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.