August 25, 2011
One night after an opponent apparently called him out for running too hard — hmm? — Sean Rodriguez(notes) of the Tampa Bay Rays hustled his way to second base in time to steal a victory against the Detroit Tigers.
It was a neat play on offense and a questionable choice on defense by Detroit's Brandon Inge(notes), who probably should have thrown to first base instead. But it was the prelude to Rodriguez's game-winning sprint that's much more intriguing.
On Tuesday night, during an at-bat in the seventh inning against noted cable guy/health inspector Brad Penny(notes), Rodriguez flied out to left field, but ran so fast he was nearly at second base by the time outfielder Delmon Young(notes) caught the ball.
Somebody please pop open the Unwritten Rule Book, because Rodriguez's hustle apparently didn't sit well with Penny, who glared and yelled at Rodriguez as he walked back to the Rays dugout. Rodriguez yelled back.
UPDATE: Reporters finally tracked down Penny, who said via The Heater on Thursday that he was mad at Rodriguez for "screaming and cussing":
Penny said his issue was Rodriguez using inappropriate language, "screaming and cussing" in frustration as he rounded the bases.
"To me, that's a sign of disrespect if you're screaming that loud," Penny said. "All these kids can hear you, it's not too loud in here. So to me, that's not really professional."
OK. Even though Penny was screaming (not sure about swearing) at Rodriguez? That screaming was OK? And what about the fact that Jim "Freaking" Leyland is the Tigers manager. He's probably off somewhere swearing right now. All right; back to the original post.
The exchange — which Detroit TV missed entirely, but Tampa Bay's broadcast happened to catch live — seemed pretty mild as baseball yelling goes. But it appeared that Penny thought Rodriguez was showing him up by running hard.
If a story in the St. Petersburg Times is an indication, Rays manager Joe Maddon was still livid about Penny's reaction even after Wednesday night's victory:
"For anybody to bark at another player for … hustling is absolutely insane, ludicrous,'' Maddon said. "And if Sean had just charged the mound, I'd have been fine with that at that particular moment.
"I think that's ridiculous, and then [Rodriguez] shows them (Wednesday) what that means to play hard. So any time a guy gets on another guy because he's going to show him up by playing too hard, I have a hard time with that myself, personally.''
I don't know about charging the mound as a response, but Maddon's quote certainly reminds us that testosterone-fueled responses go both ways.
Now, I'd like to hear from Penny regarding exactly what offense he alleges that Rodriguez committed, but the only person to my knowledge who has asked him about it was a fan on Twitter. This is how the conversation, such as it was, went:
@TonyAlvarez24: Thank you for hustling AGAIN like you should Sean Rodriguez!! That's how you play the game @BradPenny ... what a tool.
@BradPenny: I said he doesn't hustle? Find something better to do with ur time. U r too old for stupid [stuff].
I don't know about Mr. Alvarez24, but stupid [stuff] is my wheelhouse.
First of all, Brad Penny is too old to be that poor of a reader. Or was he willfully misunderstanding Alvarez's comment? Whichever, at least he's on the record somewhere.
Second, we know that Penny can be given to emotional outbursts. The Victor Martinez(notes) argument — for which I supported Penny — comes to mind. And snapping at a guy on Twitter, well, I've done that too. Perhaps within the past 48 hours. With ya' there, Brad!
So, let's assume for a moment that Penny did what Maddon and the Rays interpreted and complained about Rodriguez running too hard. Of course, it's ridiculous and embarrassing that any Major League Baseball player would say such a thing. And he's trying to pass it off like everyone knows that running hard, on some occasions, is for saps?
@eknott11: regarding conditioning @BradPenny once told me, "Knotter, i've never seen anyone run the ball to the plate." one of my fav all-time quotes
Of course, poor conditioning will catch up with you eventually, which is neither here nor there. But it does go to the state of mind of the witness, your honor. Brad Penny seems to hate running. He's the anti-Gump! But seriously, let's confront the question head-on. Are there times when running hard in baseball isn't necessary?
It's possible Penny was accusing Rodriguez of something called "false hustle" — running when you don't "have to" to give a misleading, overly dramatic impression of your own effort. False hustlers are players who try to make up for a talent deficiency by appearing to run hard (overly hard?) at any opportunity.
Adam Rosales(notes), it could be argued, shows "false hustle" by running 100 mph around the bases during what would be a home run trot for almost anyone else. Of course, major leaguers also will get upset if you run "too slow" in a home run trot. That also could be construed as showing someone up. It's all about perception and the idea that someone might be trying to take a chunk out of your manhood.
It's preferable to think that Penny is full of baloney, and that ballplayers should run as hard as they can whenever it's feasible and advantageous. And you know what? It might have been advantageous for Rodriguez to run hard on that fly ball to shallow left field. There are at least three reasons why:
1. Professional ballplayers should run hard on every play, not only because they make a lot of money, but also because taking as many bases as possible is GOOD. Possible exceptions: injury/illness; pitchers who hit and don't want to wear themselves out on "routine" plays; to decoy the opposing fielders.
2. Because Tropicana Field, with its translucent roof, unique electrical lighting and annoying catwalks, often plays haphazardly for outfielders. Balls get lost frequently up there.
3. Because Delmon Young was playing left field and, while he does have experience at the Trop, people don't call him "Elmon" because he's good on "D." That ball might have dropped in — you never know.
One other point to consider. If you watch the beginning of the video, right after Rodriguez swings, you'll notice a grunt of frustration at getting such paltry wood on the pitch. He was angry at himself. It almost looked like he was punishing himself by sprinting all of the way to second. That's something Penny can relate to. (Punishing oneself for failure — not sprinting.)
So, perhaps Penny should just mind his own business, focus his wandering eyes, lower his rabbit ears and just concern himself with the 60 1/2 feet between the mound and home.
The ball's not going to run itself up there, you know?