Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rings and Chemistry

The Mobile Press-Register caught up with Phillies' reliever J.C. Romero recently. The story is pretty much what you'd expect -- some personal background, some "happy to help the team win" stuff, some "this experience has been wonderful" stuff -- you know, the usual.

As often happens, though, one thing kind of sticks out for me and got me to thinking. When describing his release from the Red Sox in 2007 and subsequent pickup by Philly, the subject of World Series rings came up:

His karma was on target. As a result, he added a second World Series ring to his collection; last season, the Red Sox players voted to give Romero a ring even though he didn't finish the season with them.

"I feel like I earned this one," he said. "Although, I have some good friends with the Red Sox, and one of them is Big Papi (David Ortiz). He called me the other day and told me that I earned that (Red Sox) ring. He told me, 'Don't forget the 20 games you gave us. You were just the victim of a business decision. You were a part of that team.'"
It's easy to forget, as we sit back here in Internet, radio, and television land, that players don't view the world exclusively in terms of good player/bad player the way analysts do. Romero walked a bunch of dudes and wasn't as effective as he needed to be over 23 games for the Sox in 2007, and by any objective measure, he was not helping them all that much towards their second World Championship. Sure, he had an incentive-based contract with Boston so on some level it was a business decision to release him, but if he had been effective for them, he would have been on the team all year. I'm virtually certain that if a panel of outside experts were the ones who decided who got 2007 World Series rings for the Sox, Romero would not have.

The players obviously felt differently, however, and I for one am very glad they did. Not that I care a rat's patootie about Romero, but then again, that's kind of the point. On some level players are meat to us fans. We get excited when they do well, get upset when they do poorly, and get reflective when they finally leave the game and later life, but they really are just meat, and we rarely if ever think much about the personal stuff they go through during their careers.

Romero was signed before the 2007 season. He had to move his family across country, and that obviously affects people. Because of the signing, someone else didn't make the Red Sox team. That obviously affects people, including but not limited to the best buddy of the last guy cut. He didn't pitch all that wonderfully, and that affects people too. On a day to day basis he talked, joked, and maybe even fought with folks, all of which affects people in ways good, bad, and indifferent. None of that really shows up anywhere, and no one would bat an eye if Romero hadn't gotten a 2007 ring. But the Red Sox players wanted him to have one. Not out of pity and not out of charity, but out of an appreciation of Romero just being Romero and being there and being part of their months-long struggle.

There's so much more to a baseball season than any of us realize, and the guys inside it don't view it in the same way we do. I try to remember that when I write about players and what they do, but I often forget it. So does everyone else.


mooseinohio said...

As someone who recently moved and only went 90 miles to a corner of Ohio I have gained a level of appreciation for those who may move on a more frequent basis (e.g. players, coaches, corporate folk) as it takes it toll on you - especially if you have children. I think we fans occasionally forget we have lots in common with players, probably more than than we have differences. Granted many of them live in an financial world we can only imagine but factor those eceonomic factors out and the stresses and challenges of everyday life affect us all.

Also - the stars like David Ortiz are different than a journey reliever like Romero who may bounce around and play for 4 or 5 teams overs a career. Maybe you don't move but then you face separation from your family and I know when I considered for a job that was going to require a fair amount of travel I declined as being away from my wife and daughter that much was not something I wanted.

Maybe I'm just maturing as a sports fan but I had no problem cutting JD Drew some slack last year as he had a very sick child that was weighing on his mind. I know I am somewhat distracted when my daughter is ill with a normal, every year daycare bug - can't imagine what it would be like with a serious illness. Combine that with working in a very public stage and my appreciation for how JD Drew handled the situation impresses more than his performance as a ballplayer may have disappointed me.

Nick said...

Good take, Craig. A little perspective is always healthy.

Joist said...

Craig, I love ya, but really, misusing the word "effect" four times?

Craig Calcaterra said...

Ugh. I will now jump out a window. That's pathetic. I even know the difference betwee affect and effect, so why I messed it up I have no idea.

mooseinohio said...

Quilty as well and as much as I want to use 'typo' as an excuse the a and e keys truly aren't close enough to pull it off.

On the bright side - I don't Strunk & White are blogging.