Playing Favorites (Literally)

Try to guess which sentence from this article about Aybar’s suspension infuriated me.

That’s right, it’s this one:

Even if he reaches a point where he’s healthy enough to play, the Braves may have a hard time placing him on the roster in favor of Pete Orr, who is a clubhouse favorite, beloved by teammates, coaches and manager Bobby Cox.

And no, it’s not because I hate Orr (though I don’t usually relish seeing him the lineup) or because I don’t think Aybar’s inability to show up for work is probably a sign that he’s a lazy asshole. If he can’t be professional, he has no place in this organization, and that attitude is one of the reasons I love the Braves. But one of the things that drives me insane about the Braves is the attitude displayed in the above statement (from the official site). If you’re one of the cool kids, in with the gang, then you have a better chance of starting games. Why is Orr is still around? They like him. How did Reitsma get so many opportunities to destroy our season last year? He was well-liked in the clubhouse, a great guy, etc.

If Aybar apologizes and starts actually showing up to the park, I would rather see him at the plate than Orr any day. I understand that not following team policy will hurt him — it should. But being “beloved” really shouldn’t help Orr that much. Playing favorites has hurt the team in the past, and it’s already made an impact this season, with Langerhans getting to play instead of Diaz because of his “intangibles,” I guess. I think this is going to change soon — Joe and Chip were making some noise about it during one of the weekend broadcasts, and there is a defense of Diaz’s fielding in these recent Braves notes on the official site.

I’m more worried about seeing Diaz get a real chance in left than whatever will happen with Aybar and Orr off our bench, but I hope the better player — providing he also abides by club rules — will get the job, not the guy who makes everyone laugh and remembers to send birthday cards. Aybar’s attendance matters, but his friendliness in the clubhouse (or lack thereof) shouldn’t count for anything. I’m sure it’s nicer to play with guys who get along well with everyone, and team chemistry is important, but it should never eclipse actual performance.

That said, Diaz seems like one of the nicest guys on the team — maybe Langerhans gets preferential treatment just because he’s cooler. After all, look at what Diaz says when someone comments on how well he played at first the other day:

“I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none,” said Diaz, who entered Saturday, hitting .350 (7-for-20).

Dammit, Matt, learn how to sell yourself! Apparently it’s important.

Published by Jenny

a.k.a.: Velcro Vernacular <info@talkingchop.com>

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4 Comments

  1. I hate to say it but KJ is also a product of this mentality. Why go with some guy who has never played 2B before and never really showed anything spectacular at the plate? Prado, Harris, even Aybar had shown more promise at 2B. .. but I guess they were lacking the “likability” factor that Bobby looks for.

    anyhoo… hopefully Aybar can be trade bait and get a half-decent starting pitcher to replace Mark Crapman.

    1. I think you’re absolutely right. I was prepared to hate both Kelly and Davies this season, and used to refer to them as Heap and Frenchy’s “satellites,” because they’re all buddies (Davies grew up with them and KJ lived with them), and I didn’t feel like either of them had really earned the right to be on the team.

      Strangely, I’m hopeful about both of them at the moment. Kelly has really grown on me. I do like Prado a lot, but Kelly has been taking his walks, and I can’t complain about his defense so far. Even Davies surprised me in his first start.

      But yeah, it’s scary to think about how important that stuff can be in certain clubhouses . . .

  2. It’s weird that you mention that sometimes our clubhouse has that “high school popularity contest” card going on in it, but now that you mention it, it does seem sort of played more often than not. It really shouldn’t be based on who is more liked, it should really be on the best talented athlete that we have. But of course, it’s not.

    1. It’s silly — this isn’t a sorority, for cryin’ out loud. But I’m sure it’s that way in any business: people who are well-liked get ahead. There’s even less excuse for unfair favoritism in the athletic world, though, because there are detailed, exhaustive stats that keep track of performance.

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