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Credit Where Credit Is Due

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Professional athletes deserve more credit. To get to the major leagues is an amazingly stressful ordeal. You need to be at the top of your game throughout high school and college just to get noticed by a major league scout. If you're good enough to be one of the 900 or so players who gets drafted by a major league team and signed to a contract you need to go through the ringer just to make it through the minors. Take for example, the typical minor league flameout. I'm going to use a guy who went to my high school, Matt Birkett. In 2000, he put up decent stats leading off for one of the top high school teams in the country. In June of that year, he got drafted in the 17th round by the Detroit Tigers and was immediately inserted into the Gulf Coast League. Once he got there, he did terribly, hitting .175/.260/.184 in 114 at bats. After that season, he got cut, and his career was over. Think about that. In what I wouldn't even consider a good sample of plate appearances, Birkett had to get used to wooden bats, adjust to a new level of competition, and hell, adjust leaving home for what I assume was the first time and moving 2500 miles away. Since he wasn't a high pick, the team didn't give him any leeway, and just like that, his career was over.  

Even if you make it out of the rookie league, your career can end, or you can be irreparably typecast little more than a whim and some poor application of statistics. Chris Lubanski's career was going fine, then he hits .225 in 102 at bats against lefties and he suddenly his destined to be a platoon player. Yusmeriro Petit was a top 50 prospect in 2005 and considered the big piece of the Carlos Delgado trade. One bad year later, he's off the prospect map and shipped away for Jorge Julio.

To make it to the big leagues, a player that doesn't have a stellar reputation needs to be on his game constantly, and face hundreds of high pressure situations along the way. Why then, do we assume that they'll simply collapse into a pile of mush once something changes? Would hitting Jeff Kent one spot higher in the order turn him into a quivering pile of goo despite the fact that he's been doing this all his life? I can't believe it.  Does bringing the eighth inning guy into the game with one out in the seventh mean he suddenly forgets how to pitch entirely? Is David Eckstein really one of the five guys in the world who can get a base hit with runners in scoring position?

I guess this was my long way of saying "why the hell was Marlon Anderson batting third last night?" I know that Grady didn't want to disrupt the lineup, but I just don't see how these players could get rattled by hitting a couple minutes sooner. Every person on a major league roster got there through tremendous pressure and adversity. If they can survive that, they can survive a minor adjustment.