They say part of being a professional player means you don’t wish ill on your fellow teammates.
I think that’s a load of BS.
This game is as much about luck and opportunity as it is good play. Hell, I’d even venture to say it’s more luck and opportunity than good play.
Case in point, if you’re Jim Negrych, you’re praying that Melky Cabrera’s MRI shows something. Nothing career ending, just a little something that warrants shutting the Melk Man down for a week or two (or 60 days), enough to give you a chance to get the Bigs and reap the benefits of your near superhuman hot streak at the plate.
Jim Negrych, in case you’ve not been paying attention, has been hitting .400 or better for a solid month in Triple A Buffalo—that’s over 100 Plate appearances. Lots of folks, myself included, have been wondering what horrible thing Negrych said or did to Alex Anthopoulos to keep him out of the Majors, especially considering how anemic the Jays offense has been to start they year.
But getting called up is not always about your individual performance. Often it comes down to the right man in the right spot at the right time.
Calling up Negrych means the Jays have to shuffle their 40 man roster. That’s why Cabrera getting hurt is a sinful prayer. Cabrera’s injury means the Jays get a free space, if serious enough, or at least a motive to make some moves. No serious injury means the Jays have to make space, burning an option, or possibly passing a player through waivers.
Also, consider that the Jays don’t want to call a guy like Negrych up for a backup role. They want him to come up and hit the ground running and get a fair shake in the batting order—which is really his calling card.
This isn’t the first time that Negrych has put up some solid Triple A batting numbers. He knows how to handle the bat—at least at the minor league level. But if you’re going to come up to the Bigs and not hit for power, you have to handle the leather in the field. Negrych has a decent range factor at second, but that’s the only place he’s going to play with regularity for this club.
Negrych has played first, second, and third base in the minors, but wont be anywhere but second in the Bigs. Not over Encarnacion, Lind, Lawrie, or Derosa. He could play over Bonafacio, who would most likely see time in left for the hamstrung Cabrera. Meanwhile, Iztuiris and Kawasaki would split time at short, making sure you had one solid middle infielder or switch hitter on your bench, as needed.
But this kind of player import/export delima is par for the course, and, while the scenario I laid out would grease the wheels for Negrych, it doesn’t guarantee his promotion.
I’ve heard Anthopoulos say on more than one occasion, if a player is really tearing it up and you think he can help your club, you can always find space.
So why not now? Why not Negrych? Are you telling me you can’t find space for a guy hitting over .400?
This brings up an issue native to players in the Negrych bracket. The 27 years and aging career minor leaguers. Players who are silently getting labeled as past their serviceable prime and no longer on anyone’s radar as a real prospect or upgrade.
Negrych, who hasn’t been called up to the majors before, is 28. He may put up comic book worthy numbers in Triple A, but he’s still going to make player development people knit their brows at the thought of promoting him since he hasn’t been promoted before.
If you’re a scout or a player development head, you’re only as good as the guy you’re willing to take a risk on. The play of the players you deem worthy will either raise or lower your stock (you think no one is going to question the weight of Dane Johnson’s approval after giving the green light on Romero?).
All to often, risk in baseball is a matter of perception. You look at a young player with great numbers and, while you see obvious rough edges, you focus on the upside that will come through development and experience.
You look at an older guy putting up great numbers and you think, “too little, too late. He’s above his ceiling. He’ll soon return to great Triple A player, but nothing more”—and this last part is key—“since he hasn’t done it before this.”
For a young player, you expect and tolerate failure. For an older player, you just expect it.
It’s both sad and unfair because the reason players like Negrych haven’t “done it before” may be completely out of their control.
Put two players next to one another: a player who wasn’t ready to go up, but because everyone else in front of him got hurt, he found himself in the Bigs, VS a player that has been toiling successfully in the minors for years but never got his break. Almost without fail, the coaching will default to the guy with big league experience, experience he may not have earned by his own good play, but will separate him for the rest of his career.
As I said, getting promoted comes down to luck and opportunity. Not all players are super prospects. Some have to get their shot through the natural attrition inherent to playing the game. How do you think the Triple A third basemen back up for the Orioles felt about being behind Cal Ripken?
It may not be professional to wish ill on another player, but that doesn’t mean players don’t do it. And when you’re hitting .400 in Triple A, a little malevolence is perfectly justifiable.
Meh, who am I kidding. It’ll probably be Moises Sierra…