Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Game of Adjustments

I will be glad when the NBA Playoffs are over. I mean come on, how long have they been going on now? A month? Two months? It's almost mid-June for crying out loud. I have nothing against basketball, but what I do have a problem with is ESPN's CONSTANT "coverage" of every game. From the moment one game ends to the time the next one begins it's nothing but basketball. Hello, there are 10-15 Major League Baseball games every day that we could talk about!? There are other sports! But I digress. It was during this wall-to-wall NBA playoff coverage that something caught my ear and made me think for a second. For those who don't follow the NBA, LeBron James scored only 8 points for the Heat in last night's game, which I believe was a career-low for him in the post-season. Last night's performance has caused people to question all sorts of things about him including his greatness as a player, his focus, his intensity and, ultimately, his eventual legacy. That got me thinking, why have we gotten to a point where the big picture is no longer important? One game changes how some people are viewing LeBron James?

Player X goes through a bad streak (Adam Dunn for example) and sports talk radio hosts starting talking about benching the guy. Albert Pujols has a slow start to the season and people start asking "is this the end for Albert?" Joe Mauer has an injury and people start demanding that the 28-year-old catcher change positions (myself included on that one). Jose Bautista blossoms into a power hitter and people immediately begin to question his integrity with accusations of steroid use. What happened to patience? What happened to taking into account a guy's entire track-record as a player before making sweeping judgements?

Take Adam Dunn for example. He's had a miserable go of it with the White Sox so far this year. Coming into play tonight he's hitting .176/.314/.309, he's struck out 80 times already this season and he's only hit 5 homeruns. This for a guy whose career hitting line is .248/.378/.514. The fact is that Adam Dunn has been one of the most consistent hitters in all of baseball for the better part of the last decade. His yearly homerun totals since 2004? 46,40,40,40,40,38,38. His yearly RBI totals? 102,101,92,106,100,105,103. There are very few players in baseball that are as consistent and yet the local media here in Chicago have been questioning not only the contract that Dunn signed, but also Dunn's abilities as a baseball player. Rarely is it mentioned that the guy had an appendectomy 2 weeks into the season. Few people have considered that this guy played every day in the field for the last 8 seasons and is now being asked to fill a role in which all he does is hit (DH). Even fewer people talk about the fact that Dunn changed leagues in coming to the White Sox and is now regularly facing pitchers whom he's never seen before. To top it off, no one is talking about the fact that teams are now playing a shift on him when he is at the plate, which was rarely, if ever, done prior to this season.

People who've been around baseball often say that "baseball is a game of adjustments." From my vantage point Adam Dunn has had a lot to adjust to...but in today's world it seems like everyone expects Dunn to make a seamless transition. And he's hardly the first or last example of this. Pujols is an even better example. People are going to question a guy who in 10 season put up numbers good enough to make him worthy of the Hall of Fame? Come on. I get the whole "what have you done for me lately" sentiment, but enough with the knee-jerk reactions and hair-trigger analyses. I know I'm just spitting into the wind with all of this, but I have a lot more respect for writers and sports commentators who put less stock in the day-to-day (or week-to-week as it were) and focus on the bigger picture. I feel like a lot of today's commentary, whether it be on sports, the economy, politics, etc, is fueled by impatience and short-sightedness.


  1. Three different issues with those three players, I think.

    James: he's a tool who brought this on himself. The whole "decision" garbage and acting like he's the best there ever was means he'd damn well better deliver. When he doesn't, he deserves to hear about it.

    Dunn: He's playing for the White Sox so I'm damn glad he's falling on his face, whatever the reason. Of course, I'm wishing I hadn't drafted the SOB for my fantasy team. Then again, every move Kenny Williams makes turns out for crap, so why should anyone be surprised this hasn't worked out. (Personally, I think it's the unfamiliar pitching that's mostly responsible. I hope they trade him back to the NL before he gets familiar with it and starts mashing.)

    Pujols: I don't hear people saying anything that calls in to question his greatness over the past decade... but he's looking for a new 10 yr contract for a bajillion dollars going FORWARD. That's what makes his current performance level noteworthy, as much as anything else.

  2. Jim, good points all around, wholeheartedly agree re: Lebron and Dunn (i drafted him too and have suffered his terrible "start" to the season). As for Pujols, I guess I feel like he's earned the benefit of the doubt no matter how poorly he's playing at any given time. He's the type of player who can turn around a poor start and still be a 35/120 (HR/RBI) at the end of the season. In my opinion he'll be worth whatever ungodly amount he signs for after this season is over.