Monday, May 7, 2007

That Ryan Freel is a Magnificent Bastard

A feel-good piece about Josh Hamilton's fast start. We've seen a lot of these by now, so you know what to expect. The story of an addiction seemingly beaten, the aw-shucks wonder of a nice kid off to a Hobbsian start, the self-congratulatory quotes from Ryan Freel:

The Reds' Ryan Freel watches Hamilton and marvels every day at his talent.

"He's just a treat to watch out there," Freel said. "He's opening a lot of people's eyes. I'm his biggest fan. I knew he had this ability in him. This guy can play.

This isn't the first time Freel (or someone on his behalf) has managed to turn the Josh Hamilton story into the Ryan Freel story. Check out this love-letter from last month about just how damn great an American Freel was for getting pushed off of center field in favor of the clearly-superior Hamilton:

By virtue of his athletic talent and personal journey, Hamilton is indisputably worthy of all the goodwill that has been doted on him over the past two months. And yet, as the script turns the way most people seem to want it to, the gallant character is compellingly played by Freel.

. . .Five years the little guy has been here, barreling into walls and straining the cleansing properties of whatever the clubhouse guys put on his earth-bearing trousers . . .

. . .[Freel] essentially offered his position to the tattooed rookie . . .

. . .His success has been so sudden, and so celebrated, that a measure of resentment would not be unexpected from the Reds' clubhouse. But Hamilton's sincerity has precluded such a sentiment. The prevailing feeling is more like what Freel said. "It means a lot," Hamilton submitted by way of reply. "It speaks volumes about Freel."

In a story putatively about Josh Hamilton. Look, I'll give Mr. Scrappy credit for not sulking when Hamilton unexpectedly left him without a position, but the extent to which Hamilton's emergence has been couched in terms of how wonderful Ryan Freel has been throughout all of it is starting to wear thin. We get it, everyone: Freel is scrappy. He hustles. He's selfless. Lord only hopes he's single when it comes time for my daughter to start dating.

But let’s not forget that he’s not much more than a useful utilityman who somehow conned the Reds into thinking that he was a starting centerfielder. Intangibles are great, but even if Freel's “admirable selflessness” is required to figure in to every story written about Josh Hamilton, it doesn’t figure into Freel’s VORP, so let’s cool our jets about him for a while, okay?