through injury for the good of the team and we saw people happy that Jose Constanza got to play over Heyward long after the little sparkplug's fire had burned out. Hell, we got enough of that confrontation on our own corner of the blogosphere, never mind what was happening on Twitter or in the comments of, like MLB.com or the AJC.

Please click "Read More" to continue with this story...

Which brings me back to my belief-challenging Facebook session. Here are a sampling of the comments from that post:

jhey1 

jhey2 

jhey3 

Allow me to reconsider that whole 'no absolutes' thing when I say this: you people just do not get it.

Here's the thing about sports fans: we're passionate, which means that too often, we're unable to separate reason from emotion. We're prone to overraction, and never has there been a more promninent and accessible forum from which to share your reactionary (and, often, drunken) views with the world. I get that, and I also get that there is no environment better suited for loutish rants about the nature of a thing than sports.

But at some point, you have got to step back and look at the big picture. Let's use Heyward as a convenient example: this kid turned 23 last August. He had, at the time, been playing Major League Baseball for nearly two full seasons. I can't speak for you, but when I was his age, I was fighting a losing battle against my academic motivation, drinking too much and playing video games all the damn day long. Oh, and I only occasionally was able to find time to work out so that I could play well in my weekend baseball games. 

So it's no knock against you when I say I doubt you were doing much different -- and you certainly hadn't spent a year performing admirably at the very highest level of your profession before spending a second year at your job being hurt and trying to live up to the expectations placed upon you by literally millions of people.

And you want to tell me it's okay to speak on Heyward like that? When you have literally no idea what his professional expectations entail? Sure thing, dude.

Because this is a Braves-focused site, I'm going to comment only on Heyward, but the following applies to struggling prospects of any team: too often, observers -- whether by dint of his physical stature, the fact that he's spent three years in the league, or their own ignorance -- expect him to be a star, and are completely willing to not only forget his age -- again, he's 23 -- but what that means from a personal development standpoint. It's one thing to look at a player who's made the big leagues from a young age and say that he's to be held to a certain level of expectations. It's another thing entirely to disregard the fact that he's not just a 23-year old physically, but also mentally -- and lord knows that can be a hard time.

Yeah, I know that the common response is that they don't need to be treated like babies. That maturity is expected of them and all that, and that if they're not helping the team win then they deserve the scorn (or benching, or platooning, as in Heyward's case).

But that argument is, succintly summarized, paternalistic bullshit.

Like I said: I understand when fans get upset that their favorite players/teams underperform. But you've got to understand that not only is there no need to focus your anger on one player, it's counterproductrive to do so. You want to blame Heyward and say that he's costing the team wins while he's trying to live up to your expectations of what a player should be? You want to ignore the fact that he's developing not only as a player, but as a man? 

Have fun, but you're wrong to do so.

And if you parrot that same line back at me after I say this next line, fine; you won't be the first. But ...

Winning doesn't matter.

Admittedly, that's some pageview-trawling lingo. But, hey, who wants context in a one-sentence paragraph?

When I say winning doesn't matter, I don't mean that I don't want the Braves to win games, or make the playoffs, or win the World Series. Obviously, I do -- I've just written a thousand words defending a single one of the players who've ever worn a Braves uniform. But I worry that we lose sight of what makes for a winning organization and what fosters a positive environment of growth for its young players: patience.

Yes, there are franchises like the Yankees for whom patience is less a virtue than a dirty word. Rebuilding is not in a Bronx-dweller's vocabulary. But for the sake of Heyward, and the sake of non-Yankee franchises everywhere, I implore you to have some. Can it cost some wins in the short term? Sure. Is that something that I shouldn't shrug off so easily given that the Braves were so close (so goddamn close aghhhh) to making the playoffs, which immediately gives them fair betting odds at winning a championship? Maybe.

But what counts in my book isn't results (i.e. winning) but rather process - i.e. winning the right way. And no, I don't mean that in mouthbreathing, probably racist way you're used to hearing; I mean that in the sense that I want my team's front office to be mindful not only of putting a competitive team on the field, but of the future. To put perhaps too fine a point on it, I don't want them toying with the psyche of the kid who was baseball's best prospect two years ago because they buy into the misguided notion of The Hot Hand. 

Unfortunately, that's the management we're dealing with. And damned if they're not creating fans in their own image, which is just a shame.  

5 comments
bao cao su
bao cao su

Allow me to reconsider that whole 'no absolutes' thing when I say this: you people just do not get it.

thuoc cuong duong

congtysangoviet1
congtysangoviet1

Now, on one hand, the association is natural. Not only are Heyward's Spring Training feats as close to legendary giá sàn gỗ tại tphcm status as Spring Training feats can be -- who among us doesn't remember the story about him breaking the assistant GM's car window with a home run? -- but the two are irrevocably associated on an internal level as well. Heyward, like all top prospects, represents something more than just a baseball player; he's the physical embodiment of Hope and Future http://bit.ly/phuong-phap-dieu-tri-lau. And I can tell you that on Opening Day 2010, Braves fans were pretty thrilled that their version of Hope happened to be a linebacker-sized fella from Atlanta who mashed a home run off the starting pitcher for the Mercurial All-Stars, Carlos Zambrano.


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