So this is kind of a silly post. With so little (exciting) news coming from the Indians organization after the season ended, I figured a few light-hearted, off-topic posts may be a nice change of pace.
Everyone has them – that player you love, or that player you love to hate. Sometimes there isn’t a good or even a rational reason to feel the way that you do.
You may even know the type. He’s more than likely a mediocre player that “has a lot of heart” or there’s just something quirky about him that you find endearing for some reason. And this mediocre player can do no wrong in your eyes. “Yes, I know he grounded into five double plays yesterday, but he’s a contact hitter…he’s putting the ball in play.” This is the player that your friends make fun of you for loving; when you wear his jersey, you’re often mocked by those around you.
Then there’s the player that you have an irrational hatred of; or at the very least an irrational annoyance. This is a player that there’s no good reason to dislike…yet you do. He can do no right in your eyes, “I know he went 5/5 with 3 home runs, including the game-winning walk-off, but he’s still a bum and I can’t stand him.” This is the player that all of your friends love; they’re constantly baffled by your seemingly misplaced animosity.
With some players, it’s pretty cut and dried that they’re either the hero or the villain in baseball. I’m talking more about players that are in that cloudy middle of the Major Leagues, the player that flies under the radar. There are players that you have a great reason to love; for example, Omar Vizquel. He’s a phenomenal talent, seems like a really nice guy, and is a darn fine artist as well. There are rational, valid reasons for loving Vizquel. On the other hand, there are fewer rational reasons behind an undying love for Ronnie Belliard (but more on that in a moment).
Just like, there are good reasons to have a lot of animosity toward a John Rocker or a Barry Bonds. There’s really no good reason to harbor a lot of anger toward a Casey Blake, or an Ivan Rodriguez. I was discussing irrational love and hatred with someone one day, and they immediately responded “I can’t stand Nick Swisher, and I have no idea why. I just want to smack him.” I don’t agree, but I get the sentiment.
So here are a few of my irrational loves and hates; feel free to share yours in the comments.
Ronnie Belliard. I have no idea why I love him so much. Maybe it’s because he’s short and kind of chubby like me, or maybe it’s the way his tongue is constantly sticking out of his mouth when he’s in the batter’s box. I remember I had on my Belliard t-shirt one day (to be fair, I did buy it cheap on the clearance rack) when I ran into a friend. He made fun of me for about 20 straight minutes for wearing a Ronnie Belliard shirt, especially after he was no longer with the Tribe. I just let his hate roll off of me…nothing was going to come between me and my love for Ronnie Belliard. My husband even bought me a signed Belliard mini bat one year for Christmas and actually said to me, “you’re probably the only person in America who actually wants this.”
Fausto Carmona. Oh, he definitely makes me crazy on a regular basis, but I can’t help but love the guy. I think it was born out of pity in some ways; after his spectacular failure as a closer in 2006, I just felt so bad for him. To be fair, I actually complain about him quite a bit…but he always gets another chance in my mind. This is the year he really pulls it together and competes for the Cy Young. Every time I say “Okay, I mean it…this year is his *last* chance. I’m done with him after this.” I know I’ll never be done; I just can’t quit you, Fausto!
Jake Westbrook. Maybe I just have a thing for sinker-ball pitchers?
Tom Mastny. I can connect this to Carmona – after Carmona was terrible as a closer in 2006, Mastny stepped in and finished out the season. He won a place in my heart after that. Last I heard, he was playing in Japan.
Jensen Lewis. I think this may be similar to Josh Judy – I’ve gotten his autograph a few times and he seems pretty cool. Perhaps it’s also because I know he grew up an Indians fan and we’re approximately the same age. Regardless, I was always disappointed when he was demoted to the minors, and even more disappointed when he was released by the Indians. (I completely ignore the fact that his stats were getting worse and his velocity was dropping).
Josh Judy. I already explained this a little in another post, but I also develop an attachment to players I watch come up through the minors. I guess it’s the blessing and the curse of having most of the minor league organizations within driving distance of Cleveland.
Coco Crisp. Seriously, how could you not love him with that name? It was kind of heartbreaking that he ended up on the 2007 Red Sox team that knocked the Indians out of the playoffs.
Casey Blake. I definitely don’t *hate* Blake, I’m just constantly annoyed by him in a game setting. I know a ton of people who have Blake in their irrational love category; in fact, one of those people is my father. When Blake used to play for the Indians, I’m sure we were a real treat to the fans that sat around us at the ballpark. All he did was chide me for my Blake-hate, while I made fun of him for so blindly loving him…for pretty much 9 straight innings. I remember at the home opener in 2008, I ripped on Blake for about 6 innings, before he helped the Indians stage a rally against the White Sox. I still wouldn’t let it go though, because “even a blind squirrel will find nuts every once in a while.”
Ivan Rodriguez. I feel so terrible about this one; there’s a high level of guilt that comes with this particular irrational hate. Not to mention when I admit this one to people, they look at me like I just drop-kicked a puppy in front of them. I have no good reason for this one either…he just grates on my nerves.
Jason Michaels. Didn’t dislike him before he came to the Indians, but he drove me nuts while he was here. I’m fine with him again now that he’s someone else’s problem (most recently, Houston’s).
Austin Kearns (2011 version). I liked Austin Kearns when he was with the Reds, and even liked him when he was with the Tribe in 2010. He just drove me absolutely insane in 2011, and in some ways, it wasn’t his fault. Manny Acta kept putting him in the lineup every day to play terribly, so he deserves a share of blame in this as well. Maybe managers have irrational attachments as well.
Kenny Rogers. This goes back to his days with the Rangers, for some reason. When cameras caught the “mystery substance” on his hand in the 2006 World Series, I nearly had a fit. Remember when he threatened the camera man? I was so disappointed that camera guy didn’t punch him in the face.
Jonathan Papelbon. Is this even irrational? I think this one may be perfectly normal.
Jhonny Peralta. Can you have irrational love and hate for a person at the same time? You must, because that’s how I feel about Peralta. On one hand, he’s a maddening player. He’s kind of awkward defensively, and seems perpetually mired in an 0-2 count. Pitchers just had to throw something low and away, and he was bound to swing and miss. Of course, he goes to Detroit and hits for power and average (he hit for some power in Cleveland, but usually with a much lower average). On the other hand, I always felt bad for the guy. How do you follow in Omar Vizquel’s footsteps? Cleveland fans were probably always going to need a “rebound shortstop” – someone to help them get over their love for Vizquel. I always tried to cheer for Jhonny, just because I felt so bad that everyone was booing him. It’s not entirely his fault that he was a mediocre shortstop that happened to replace one of the all-time greats.
So, who would make your list? Remember, it doesn’t have to be backed by stats or even any logical explanation. You just feel that way, because you do.