Let's get one thing straight: I'm not going to break any new ground here. I'm not going to teach you anything new about baseball. I'm not going to cause you to reassess how you think about sports journalism.
Nope. None of that is going to happen.
What is going to happen is: some guy wrote an article called "10 Scrappiest Players" and I am going to make fun of him.
As we all know by now, "scrappy" is a meaningless, arbitrary, clichéd adjective that sportswriters use to describe baseball players they like. Often, these players are small, white, terrible at baseball, David Eckstein, or all four of the above.
I don't even know if this guy is a professional journalist. But I have a disease where every time I see the word "scrappy" on the internet I have to write a 2,000-word diatribe. So, here it is. You're welcome.
They may or may not play every day, but every time they step on the field you're ensured that they're giving it their all.
You know what you're saying, random dude who wrote a very minor Internet-only baseball article that never thought he would get trashed and over-analyzed for little to no reason? You're saying that they look like they're giving it their all. And you know why they look that way? Because they're bad, and it literally takes them the maximum physical effort to accomplish basic baseball tasks like throwing the ball from short to first. When David Eckstein throws the ball to first base, he has to wind up like a shot-putter, spin around forty-three times, and launch it at an angle 89 degrees from the horizontal. Afterwards, he undergoes an IV drip for a fortnight and he's so out of breath that he requires several months of acupuncture to regain the power of speech. For this we laud him.
Whether it's diving for out of reach grounders, running hard to first every time they make contact, or fearlessly tracking down flies headed straight toward the fence, these players make the most out of their time on the field.
Actual good players, meanwhile, are too busy jogging around the bases after hitting home runs. No truly scrappy player has ever hit a home run. No, the quintessential scrappy move is to refuse to accept the run and to sprint to first base, slide head first, and punch the first baseman in the knee (leaping in the air and punching upwards if necessary).
Although grinders usually go somewhat unnoticed not being as flashy and naturally talented as some of their teammates, these guys will always have a place in my heart.
"Scrappy" and "grinders" in one article! So good to be back. Also, I love the self-congratulatory tone of every article about scrap: "Hey man, no one notices these guys, but I do. I look deep into the game. Have you heard of this guy David Eckstein? He has the heart of a hummingbird and the hands of a six-week-old fetus, and HE SUCKS AT BASEBALL. I love him more than life itself."
I love seeing players who maybe weren't given the best physical attributes and natural talent (hey we weren't all born with Mauer's swing) who make the roster due to their sheer guts, determination, and effort.
So if I'm hearing you correctly, you're actually saying: "I am writing an article about players who are bad. They are bad. Joe Mauer has no place on this list because he is good. Here are some bad players. Enjoy."
No. 10 Eric Byrnes, Diamondbacks
Byrnes can be found diving all around Chase Field, making spectacular plays. He's fearless in the outfield, runs whenever he can, and slides hard every time there's a close play.
Here's another thing about Eric Byrnes: he's fucking awful at baseball. Take a look at this slash line: .210/.258/.346. Those are not typos. Eric Byrnes is scrapping it to the tune of a .604 OPS. And he's not even 3'2" in height and 14.6 avoirdupois ounces in weight like David St. Scrapulous Eckstein. Nope. 6'2", 215, and absolutely zero recognition of the strike zone.
I found this on Eric Byrnes' Wikipedia page. This is not a joke. "He is also known for sliding headfirst into bases when there is no play." If Eric Byrnes were a cop, it would say this on his Wikipedia page: "He is also known for discharging his weapon willy-nilly into seafood restaurants and school buses when there is no crime occurring."
No. 9 Nate McLouth, Braves
McLouth is always giving it his all. Even when he was on the Pirate's [sic] he never seemed to care too much about the standings, he only cared about making the most of every at bat.
This is the boringest paragraph written about the boringest topic in the history of paragraphs and topics.
No. 8 Augie Ojeda, Diamondbacks
Listed at 5'8'' 165, this little guy knows how to play the game.
He knows that there are nine innings! He knows that after three strikes, you have to walk back to the dugout! But after four balls, you get to walk to first base! He knows what a "mitt" is! He knows that you use the wooden tapered cylinder ("bat"!) to hit the white leather sphere ("ball"!)! No metal "bats," though! He knows that once per game, you get to choose one of the opposing players' wives and French kiss her right in front of him while he attempts to "bat" the "ball"! He knows that all "pitchers" must be convicted sex offenders! He knows that "injecting Oxycontin into your eye whites" is not only recommended, but mandatory! He knows that a "touchdown" is worth seven goals, fourteen on Tuesdays!
Augie Ojeda is a very smart man who graduated from Nonsense and Exclamation Points University in three years.
The scrappy shortstop can be seen hustling down the line on every ball he makes contact with. You gotta respect a player like that.
This is just good, solid writing. No complaints.
No. 7 Aaron Rowand, Giants
His face first catch into the fence was enough to get him on this list. Always putting the game first, and his body second, he's as scrappy as outfielders come.
