On Nate Schierholtz

I don't wanna write a Phillies preview. The Friday game is going to get BANGED anyway, to use the parlance of baseball writers, and the Phillies kind of depress me. One minute you're a Phillies fan, hoping the Phillies can come back and win a playoff game, and the next minute everything's broken. Ankles. Knees. Obliques. Prides. All you have to look forward to is trading Shane Victorino to the Giants for six of their best prospects and a new first baseman.

No, the topic that interests me right now is Nate Schierholtz, and his trade demand. Well, not a trade demand, per se. A trade hinting. A trade passive-aggressiving. An if-y'all-don't-mind suggestion. From Henry Schulman:

Schierholtz said neither he nor his agent, Damon Lapa, specifically asked the Giants for a trade, but when asked if he would welcome a deal, Schierholtz said, "I think whatever the best fit for the team and me is would be ideal."

Schierholtz isn't playing, and he's dissatisfied. This isn't the first time this has happened in sports. It shan't be the last. And every time a story like this breaks, you'll get comments like these:

He should be damn glad he has a good job in a city he loves.
Shut up, work on your game and earn your time. If you deserved more, you would get more. Earn it and stop whining.
Wow! This is really not the time to start this crap Nate. Keep your mouth shut and take advantage of an oppurtunity when it presents itself.

Shut up. Wait your turn. When you get your turn, produce. If you can't produce, shut up and wait your turn.

I get where that mentality comes from. Players make millions of dollars. They make that much because fans like us are spending money on baseball. If someone handed me a rebate check equal to the amount of money I've spent on baseball, it would dramatically change my life. It also wouldn't add up to a day's salary for Schierholtz. So there's a sense of entitlement from the fans, and while it might not be entirely justified, you can at least see its origin.

But perspective is always a good thing. When I write about baseball players, I lose perspective. Let's bring it back to the Phillies. Roy Halladay just came back from the DL. If I had to explain why he was on the DL, it was because he was old. Old pitchers get hurt. Old pitchers lose velocity, and the levers and pulleys and ropes in the human body start to bend and fray. That's what happens. Of course Halladay got hurt. He's an old pitcher!

He's 34.

I'm 34.

I'm not old. To some of you jerks I am, I know. But professionally, I mean. I just started a career as a writer a year-and-a-half ago. And I'm moving up in the world, too. Whereas last year I was writing about Bruce Bochy decisions that annoy me, now I'm writing about Bruce Bochy decisions that annoy me. Who knows what this crazy future will bring? But I have decades to do this stuff if I'm good enough. Eventually I'll get petty and bitter, and I'll lash out at the younger fans of the sport. Absolutely cannot wait. Seriously, I can't wait to see exactly how I get out of touch. It will happen! Just how is the question, and I'm legitimately curious.

But I'll have decades to find out.

Baseball's not like that. At all. Baseball players have a window. And as they try to dive through that window, someone slams the window down and yells, "HEY, MA! I CAUGHT MAHSELF A UTILITY PLAYER!" Or career minor-leaguer. Or fifth outfielder. Labels are applied, and it's almost impossible to peel them off. The next thing the player knows, he's 30. 31. 32. And that might be it. I was born two months after Aaron Rowand. I just started what I wanted to do when I was growing up. He just stopped. It wasn't his choice.

So before you resort to the shut-up-and-play cliché, remember the ticking clock that baseball players have to deal with. It has to be unbelievably oppressive. The half-life of an athlete is shorter than just about any other profession, and here's what Schierholtz has gone through:

  • 2007: Prospect! Hits okay in a brief call-up.
  • 2008: Prospect! Hits really well in a brief call-up! Can't get more than 81 at-bats on one of the worst-hitting teams of the decade, but whatever, I'm sure there was a good reason.
  • 2009: A major leaguer! But not a starter. Just a bench guy except for a stretch in June and July.
  • 2010: A starter! But then he lost the job in the spring. Then he got it back! For a month. He got hurt, and then, well, whoops.
  • 2011: A starter! But then he lost the job in the spring. Then he got it back! For almost three months, this time. Then the Giants traded for Beltran.
  • 2012: A starter! But then he lost the job in the spring. Then he got it back! For a month. Gregor Blanco got hot, and then, well, whoops.

Now he's 28. He's six years away from Aaron Rowand. That seems like a long time, but it really isn't. He has a window. It's closing. He's already a fourth outfielder in the minds of 30 teams.

And you know what? He should be a fourth outfielder. I don't think he really is a starter -- doesn't have the plate discipline or the power. If he could improve one or the other, he's a starter. But he's probably not going to improve either of those areas. He'll carve out a nice career as a fourth/fifth outfielder, and he's pretty good in that role.

He doesn't think that, though. He thinks he's the same star he was in high school, college, and the minors. He doesn't think he's been given a fair chance. And he really hasn't. After a few years of this, then, he speaks up. Maybe not at the best time, but he can't help it. Enough. The window's closing. Let's agree to see other people.

No, he's not a starter. But, man, can't you at least see where he's coming from, where every athlete is coming from when they speak out about playing time? There'll be a lot of time to sit on the bench when they're a coach. That doesn't mean that every player should start yapping every time they sit, but when they do say something, a little empathy isn't the worst idea in the world.

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