Brandon Phillips, hustling and race


Yesterday I wrote a post in which I slammed Brandon Phillips for his “lack of hustle” when he failed to run hard out of the batters’ box.  And, objectively speaking, he did show a lack of hustle on the play in question. Rob Iracane of Walkoff Walk noticed my use of the phrase, however, and today he makes an excellent point about it:

[T]here is no reason to call out any single writer for leaning too hard
on this simple, cliched phraseology. Nor is there any evidence that
points to any single writer being a closet racist. Still, the evidence
is vast: whenever the phrase “lack of hustle” is used, chances are
the player is black or Latino. This is disturbing! . . .

. . . Brandon Phillips is human, and when he erred, he showed it. I was not
inside Brandon’s head when he smashed that baseball, but does anyone
really think he thought, “Darn, I’m tired! Let me just trot a bit here
so as not to exert too much energy!” No, he didn’t run it out; perhaps
it was half hubris and half misjudgment. But to attack his character
with that horrid phrase smacks of prejudice.

In my defense, I wasn’t attempting to make a character judgment about Brandon Phillips. I was simply describing the undeniable fact that, on that particular play, he did not run it out like players should. What was in his mind or his heart I have no idea. I think he misjudged the shot and thought he’d admire it a bit.

But as Rob notes, the terminology of “hustling” is problematic and loaded. Indeed, Rob points out that an analysis of news articles which reveals that “lack of hustle” is a term used almost exclusively to describe black and Latino players, never whites.

This is something of which I’ve long been aware. Nyjer Morgan hustles more than just about anyone I’ve seen, and he’s
never described as someone who hustles. I’ve witnessed Aubrey Huff and Travis Hafner dog it down the line on multiple occasions and neither I nor anyone else I can recall have accused them of “lack of hustle.” Multiply this across the players and the years and, in the aggregate, the selective deployment of the term “hustle” has had the effect of reinforcing bad old stereotypes
about minorities being lazy.

This is not to say that the concept of “hustling” is now some third-rail, politically incorrect thing. Even I’m not that big a sensitive lefty weenie to think that (and I’m a pretty sensitive, pretty left weenie).  But I think that it’s probably worth thinking about how we use the term.

It’s one thing to say that someone did or did not hustle on a given play because they either did or they didn’t.  But it’s something else to say someone, generally speaking, hustles or does not hustle, because that’s a character judgment — a very subjective one, actually, that is usually not easily verifiable nor based on much evidence at all. And, as Rob empirically demonstrates, it’s one that leads inevitably to the land of racial stereotype.

After reading Rob’s post and thinking about it all, I’m mad at myself for using the phrase “lack of hustle.” Not because it was necessarily inaccurate in that particular instance, but because it’s prone to being misused and I don’t really feel like participating, however unwittingly, in the perpetuation of that kind of baloney.

Braves pitcher Matt Marksberry woken up from medically induced coma

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 4: Matt Marksberry #66 of the Atlanta Braves throws an eighth inning pitch against the San Francisco Giants at Turner Field on August 4, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Braves pitcher Matt Marksberry has been woken up from a medically-induced coma at an Orlando-area hospital. Marksberry complained of stomach pain and went in for a colonoscopy on Tuesday. During the procedure, he suffered a seizure and a collapsed lung.

Marksberry’s brother Ethan said on Facebook that doctors were removing an endotracheal tube, preparing to wake him from from the coma.

Marksberry tweeted on Monday:

Here’s hoping for the best for Marksberry as he recovers from this scary health issue.

Marksberry, 26, missed the last two months of the season with a shoulder injury. He spent most of the season with Triple-A Gwinnett but did face 17 batters at the big league level for the Braves this season.

Here are the lineups for NLCS Game 5

David Ross
Getty Images

It’s tied 2-2, but if you’re like most people you have feelings about who has an edge.

Maybe you’re a “momentum” person and you like the Cubs’ current vibe because they scored a bunch last night. Maybe you’re a “momentum is your next day’s starting pitcher” guy, and you prefer either Jon Lester or Kenta Maeda. Or maybe you’re playing chess with all of this and thinking a couple of moves ahead. As in “yes, the Cubs have an advantage tonight because Lester is better than Maeda, but if they DON’T win tonight they’re screwed because then they have to face Kershaw and Hill in Games 6 and 7.”

I dunno. I find all of that rather exhausting. Let’s just watch and see what happens. Here’s who will be doing the happening:


1. Dexter Fowler (S) CF
2. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
4. Ben Zobrist (S) LF
5. Javier Baez (R) 2B
6. Jason Heyward (L) RF
7. Addison Russell (R) SS
8. David Ross (R) C
9. Jon Lester (L) LHP


1. Kiké Hernández (R) 2B
2. Justin Turner (R) 3B
3. Corey Seager (L) SS
4. Carlos Ruiz (R) C
5. Howie Kendrick (R) LF
6. Adrian González (L) 1B
7. Yasiel Puig (R) RF
8. Joc Pederson (L) CF
9. Kenta Maeda (R) RHP