So true. Rowand's teammate Randy Winn is more of a "body first, game second" kind of guy. Remember when Randy took three months off last season to get calf enlargement surgery? That was crazy! The point is, Randy Winn has body modification procedures performed on himself three or four times per year, and Aaron Rowand has an OBP of .326 this year, with 112 strikeouts and 27 walks. Wow.
No. 6 Reed Johnson, Cubs
Reed is one of my favorite players because he's such a grinder.
He struggles to find an outfield spot on the Cubs...
(because he's not that good)
...but he really gives maximum effort when he's on the field. He bunts, runs, and dives for balls. This all out effort has taken a toll on his body, and he's had a few stints on the DL this season, but hopefully he'll be healthy next year, and the Cubs can use him next season to bring a spark into their line up.
If Reed Johnson really did bring a spark into the lineup (he doesn't; he has an OPS of .722 this year), wouldn't it be way more noble for him to stay healthy instead of banging himself up diving for a fly ball and making SportsCenter? Get this prima donna into a Priority-Straightening Machine! (Priority-Straightening Machines will be sold on FireJoeMorgan.com beginning October 10th.)
No. 5 David Eckstein, Padres
I...I don't know if I can finish this post. I...uh...I have to go lie down.
[returns from 20-hour nap and trip to Tibet to find inner calm]
Okay. Okay. I figured it out. Putting David Eckstein at number 5 on a list of the 10 scrappiest players makes perfect sense — as long as David Eckstein is also numbers 1 through 4. That's what's going on here, right?
[sneaks peek at numbers 1 through 4]
All right. Okay. I'm fine. Really. I totally didn't just slash several pillows with a steak knife out of rage and confusion.
David Eckstein is a living legend in the world of scrappiness. If you look up David Eckstein in the dictionary, by the time you get to the "D's," he's already sac bunted three times and run full-speed head-first into your chest while you were busy being an unscrappy nerd with your head stuck in a book. Ranking David Eckstein number 5 on a list of scrappiest players is like ranking Michael Jordan number 5 on a list of terrible executives with gambling problems.
No. 4 Chone Figgins, Angels
Chone Figgins is pretty good.
The 5'8'' utility man will play whenever and where ever he can. He's extremely scrappy and truly makes the most out of his limited physique.
This is not a good explanation of why he's good. Or, really, why he's scrappy, even.
No. 3 Brett Gardner, Yankees
It's got to be tough when you're on arguably the most talented team in baseball, full of sluggers, and you've got to prove yourself with your wheels and defense. That is just what Gardner is doing. Every day he's playing he's legging out hits, laying down bunts, and improving the team.
It's got to be tough when you're the worst player on your team and you arbitrarily get picked to be on a list of scrappy players because you're super white and you're the worst player on your team. He would also be the worst player on like 12 other teams.
I'm kidding, of course. A-Rod is the worst player on the Yankees, and in baseball history in general.
If you write any article about baseball and it's not a list of terrible players and Brett Gardner is in your article, you shouldn't write the article.
I just realized what this list is. This list is like if Science or Nature or Cell published a list of "Scientists Who Are Kind of Bad But Also Kind of Adorable Because They're Dumb and Hey, They're Doing the Best They Can With Their Dumb Little Brains. Let's Give It Up For Kind of Dumb Scientists! ... P.S. These Guys Ain't Cured Shit — the Scientists Who Do That Are Actually Smart."
No. 2 Shane Victorino, Phillies
This guy is amazing. He was an integral player on last year's World Championship Phillies team. This guy does it all; he sprints down the line, he takes great routes, hustles in the outfield, and can lay down a bunt. If you want a championship team, you need at least one player like Victorino on the roster.
My team of nine guys who hit like Albert Pujols and never ever bunt just beat your team with one Shane Victorino 472 to 3.
No. 1 Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Dustin Pedroia is the definition of a grinder. The little second baseman does whatever he can to improve the team, and he's the reason for much of the Sox's success over the last few years. He certainly brings a fire to the lineup, and invigorates his teammates.
Pedroia has helped the Red Sox because he's good. As far as bringing fire to the lineup and invigorating his teammates, I certainly haven't seen that much vigor from J.D. Drew, Jason Bay, or Jed Lowrie, three guys who were fired from Goldman Sachs "for looking and acting too much like investment bankers even for our taste."
No, the true number one on this list is David Eckstein. Let me tell you a story about David Eckstein. One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with Eckstein. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints. Other times there were one set of footprints. This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow, or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints. So I said to David Eckstein, "You promised me, Eckstein, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I noticed that during the most trying periods of my life, there have only been one set of prints in the sand. Why, when I have needed you most, have you not been there for me?" David Eckstein replied, "Because my little legs had gotten tired, and you were carrying me." And I looked down and saw that I was still carrying David Eckstein.
Then he grounded out weakly to second.