Monday, April 20, 2009

It's The Talent, Stupid

A lot of Orioles fans have a poor opinion of Albert Belle, mostly related to the big contract he was given and the degenerative hip condition that ended his career. Then there was his extremely well established "bad attitude." Even I was guilty of it; when Belle was with the White Sox and they played a game in Baltimore, a couple of friends and I taunted him from the stands by first-base when he got on with shouts of "Ding-Dong." He didn't take too kindly to it, and glared back at us. Still, the guy was a fantastic hitter for his career, putting up a .295/.369/.564 line with 381 HR and a .396 wOBA. He's also the only player in history to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in the same season.

I still think he has about as a good a case for the Hall of Fame as Jim Rice did (39.8 WAR to 42.9 WAR, though neither should be in) - and don't even try to tell me that Belle didn't inspire an equal amount of fear in pitchers (even if the whole idea is stupid). And then there are stories like this (hat-tip to Joe Posnanski):
"Email from brilliant reader Tom:

"I saw Albert Belle try to turn down a HBP once. It was Turn Ahead the Clock day, and the Orioles were wearing billowing trash-bag “futuristic” uniforms. Belle was 4-for-4 with a walk and 3 home runs already, including a two-out game-tying shot in the bottom of the ninth. And he had driven in 6 of the O’s 7 runs. So when the ball ran in on his floppy outfit in the bottom of the 11th, with a man aboard, he waved off the ump and tried to stay in the box. My friend and I at the game had absolutely no doubt that had he gotten away with it, he would have hit his fourth homer. Belle felt the same, evidently. But eventually they ordered him along to first base, and Cal Ripken singled in the winning run three batters later."

The date was July 25, 1999. The Orioles were playing the Angels and Shigetoshi Hasegawa was pitching. What made the game weird was that Belle actually talked after the game.

“I’m not going to be accessible but when the situation calls for it, I’ll talk,” he told reporters. “This is one of those times.” And the story confirms that Belle did indeed stay at the plate while fans chanted “Albert! Albert!”

“I told the umpire I wasn’t going to first, that I’d take the 1-0 count,” Belle said after the game. “I told (Angels catcher Matt Walbeck) to tell the pitcher to throw the ball over the plate.”"
Some fans like scrappy players like David Eckstein and Willie Bloomquist. I like players who are good at baseball, though I do have a particular affinity for guys that people don't like for unimportant reasons. Guys like Belle who are considered "surly" but may just want to go out and play ball. A better example of this might be Erik Bedard, who really does seem like a nice guy that wants to be left alone to do his job. I can empathize with his reaction to the media attention, and so I find his responses to be particularly amusing.

Like when he told reporters:
"You get four questions."
“Why only four?"
"That's one."

Next time out?
"Five questions... That's one more than last time."

Or after striking out 10 in a game:
Q: Double digits, though, you have to feel a little bit good about that. Give yourself a little credit.
Bedard: Not really.
Q: More movement on your fastball this game?
Bedard: The same. Same as usual.
Q: Any pitch that was more effective tonight?
Bedard: (Shakes his head).

Asked if he's healthy in his first game back after shoulder surgery; "Yep."

And finally, some greeting cards from Mr. Bedard, courtesy of LookoutLanding:

It's the smiley face that really gets me.

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