12 April 2007

Look at me ... I can be ... Centerfield

Jaun Pierre looks like he's bursting out of his shoes trying to play the game. It's clear as can be to anyone who watches him. He wants to do, to make things happen. Managers and General managers see it. Fellow players and many fans can also see it.

What else do they see?

Do they see the low on-base percentages, declining in recent years? Do they see all the outs he makes while trying to slap the ball for a single, while trying to steal another base, while trying to advance a runner, while trying to do?

Failure is assured if one does not try, according to proverb. But sometimes failure is the direct result of trying. Sometimes success becomes more likely when trying is postponed. There is an art to knowing when to try. Not every pitch should be swung at, not every base stolen. Trying, by itself, is not a virtue.

It's fun to watch Juan Pierre tear around the bases. He's fast. It's uplifting to watch him come up to the batters box, already overmatched in his oversized batting helmet, yet determined to slap the ball somewhere for a hit. Look at me, he seems to be saying ... I can hit a line drive somewhere. I can. At the very least he will hit the ball. He will not strike out. I'm sure he wants to hit line drives, but if he slaps the ball over the infielders' gloves and it drops, or if he hits the ball so weakly that he can beat out the throw with his scorching speed, then I'm sure he's okay with that too.

Last night he had a base hit that was purely a consequence of making contact, when in the bottom of the third inning he reached and made sure to make contact with the ball, causing it to squib over the shortstop into shallow left field. The nature of the hit was the nature of Pierre ... trying, and somehow, landing in that elusive ground of success. And then he had another essential Pierre moment, when he and unofficial Dodger captain Russ Martin stole second and third, as well as pitcher Jason Hirsh's metaphorical pants. It was a product of hard work, from his tape study of Hirsh, and of moxie, from his own drive to do.

This sequence was key to the Dodger win, right? The writer of MLB's wrap placed it in the lead, certainly. Pierre, along with others, did help the Dodgers score three runs. How often will three runs be enough to win a game? Pierre went out in his other three plate appearances, so he didn't do anything that might have helped the Dodgers score more runs. Penny, Broxton, and Saito were probably more important to this win than Pierre was. They didn't try harder than Pierre, though, and they certainly weren't as memorable as him. I will long remember the look on poor Hirsh's face, the catcher's frantic gestures, and Pierre's cheeky success in pilfering third without a throw while the pitcher obliviously held on to the ball.

Pierre has made a lot of outs already this year. In doing so often, slapping at so many balls, making such paltry contact, he is using up the Dodgers fixed allotment of outs, and preventing other Dodgers from succeeding as much as they might otherwise. This is also part of the essential Pierre. That is the dark side of Pierre's great moxie.

Trying as hard as you can isn't always the best thing. Sometimes a batter should take the pitch, even if there is a chance he might fall behind in the count or strike out if the pitch suddenly breaks into the zone. Sometimes a runner should refrain from trying to steal a base, and instead let the batter try to advance him instead. Sometimes a GM should stick with the roster he has, and let the players with potential try to live up to it.

Pierre does take some pitches, and he doesn't always try to steal. He is fun to watch, at least for me. His successes are great to watch. It's just too bad he fails so often.

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