A Little Intelligence Goes A Long Way

2010 Pretty In Pinstripes Challenge Tracker: Entry #47 – 5/27/10 – Yankees @ Twins




Final Score: Yankees 2, Twins 8.




Prior to this game, Twins’ Outfielder, Denard Span, said this on Twitter:
“See if we can avoid a sweep tonight. Man I can’t stand the yanks!”

I guess the days of using your mind before you use your mouth are long gone. This Twitter update got to me, not because it was about the Yankees, but because it shows classlessness, and more importantly, stupidity.
Normally, I wouldn’t care enough to discuss such a matter. As a Yankees fan, I suffer from a superiority complex. I think that we’re better than to bother ourselves with something so petty. Our team’s success speaks for itself, and we really have no need for such stupidity coming out of our clubhouse. 
Span’s comment, however, is just a part of what seems to be a trend. After hearing Curt Schilling and Jonathan Papelbon shoot their mouths off over the years, Jimmy Rollins talk trash without backing it up with performance, and Dallas Braden make a big deal about something stupid, I felt the need to address the issue. I’m using this comment from Span to talk about something that affects players all over the league.
I scrolled through Span’s previous tweets. I didn’t have the time (nor the interest) to go too far back in his timeline, but I saw his messages from days when the Twins were facing other teams. The only team he spoke negatively about was the Yankees.
Is this a classic example of an inferiority complex? Is he angry that the Yankees regularly dominate the Twins? Is he angry that the Yankees probably won’t be interested in signing him? I’m not sure what his reasoning was behind such a statement. My guess is that he lacked any.
In today’s world, free agency plays a big role in the make-up of teams, and the lives of players. It has become a rarity to see a player retire wearing the same uniform in which he debuted, and spent his entire career wearing. It is in the best interest of the players, as well as the
teams, to take advantage of free agency. 
In a world in which free agents tend to go to the highest bidder, it doesn’t make sense for any player to publicly show negative feelings towards any team. It is especially illogical for a player to show ill-natured thoughts towards the team that usually pays the highest salaries. No one knows where Span will end up playing, not even Span himself. He is still at the beginning of what could be a long career. Why would a young player choose to speak ill of another team that may, one day, be interested in signing him? 
Side note: I doubt that the Yankees will ever sign Denard Span, but nothing is impossible.
What was Denard Span thinking when he wrote such a Tweet? My guess is that he simply wasn’t.
Even if we take away the element of free agency, and assume that Span plans to stay with the Twins for the rest of his career, there’s a little thing I expect from players on a Major League level. That thing is called “class”. 
Derek Jeter has been a Yankee his entire career. Everyone knows that he will continue being a Yankee until the day he retires. Even after retirement, it is unfathomable that Jeter will ever be associated with any Major League team other than the New York Yankees. Even with all of this, knowing that he will never don a uniform other than a Yankee uniform, Jeter has never spoken negatively of another team.
Have we ever heard Derek Jeter say “Man, I hate the Red Sox”? Has he ever said anything negative about a team? No, he hasn’t. Jeter respects other teams and their players, and he is therefore respected by all. He is hated by many opposing fans because of his success, but he is respected because of his respect for the game. Any player who wants to be respected by his peers should follow Derek’s example, and treat others with respect.
Comparing Denard Span to Derek Jeter seems to be unfair. Derek Jeter is a seasoned veteran, whereas Span is still a young player at the beginning of his career. Every player, however, should aim to become like Derek Jeter. I’m not talking about talent or success. I’m talking about attitude and class. Every young player should aim to be respected by his peers throughout his career. Making comments like “I hate that team” doesn’t earn you any respect.
Some people said to me “If Derek Jeter made a similar comment about the Red Sox, you would love it”. No, I really wouldn’t. I would be more upset about any Yankee making such a comment about any team, especially if that Yankee is Jeter. 
If Jeter made a comment like that, I’d be one of the first fans telling him to shut his mouth and let his bat and glove do the talking on the field. Derek Jeter would tell Derek Jeter to shut his mouth if he made such a statement. I’m very Jeterian when it comes to how I expect players to deal with other teams. As a fan, I constantly show my hatred of the Boston Red Sox, but I would never accept our players doing the same. I’m watching the games from the stands, or on TV, I’m not on the field. There’s a major difference between what is considered acceptable behavior for a fan, and what is acceptable for a player.
