Wednesday, September 14


I think hustling is overrated.

I know this isn't bound to be a popular view, because everyone loves a guy who hustles, or has at least convinced him or herself that he or she loves hustle, or at the very least decided to project him or herself as the sort of individual who loves players who hustle. It's universally accepted as a Thing You Must Praise.

But it's way overvalued.

I'm saying this as someone with limited talent who hustles as much as anyone on the teams for which he plays. I'm always flying around the bases or the court, even if I'm not a great three-point shooter or power hitter. I know what value I provide with this approach - I also know that if I could rain threes or hit home runs, I'd be way more useful to the club than is scrappy Francis.

In part, I play hard because I like to. I sprint to my position on the softball field every inning, not for any reason other than because I'm a runner and I enjoy it. I'm sure if I was an MLB player there would be some Fan Favorite component to my outfield jaunts, even though they have nothing at all to do with my squad winning.

And there are other instances where working hard and hustling are neutral or in some cases even negative. Pete Rose is for me the quintessential overrated hustle, the way he sprinted down to first after a walk. I mean, did he ever parlay that into another base? The other is girls' softball players who sprint back to the dugout after striking out, as if that makes any sense at all.

Fans LOVE to pile a guy who looks like he's dogging it, not giving 100% on every play, not getting down the line or chasing loose balls or blocking cornerbacks. It's probably the easiest and most reflexive thing in fandom.

But consider the risks inherent in doing so. Players get worn down over the course of a full season - the more you can conserve your strength, the better you'll be able to maximize effort when it really counts. I just walked over to the computer on a tender knee I got from a diving catch I made last night. Had I not made the dive, we still would have won easily, and I'd be at 100% today. Yet if I were a big-leaguer, I'd face the fans' ire for not laying out. Consider how universally blasted a player is for not running out a routine ground ball. Yeah, it looks bad from a fan pespective, but if you're an aging player who has a far better chance of pulling a hamstring than you do beating out the throw on a routine play, what's best for the club? Which is more important to you as a fan?

Probably some of it has to do with resentment on the fan's part watching a guy not hustle. I mean, these guys get paid millions of dollars to do this, and the idea of watching someone with elite talent apparently not making the most of that talent is off-putting. Just ask Derrick Coleman. I'm certainly not arguing that players shouldn't hustle and try to squeeze the most of their time on the field. I'm just saying that the actual benefits of doing so, in terms of winning games, is often overstated, and the risks of balls-out play often understated.

1 comment:

Nick said...

I agree with you to a point. Players shouldn't take foolish chances that risk injury in games where there is nothing to gain. At the same time, I'm not sure it's smart to plan to "turn it on" just when it counts. When you are always playing hard it just becomes a habit.