I’ve played with guys who want to do their own thing. March to their own drum. Listen to their own inner voice. I’ve even played with a few that listened to their own inner voices. If they don’t stab you because one of their voices told them to do so, I tend to respect a guy that can tune out the cacophony of baseball play opinions in favor of his own.
Lets face it, baseball is full of people that think they know what they’re doing because they were lucky enough to win a few times while doing it. It’s a game of chance, and it is by chance and luck and daring that many of the people who’ve risen to a position of power get to tell others they won’t be so lucky. Yet, at some point, everyone of those individuals had to believe in themselves and forsake the comments of others. Easier said than done since, at the top, there is no shortage of voices hoping to bore into your head and direct your thoughts.
The only way to stop them: be successful. Do that and the ends justify the means, and no one will say anything to you besides, “keep up the good work.” Unless of course they’re asking you to teach them how you did it.
“But Trevor Bauer hasn’t done shit!” —That’s the way other players will undoubtedly refer to it, anyway. That’s what they’ll say when you talk about his reputation for not listening. And because he has done nothing—and he’s young, and he’s eccentric, and he’s a bonus baby…— there are even more voices at the ready to hammer him into place for bucking the status quo.
But what, exactly, is the status quo of player development? What place is he to be hammered into? The place of success, or the place of, “you have not yet had success, so we still have the right to tell you what you should do—which makes us, your teammates and coaches, feel extremely useful even though we know if our luck runs out we’ll be in your shoes again.”
It’s hard to say what line Trevor Bauer is supposed to fall into? Is it the one that instructs him to change everything he did to get where he is, because, now that he’s at the top, it suddenly won’t work anymore?
That doesn’t sound right.
The Diamondbacks knew what they were drafting. Did they expect this eccentric quasi hyper pitching ritualism he’s known for to burn off when he entered the atmosphere of the bigs—after it played a prime role in getting him there?
I sure hope not.
The quirkier, the more eccentric, the more uncompromisingly different you are from the status quo, the more fire you’ll draw from those who subscribe and trust in it. Until you have success with it, that is. Then you’re the next genius of baseball.
This is because baseball isn’t just a job, it’s a social club. It has rules about how it’s members are to behave which are governed governed and policed by a social, conforming majority. One of the biggest rules: New guys do what the older guys tell them. In fact, the only rule bigger is: WIth success comes freedom.
Bauer has no big league success, so Bauer gets ridiculed for breaking the rule he’s still under the dominion of. But if a guy like Bauer is going to have big league success, he needs freedom from silly, ego stroking rules of players who want to feel good about how long they’ve been where they are and how some completely unrelated social system allows it to continue.
There is nothing wrong with Trevor Bauer. Nothing beyond the fact that he’s put himself in an awkward social situation as a uber-hyped youngster who didn’t have instant success. Kudos to him for trying to figure out pitching his way. Do I think he’s a little overboard about it. Yes. Do I think he’s a little psychological addicted to his preparation and study? Yes. Do I think there are baseball players out there that are just as weird, but had success with that weirdness and now it’s not so weird anymore? Hell yes.
If I had one critique—and it’s a critique I make knowing full well that my opinion means less than nothing—it’s that Bauer can approach pitching anyway he wants, but he can’t change the social club of baseball while doing it. He should know this as it’s just as much a part of playing the game for a living as anything else. Even a little fake conformity can go a long way to making your life less dramatic in this game. For a guy so consumed with the pitching process, you’d think he’d be more inclined to ameliorate things that produce distractions?
Players have been indoctrinating themselves with unwritten beliefs and expectations for decades. Bucking the norms is acceptable, but not letting the older players, who feel like they have the right to put you in your place, feel there opinion counts for something is a mistake. Not letting coaches do it, on the other hand, well, that’s just asking to get traded. That’s the kind of mistake that gets you branded. And that’s the mistake that ruins your chance at being reborn as a baseball genius but forever marks you as an uncoachable renegade.
I’ve read it speculated that if a player doesn’t listen, you can’t get any value out of him. I disagree. The fact is, some of the best players know when not to listen, when to listen, and, above all, when to make other’s feel like they’re listening even when they’re really not.