Side note: I didn’t enjoy certain statements George Steinbrenner made about other teams, either. Steinbrenner, however, is an owner, not a player. While I still find ill-natured remarks unacceptable, he’s his own boss.
This is a trap which I find many players falling into. Several players buy into the hype of “rivalry” and “animosity” created by the fans, and start thinking that it is acceptable for them to behave similarly. As Yankees fans, we’ve especially seen this from some members of the Red Sox organization. While I accept and respect hatred of other teams coming from fans, I can never accept and respect hatred coming from opposing players.
Professional athletes, in general, need to be aware of their impact on the image of their respective teams and organizations. It is not enough to play well, and master your athletic skills. Athletes need to have an understanding of the world of Public Relations. If they don’t, then they should know to shut up, and ask their agents and representatives about what is and isn’t acceptable. I’m sure that Span’s agent isn’t happy about such a statement from his client.
Being a professional baseball player is no different from being an employee of any company. When you’re at work, you’re expected to carry yourself in a manner befitting the corporate image of your employers. When I’m at work, I can’t respond to an employee or client with any negative statement. I can’t make a public statement showing hatred for our competitors. This will harm the image of my organization. 
The difference between me, an average employee in the business world, and a professional athlete, is that I can say whatever I want when I’m not at work. No one cares about any statement I make when I’m representing myself, in my free time. Professional athletes don’t have this luxury. From the moment they first put on their team’s jersey until the end of their days in that uniform, they are representing their team all day, every day. This is much more difficult than the ten hours or so in which I represent my company every day, but then again my company doesn’t pay me millions of dollars a year for my services. 
I’m not going to dive into other sports leagues, because different sports require different levels of self-control. One example I heard was boxing. You can’t compare boxing to baseball. Boxers face each other one-on-one, represent themselves and not an organization, and they’re meant to literally beat each other up. When Boxer X speaks in an ill-natured manner of Boxer Y, it is acceptable. It’s a part of the game, because he is representing himself, facing an opponent who is also representing himself. He is expected to go into a ring and pummel his opponent. He can say whatever he wants before the match.
In baseball, you play 162 regular season games, and you not only represent yourself, more importantly you represent your team. If I were an official in the Minnesota Twins organization, I would be annoyed by Denard Span’s comment on Twitter. Twitter has become a leading media outlet, and public figures must carry themselves while tweeting, in the same manner in which they carry themselves in interviews or press conferences. 
As a Yankees’ fan, I would be angry if Nick Swisher or Joba Chamberlain (both frequent Twitter users) made a comment like that about any team. They would not only make themselves look bad, they’d make my team look bad. That, to me, is unacceptable.
Furthermore, players never know what team th
ey will be representing in the future. Why would you want to hinder your career over a stupid remark? I mentioned Schilling, Papelbon and Rollins earlier. The main difference between those three players, and players like Braden and Span, is that the former three have established themselves in their careers. They have the success to back up their classless remarks. Dallas Braden and Denard Span are still starting out. They need to learn how to control what they say, otherwise they’ll end up being the players that no team wants. 
They may have the skills, but teams look for more than mere talent. Teams want players who will make them look good as well as help them win, especially the teams who have the financial means to be picky. If Denard Span and Dallas Braden dream of ever playing for the creme de la creme of baseball, they need to start behaving with class. 
At the end of the day, as a professional athlete, your actions on the field speak louder than your words off it. Shooting your mouth off doesn’t make anyone fear you, it makes everyone ridicule you and your team. As a baseball player, if you truly hate a team, and you want to see them fail, shut your mouth and put your bat and glove up. Show them Hell on the field, but keep your mouth shut up off it.

1 Comment

Hey Hiba, I linked to this on my Tumblr blog….because I agree with almost everything you wrote here. As they say “haters gon’ hate”, so like you said, let our success speak for itself. :)
-Ryan

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