I’ve taken my son to the last five or six Cubs Conventions and we’ve met and shaken hands with nearly the entire Cubs team. It has a twofold effect; I get the thrill of seeing my son meet some of his heroes and by default, I get to meet them too.
It also has another effect – it puts a face to the player, a personality to the people we see on TV and root for every day of the season. It also closes the gap between the people you see on TV and their real life personas – they’re people, not just images on a screen.
We were reminded of this yesterday when Edwin Jackson was DFA’d to make room for Rafael Soriano’s impending call to the majors. It’s generally well documented that Jackson’s performance has been less than stellar, and I don’t want to get into that here. What was most interesting about the move was the reaction from Cubs players.
This from Anthony Rizzo:
This one is tough. Ejax is one of the best teammates I’ve had. Taught me so much over the years. The ultimate professional! Best of luck
— Anthony Rizzo (@ARizzo44) July 20, 2015
And this from Jason Hammel:
Rough day 4 me personally. @EJ36 is 1 of the best teammates u could ask 4. Grinded w/him for years. Best of luck EJax! C u down the road.
— Jason Hammel (@HammelTime39) July 20, 2015
Former Cubs catcher John Baker weighed in as well.
This Edwin Jackson DFA thing has me thinking I’m going to sit down and write another story. Hit me harder than I thought it would.
— John Baker (@manbearwolf) July 20, 2015
Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper summed it up quite nicely:
I wish Edwin Jackson the best. Class act. Results weren’t good here but wasn’t for lack of effort. Very well respected here for good reason
— Len Kasper (@LenKasper) July 20, 2015
Edwin, who I do not know as a person, obviously had a positive impact as a human being on people, including his teammates. It’s likely the reason why Edwin’s release hit a lot of people hard. It reminds us all that, beyond the stats, there’s a person with a family, a life outside of baseball, and relationships that matter. He’s not just a salary and an arm.
Yet somehow fans seem quick to tear down baseball players based on their performance and salary. They forget that these guys are human beings. I really think fans believe that if you make 10 million dollars a year that turns you into some type of flawless superhuman who should do no wrong. See recent criticism of Jon Lester for further proof.
The truth is these guys want to win in a deeply profound way, and their desire to win and be great is far greater than our desire to see them be great. But alas, we are not perfect. When, for example Pedro Strop gives up the winning run in a game, that’s a bad day at the office. Ever had one of those? Yet somehow fans get irrationally critical, sometimes resorting to name-calling when a player makes a mistake. We tend to get most frustrated with younger players, who make mistakes more frequently, and are learning the game at the major league level on the fly.
Bryant and Russell are going to look ugly striking out. They are going to make flubs in the field. I know it’s difficult but it’s at these times that we need to be our most positive – and not tear down players for making mistakes.
It makes me think: Could we hold ourselves to the same standard? What if you were only granted a couple of bad days before people started calling for your head? (And before you start sending me hate mail, I know Edwin Jackson had more than a couple of bad days at the office.)
This all goes back to my visits at the Cubs Convention with my son, a 14 year old who plays baseball and has learned that this is a sport where failure is simply part of the game. It’s about who you are as a person on the field, being a great teammate and interacting with your coaches in a positive way. It’s about picking someone up when they’re down, and lifting them up when they’re on a roll. You know, baseball.
All the best of luck to Edwin. I wish it could have worked out better for him here Chicago. Given the impact he had on players, I’m sure Edwin will land on his feet in some baseball capacity. And I hope that before we jump to criticize a player, we think twice – and consider the man outside the uniform, the family guy, the teammate, and ultimately, the human being.
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