Craig Calcaterra

Maikel Franco

It’s “if you aren’t early, you’re late” season once again

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Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports that Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco is not yet at Phillies camp in Clearwater. Which, given that tomorrow is the Phillies’ first full-squad workout, makes logical sense. Tomorrow is the first day of school, right? Why would you show up today?

Such logic does not always hold in baseball. At least not recently. Increasingly, practical reporting dates have crept up and up by days and even weeks. To the point where showing up on time is considered “late” by many. Oftentimes, the team included. We saw this a few times in recent years with Terry Collins and the Mets getting on players for not being early. As if not being early was late. And, as Salisbury notes, the Phillies have historically felt this way too: “Over the years, team officials have made it no secret that they like that because it shows dedication, etc.,” he writes. This attitude often seeps into the fan base through comments from team officials, the media and talk radio, to the point where guys who show up merely on time — as in, the day they begin to actually be paid — are considered lazy.

To manager Pete Mackinin’s credit, he is not of that same mindset. From Salisbury’s story:

“I’m not going to be critical of anybody who doesn’t come early,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “If we wanted guys to come two weeks ago we should have a longer spring training. He’s in for a long season. He played winter ball. Whenever he gets here, as long as he’s here when he’s supposed to be, I’m fine with it. He’s due to be here (Tuesday).”

That’s refreshing to hear and further evidence in my mind that the Phillies made a good hire in Pete Mackinin. Here’s hoping that his actions with respect to Franco follow his words, which I presume they will, and other players who show up “merely” on time with other clubs get the same treatment.

I expect some of you will push back on this. That you’ll say that Franco is a professional athlete and that he should give 110% and that failing to do that is a character deficiency or what have you. I understand that. I also understand that any person can chose to go beyond expectations if they wish and that they should not be criticized for doing so if it truly is their choice. If I were a ballplayer I’d probably be itching to get to camp once the calendar turned. It’s cold in most places that aren’t Florida and Arizona.

But it’s also the case that what we see in baseball at times — players being slagged on for not reporting early — is a dynamic that has increasingly crept into the American business climate at large. Go read this series of tweets from Matt Winkelman for some of that. The upshot: a lot of people get guilted or pressured into doing extra work for no extra compensation and, anymore, there’s this sense that you’re a slacker if you don’t.

There’s something wrong with that. There’s something wrong when the admirable trait of putting in extra work is transformed from going above-and-beyond into merely meeting a new, higher and unjustified set of expectations. It’s not an easy balance to be sure, and very real fears and motivations fuel that. But it’s the sort of thing that should not go unnoticed. Either in baseball or in real life.

Must-Click link: The Republic of Baseball

Dominican Flag
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This made the rounds the other day but I just saw it this morning thanks to it being forwarded to me by a friend. It’s a photo essay from Michael Hanson of the New York Times during his travels in the Dominican Republic.

It depicts several scenes of young ballplayers working toward the goal they all have: to get signed and, hopefully, to get a bonus that will change their lives and the lives of their families. From early morning until late at night it’s baseball. All the time.

We’ve seen some of these sorts of images before, but these are particularly beautiful and poignant. And, like all of the other ones have become, they’ll be the first thing that will pop into my head when I hear some fan stereotyping Dominican ballplayers as lazy or undisciplined or any similar euphemism. These guys have faced longer odds and worked harder at what they do than most of us have ever worked at anything in our lives.

Dan Shaughnessy reneges on his promise not to fat shame Pablo Sandoval

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Yesterday, as the photos of Pablo Sandoval’s exposed gut were making the rounds, Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe was penning a column about the Red Sox’ third baseman. It’s here.

In it Shaughnessy, like a lot of other people in the past 24 hours, decided that mocking Sandoval’s weight was the tack to take. “Mercy. Get a load of that gut,” the most recent Spink Award winner wrote. “[T]he fat hit the fan,” he said in reference to Sandoval only showing up four days early to camp rather than six. Shaughnessy even purported to engage in public service while allegedly looking for Sandoval for comment:

I looked everywhere for him Saturday night. I checked the deli counter at Publix and the popular Two Meatballs in the Kitchen restaurant off Daniels Parkway. I even went to the Regal Cinemas Belltower 20 to see if he might be taking in the late show of “Kung Fu Panda 3” but . . . no luck . . . Photos were snapped as [John Farrell and Sandoval] walked arm-in-arm past the barbecue grill outside the clubhouse . . . Based on what we saw Sunday, Pablo’s weight loss must be like the proverbial two deck chairs tossed off the Titanic.

Sandoval’s conditioning is a legitimate topic of conversation, at least insofar as it affects his play or the Red Sox as an organization take issue with it. But the fat jokes — and acting as if Sandoval being a big guy is somehow new — are a bit much. It’s something that even Dan Shaughnessy himself thought in October 2014:

The Red Sox can’t sign Pablo Sandoval fast enough.

Truly. John, Tom, and Larry need to bring the Kung Fu Panda to Fenway Park. I promise never to rip Sandoval for being out of shape or going on the disabled list.

Oh well. What’s a promise worth when there are pictures to blow out of proportion and fan outrage to stoke?