Let's think about what that says about us, rather than what it says about the first-round pick who was once the answer to the Jays' shortstop situation. Being a sports fan and cheering for a bunch of jocks employed by a multinational corporation, because it's your team, is an ultimate act of naive sentiment. It's odd how it's rare that any of that is saved for a bright hope who fell flat on his face.
(Maybe it's an offshoot of the self-loathing that builds up from having spent your waking hours worrying about the outcome of games you cannot control. To think I believed in Russ Adams?! He's dead to me.)
There's names for the exemplars of this phenomenon -- bust, flop, fizzle, dud, Ryan Leaf. It might be the worst ignominy to own in sports, on par with being a cheater. People will let an athlete off the hook for being an out-and-out rat bastard, but not for failing like Russ Adams has as a major-leaguer.
"I don't see playing baseball professionally, playing over two years in the majors, if someone thinks that's failing, I don't know what planet they live on. I'm not going to be sitting at home at 40 and think I'm a failure in life because I didn't play 20 years in the big leagues. That won't dictate my happiness." -- Syracuse Post-StandardHands up, everyone whose knee-jerk reaction was something along the lines, "Oh, go cry me a river." It might create the mental picture of Adams, barring some near-miraculous turnaround, spending the next 20 years dreaming of a parallel universe where he was the American League's answer to Chase Utley.
A lot of sports fans probably look it that way. It's not clear that the ballplayers actually do.
It's undeniable what springs to mind after seeing that quote from Adams, whose Triple-A rate stats in Syracuse this summer (.232/.322/.378) scream, "quintessential Quadruple-A player." This, of course, is from someone who as every Jays fan must know by now, was drafted ahead of Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher and Joey Votto (not just a Toronto boy, but a paisano of J.P. Ricciardi).
It's actually straight of out of the novel North Dallas Forty. There's a scene where the antihero Phil Elliott (Nick Nolte played him in the movie) recalls commiserating with a player who had been traded, dumped by a team that had publicly proclaimed he would be brilliant:
"He seemed like the only survivor of a ten-car collison who was trying to explain how it happened. Several times during the course of our conversation he had stopped to stare off into his disastrous past, thinking of all those glories he had only tasted slightly."There's a double-edge to that analogy. It could seem empathetic or just downright cruel. But it's c'est la vie for a human footnote.
For anyone who needs a refresher, the Jays advanced Adams quickly through the minors after he was drafted in 2002 (Matt Cain and Cole Hamels, both now top-flight starters in the NL, were also available when Ricciardi made the 14th overall selection).
In 2005, he put up a decent enough first season as a rookie shortstop. According to his Baseball-Reference.com page, his age-24 season compared pretty favourably with that of Orlando Cabrera, who's been an adequate, sometimes all-star shortstop for a decade.
He had the throwing yips in '06. You can't presume to know what's in a player's mind, but the stats make it look like he was taking his defensive problems up to bat with him. The Jays eventually had to send him to Syracuse to learn how to play second base, which was a give-up play.
Inside of two years, the Shortstop of the Future has become one of among the couple hundred Triple-A veterans -- roster flotsam who move about the minors, their names known only to the most hardcore baseball fans. They're valued by MLB organizations for what might be called their overdeveloped flexibility. Most of them, almost as a survival skill, have learned to play several positions (good for when the big club is shuffling players around). They've been around long enough that they don't need to be babysat by their manager. They're also fully comfortable with the hard reality that they can traded, demoted, promoted, or released at any time.
Who knows why it didn't work out for Adams. One historical note is that left-handed hitting shortstops are a rarity. (Stephen Drew of the Arizona Diamondbacks is the only everyday SS in the majors who bats lefty.)
The thing is, though, is that most fans don't fully appreciate that it does take exceptional skill, the kind not found in 99% of the population, to even be a career minor leaguer. People also don't get, or don't care, that's it debatable whether failing as an everyday shortstop actually hurt Russ Adams as a person. He got far enough to get all his illusions about playing baseball shattered, but a lot of men never will.
Some day in the not too distant future, the Jays will probably waive him. Drunk Jays Fans and the like will write a blog post for shits and giggles. Maybe someone will do up a Top 10 list of Toronto sports busts, slotting Adams in with Rafael Araujo and Ricky Williams, but Russ Adams will just go on living his life. The wicked burn won't be on him.
- So Joba Chamberlain goes on the disabled list on the same day that Jeff Karstens, the young pitcher whom the Yankees just traded to the Pirates, took a perfect game into the eighth inning. Yankees haters are travelling around in go-carts powered by their own sense of self-satisfaction, just like Ed Begley Jr.
- Padres rightfielder Brian Giles has reportedly been claimed on waivers. Please make note of which playoff contenders need some help in rightfield.
- Meantime, fellow Epic Carnival-ites Nick Underhill and Bill Baer had a little point-counterpoint over whether or not the L.A. Angels closer, Francisco Rodriguez, should be the front-runner for American League MVP because he's on pace to set a record for saves.
Not gonna take sides, but relievers shouldn't be eligible for the MVP -- they already have the Cy Young Award.
- Forty-six years ago today, 46-year-old Satchel Paige won a 1-0 game in 12 innings.
- Shaun Marcum was awesome last night.
- The uber-prospect, Travis Snider, is going to get called up to Triple-A. J.P. Ricciardi said that would happen during his weekly fireside chat on the FAN 590. It's a fireside chant because the GM's pants are usually on fire by the end, for some reason.
J.P. also said that "Cito Gaston will definitely be the manager next year."
- Brett Cecil had a mixed result in his first start since being called up to Syracuse: Two runs (both earned) on six hits over five innings, with three walks and seven strikeouts. It was enough for him to get the win.
(Danny Sandoval, last season's Ottawa Lynx shortstop, was 5-for-5.)
- Drunk Jays Fans has already fired a preemptive strike against "all these people are jumping on the Rays' bandwagon just because they've played their first four months of good baseball in franchise history." It seemed to be tongue-in-cheek. The operative word is seemed.
- The article on MLB.com states "a competition (is) brewing atop the Blue Jays' rotation" almost likes an act of mawebolence aimed at the anti-A.J. Burnett types, stat geeks and the I Heart Halladay folk and combos thereof.
Well, congratulations, because using the pitchers' matching win totals as a premise for an article worked. Pay no attention to any differences in their respective ERAs (Burnett, 4.57; Roy Halladay, 2.77), baserunners allowed per inning (1.437 to 1.021) or run support (4.65 for A.J., 3.91 for Roy). it worked. There's actually a small grain of truth to comparisons of between Burnett and that are based on the premise they each have 13 wins.
A quick check at FanGraphs.com does show the pair is only a half-run apart in fielding-independent pitching (basically, what a pitcher's ERA would be with an absolutely average group of fielders behind him). Halladay's FIP is 3.00. Burnett's is 3.50 -- suggesting there's more than anecdotal evidence that his teammates have let him down.
Of course, that's A.J. Burnett's just desserts for being just good enough to make you scream.