All I knew about pitcher Roman Colon when he was traded to the Royals this summer was that he had punched a teammate earlier in the season. That kind of first impression is hard to shake, I suppose, even after I had met Colon and found him not to be a constant face-puncher. He never punched me, or anyone I know, in the face, and yet I still can’t shake the habit of recalling that incident (for which he just pleaded no contest) when his name is mentioned.
For me, the same concept applies to really really nice people in sports. I am aware that I let a lot of bad performances slide if the player producing them is a good person. I will defend players’ value to a ballclub based on personal merits (see Sweeney, Mike), and I had started to wonder where the line was. At what point would I admit that a good guy was a liability to his team; conversely, at what point would I accept someone with a shady past into the Royals family if he was a good enough player?
The answer to the first question became clear this past summer, as Jason LaRue – pretty well-known as a high quality human being – wore my patience to its thinnest whenever he dug in at the plate. I imagine that a solid 2008 campaign from Jose Guillen would provide the answer to the 2nd question. But back to LaRue, for old times’ sake, even though he has long since moved on to St. Louis, where he can battle the pitching staff for the team’s lowest batting average.
10 pitchers with higher BAs than LaRue in 2007 (minimum 60 ABs)
Every time I’d start to think about how much I felt sick when LaRue was up to bat, someone would tell me, “But he calls such a good game!” I don’t know that his bad numbers at the plate can not be completely justified by that fact. Consider that, on average, Royals position players averaged 9.6 Win Shares and regular MLB catchers averaged just over 12.
Anyway, I’ll leave poor Jason alone now, because I know he’s a swell guy. I had to dig at him one last time, because the Husker basketball team has put me in a spectacularly destructive mood. Better to string out someone’s awful batting stats than to punch a hole in my wall, no?
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