This time of year, with a team like the 2012 Red Sox, you get a lot of “what-ifs” and complaints. Why did they have such a poor record? What could they have done to win more games? It seems to make people feel better if they can find one single problem that can be fixed. It’s easier, if going into an offseason you only have one thing to do. I get that. I look for reasons too. There’s one reason I can’t wrap my arms around, though. The ideas that they should have “played better.”
That was a big media reason a month ago. Lester and Beckett had poor records. If they had had winning records, the Sox would have led the division. I’m not sure why an answer of “play better” is possible. Shouldn’t that apply to every player ever? If every member of the Royals had played better, the team would be in the playoffs. What’s your point? If Lester had struck out every batter he faced, the Sox would be in the playoffs. If Gonzalez had hit 136 home runs, the Sox would be in the playoffs. Why don’t we ask for that? Why don’t we ask why Aaron Cook didn’t win 20 games? Why didn’t he play better?
I’ve always been more of a “you are what your are” sort. Or, even “you were what you were.” Jacoby Ellsbury is a good player. Daniel Nava is not as good. I can’t say to Nava, “Jacoby’s out. Play better.” If I could, why would I bother signing Jacoby in the first place? Just sign some minor leaguers and tell them to play better. Obviously, that would be crazy.
So, don’t tell me that players should have just played better. Don’t tell me that Lester needed to walk fewer people. Don’t tell me that Josh Beckett needed to shift his priorities. (As a side note, that one really bugged me. Remember in 2004 when A-Rod said he was a better player because he was at the gym while other guys were driving their kids to school? Remember when “dirt dog” Trot Nixon completely trashed him? Being a good father did not mean he wasn’t a good ballplayer? What happened to that mentality?) The players are what they are.
I also don’t buy the “try harder” command. It’s a little variation on the “play better” one. People like this one because it leaves open the possibility that there is room for improvement just by trying. But, these are major league ballplayers. You can’t get to that level without some wiring in you that tells you to try. Nobody is the best in the world at something without giving all they can. It may not be obvious to the naked eye, but it’s there. Now, if you want to talk about someone like Josh Hamilton wasting all his talent by using drugs, that’s another issue. Although, I still doubt the “try harder” command would have worked.
Why do people think it’s so easy to just do things better?