There have always been unwritten rules in baseball, but over the past few months it seems players have been more sensitive to perceived slights on the field, the latest of which occurred between Grant Balfour and Victor Martinez on Monday in Detroit. Did that type of thing happen quite as often when you played or are players just less tolerant in today’s game?
I think that it was a lot more sensitive back in the day. I think what you’re seeing are the remnants of any old school players out there trying to hang on to the old guard of the etiquette of the way you play the game. In some ways, it’s refreshing to see some players standing up for some of that (laughing) for my generation.
As someone who just went about his business playing the game, what are your impressions of Yasiel Puig’s on-field demeanor?
Everything’s changed. Back in the early ’90s, that kind of flare, you think of guys like Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco, they had that flare but they also had the track record to back it. What I think you’ve seen over the last five-to-ten years is more and more of baseball becoming younger, with more youthful players showing that flamboyance or zeal right out of the gate before they’ve proven much. There again, I’m talking from an old school standpoint, it’s something that would have been frowned upon 10-15 years ago, but in today’s day and age, yeah it’s frowned upon a little bit, but it’s amazing how quickly it’s accepted when (Puig) starts to produce a little bit. It’s just a different era, if he had been doing this 10-15 years ago, there were enough old school guys out there that would have made a point to let him know that it was disrespectful or whatever you want to call it. Nowadays, there’s so many guys out there that share that flamboyancy that I just don’t think it’s that big of a deal in today’s game.
We are immersed in a new era of baseball analytics, with sabermetrics becoming more and more a part of the game. Having played with David Eckstein, and today with a player like Nick Punto, are there truly values to a player that cannot be measured statistically but help their teams win ballgames?
They do. Not that I’ve done any sabermetric analysis on David Eckstein, but to me, I would think with the stuff that’s out there, there’s got to be something that would give him more credit that the naked eye would. I have to believe there’s some statistician out there who could find something, but with that being said, you’re right, I don’t know Nick Punto a whole lot, I know he’s a super-utility player for the Dodgers, but with Eckstein for example, the tone he set, his approach, he never gave up at-bats, just everything he brings to the table night in and night out, being that kind of a player really does make a difference. Whether it’s taking pitches, slowing the pace of the game down and making the pitcher work to taking advantage of those situations where they don’t expect a leadoff hitter to drive in a big run, there’s just not a situation he can’t adjust to and I do think that gets lost in shuffle a little bit. That being said, David Eckstein, over his last few years, I think baseball people came to realize that he did bring a lot of intangibles other than just his raw stats or raw physical abilities.