Reese Kaplan -- Character Vs. Winning


When I saw this tweet today from Michael Mayer it made me wonder about the nature of baseball teams and the values that they hold dear:

Jordany Valdespin has now been released by 2 Mexican League teams this year despite hitting .332/.418/.457.

He is not alone in this situation.  Just this past week the Mets released 3B prospect Eudor Garcia who was hitting .337 at the time.  According to Mack he’s on his way to ply his trade in the Mexican leagues, too. 

How many times did Steve Howe get a chance to pitch in the majors despite ongoing struggles with cocaine?  How about the many trials and tribulations of Josh Hamilton?  Then there’s the case of current Rangers closer Matt Bush who served prison time for drunk driving that nearly killed an elderly man yet he was granted the chance to play in the majors for the first time at age 30 after being paroled. 

Of course, character issues cut both ways.  PED abusers such as Bartolo Colon, Omar Quintanilla, Dee Gordon and others are welcomed back with open arms once they serve their time. 

Some clubs seem to place character ahead of winning.  The Rockies cut ties with Jose Reyes when his domestic violence case came to light and the Mets hastily traded Frankie Rodriguez after he assaulted his girlfriend’s father in the clubhouse.  Of course these same Mets had no problem when their franchise record setting saves leader, Jeurys Familia, also had a domestic violence issue.  Or there’s the time when Mike Piazza chased future teammate Guillermo Mota into the other locker room to have a physical altercation after being hit by a pitch.  Is the message that violence is OK as long as you keep it out of the home team’s locker room?

This issue came to light again today when Big Sexy became a free agent and everyone is clamoring for the Mets to sign him once again.  This is the same man who made headlines not just for his on-the-field performance but for his PED abuse and his love child.  Then again, the Mets didn’t care about Jose Reyes’ other family, so at least they’re consistent. 

Still, every now and then we’ll hear about the prospect of signing player X and the self-righteous contingent will loudly proclaim that he wouldn’t be a good person to have in the clubhouse.  Really?  Does character matter more than winning?  Does winning matter more than character?  Do the sales of jerseys and other revenue opportunities trump all? 

Frankly, as long as a team is consistent, I could go either way on the issue.  As Charles Barkley once said, athletes are not paid to be role models.  They’re paid to play their sport to the best of their abilities.  I’d prefer that the players and staff on a team for which I root are good people, but that’s not always the case.  Case in point, Terry Collins is supposed to be a terrific guy but that doesn’t mean I want him managing my team.  I’m not breaking bread or quaffing adult beverages with people on the Mets payroll.  I want them to win.  As long as they’re not cheating (PEDs, etc.) then what they do with their personal lives is not my concern until or unless it impacts performance on the field.  I also believe if a player violates the law then criminal processes exist without baseball offering its own punitive ones.  Then again, we’ve seen way too many times that double standards exist for celebrity violators vs. you or me. 

So which is it?  Does character or winning matter more? 


Thomas Brennan said...

Winning mostly. A graphic example was Gary Sheffield. Ventura and Zeile were against him joining the Mets while Sheff was in his prime. Character...clubhouse vibe. Yankees got him instead and his first two years no Met ever put back to back. And his character with Yanks? Fine.

Reese Kaplan said...

Rickey Henderson was supposed to be a clubhouse cancer. Keith Hernandez was a malcontent. There are countless other unfounded examples and others who get a free pass such as Yoenis Cespdedes (dogging it and not participating in the same drills that others do) and Jose Reyes.

Mack's Mets © 2012