New Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Colby Rasmus has something in common with comedian Rodney Dangerfield: He gets no respect. Like Dangerfield, Ramsus is not afraid to tell his audience about his current predicament.
The 30-year-old outfielder may not have had the strongest season offensively in 2016, but prided himself on his defensive prowess. Rasmus’ performance in the outfield made him a runner-up for the Gold Glove award. When asked why he didn’t take home the award, Rasmus had some interesting thoughts.
#Rays Rasmus on not getting credit: “In the show, they don’t necessarily like long hair and the redneck folks, that’s just the way it goes.”
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) January 30, 2017
That’s just a portion of what Ramsus told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Here’s an expanded version of his quote:
“You know how the game is. In the show they don’t necessarily like long hair and the redneck folks, that’s just the way it goes. My good old friend Tony La Russa he has a lot of pull in the game, so you never know. I just try to play the game how I play it. I play hard. I play the game kind of (all) out, and rough, so I’ve hurt myself along the way. When it comes to back, injuries, they set you back for awards like that.”
There’s a lot to unpack here, but let’s start with the obvious: There’s no bias against “long hair and redneck folks” in baseball. You don’t have to look hard to find that evidence.
Yeah, people love San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner, and he hits both profiles pretty well. Bumgarner is known for his no-nonsense country lifestyle. He lives on a farm during the offseason. And while his hairdo isn’t as long and unruly as the one Rasmus sports, you wouldn’t exactly call it a buzzcut.
As far the the whole Tony La Russa feud, well, it seems pretty pointless to bring that up now. Rasmus and La Russa famously didn’t get along when the two were with the St. Louis Cardinals. Their relationship was likely the reason Rasmus was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011. Though La Russa still remains in the game, it’s tough to say he’s actively discouraging people from giving Rasmus end-of-season awards. The feud may not have helped the public perception of Rasmus, but it happened six years ago. People should be willing to move on by now.
Now, let’s take a look at that final part. Here’s where Rasmus is right. Getting hurt is going to cost him votes for the Gold Glove. Rasmus played in just 103 games in the outfield last year. By comparison, New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, the winner of the Gold Glove in left field, played 147 games in the outfield.
Despite that difference in games, Rasmus actually had better advanced fielding stats than Gardner. Using metrics from FanGraphs, Rasmus’ defense added 11.1 runs to the Houston Astros in 2016. Gardner actually cost the Yankees runs, finishing with at -2.6 runs in left. In order to make Rasmus show up on that leaderboard, you have to lower the number of plate appearances and then sort the list. That’s more evidence that injuries hurt his case.
With that said, he does kind of have a case here. Rasmus didn’t play as much as Gardner, but performed better according to some metrics. While advanced defensive numbers are hardly the be-all, end-all to any argument, it makes sense that Rasmus would be a useful corner outfielder. He came up as a center fielder and has the skills to play that position, so it’s not a surprise he’s able to excel at a less demanding spot.
Still, we’re not buying his conspiracy theory. If anything, there’s far more evidence that hitting plays far more of a role in the Gold Glove award than having “long hair” and calling yourself a “redneck.” Remember the year Rafael Palmeiro won the Gold Glove in 1999 even though he only played 28 games at the position? How about when Derek Jeter was a lock to take home the award even though he was well past his prime?
It doesn’t make sense logically, but if you hit well, you get more attention for defensive awards. While Gardner’s .261/.351/.362 slash line isn’t exactly blowing competitors away, Rasmus didn’t do himself any favors by hitting .206/.286/.355.
Sorry, Colby. We can agree that you might be underrated, and that you deserved more attention for your defensive performance last season, but we can’t get behind your reasoning here.
A number of stupid things factor into award voting, including popularity, media market, exposure and performance. Some of those things are out of Rasmus’ control. He doesn’t play in a big market, he hasn’t had huge World Series moments and he’s not a superstar player. Those things are always going to make it more difficult for him to win awards over more established players.
But, as Bumgarner has shown, if you have the perfect combination of all those things and you perform like a superstar, the voters aren’t going to give a damn about your “long hair” and “redneck” lifestyle. They are just going to appreciate your performance.
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