When Is It Right To Question An Athlete’s Work Ethic?

We’re walking into a touchy gray area today.  Talking about something the regular fan can’t really evaluate.  We’re not talking about sabermetrics; you can’t go online and pull up a set of stats detailing how hard a player tries, how much heart he has, or how much he cares about being one of the best.  And frankly, beat writers are no help, because they’ll never tell you (until AFTER the fact; i.e. after the player has been let go by the organization) when a player seems to be dogging it, or when a player comes into camp overweight.  I mean, they’ve got to protect their jobs, and in this instance, if they start airing the dirty laundry of every slacking athlete they cover, they won’t get any post-game quotes and their stories will suffer.

So, as a fan, we kind of have to pick and choose who we label as someone who doesn’t care.  I suppose that’s not a fair way to put it; I’m sure most every professional athlete – especially the young ones – CARE about what they do.  I’m sure they’re thrilled, living their life’s dream.  But, do they care ENOUGH?  That’s what I want to know.

Look, I know it’s a job.  And as with any job, people have good days and bad days.  But, with just about any job, there are ways you can do your job better!  And, since that’s the case, all it takes is a little experience and a try-hard attitude.

Here’s the difference:  professional athletes aren’t busboys.  The difference between the best busboy in the world and just a good busboy probably isn’t appreciated by too many people.  Professional athletes are displayed on a national stage; they are appreciated by everyone who follows their sport.  And they represent cities, who follow their actions with an intensified focus.  It’s a lot of pressure to be under, which is why they’re paid handsomely for it.  All they have to do is play ball.  A game is, what, 3 hours?  Is it too much to ask for a player to do everything he can to better himself during the hours of the day where he’s not on a field or on a court?

There’s this article that came out a couple days ago in the New York Times about Aaron Curry.  In this article, Aaron Curry admits, while he was a Seattle Seahawk, “I wasn’t motivated to do it.  Football wasn’t my top priority, to be honest.”  He would go on to say, “I think earlier in my career I was real selfish and self-centered.  I was more about me than the Seahawks.”

It goes on and on.  We read that now, as Seahawks fans, and I’m sure many of us are enraged.  We go to all this trouble, pay him all this money, and THIS is how he treats us!  Of course, what can we do about it now; he’s no longer a part of the team.  If some blogger back in 2009 or 2010 went on the Internet and lambasted him for being unmotivated and selfish, or for not caring about his craft, I’m sure he would have been shamed as making untoward assertions about something he couldn’t POSSIBLY know anything about.

Yet, here we are, in 2013, and that blogger would’ve been vindicated.  It’s easy to look back in hindsight when you have all the pieces of the puzzle put together for you and say, “Yeah, Aaron Curry was probably a huge asshole who didn’t deserve to wear the Seahawks uniform.”

I’m not saying that was a position I held about the guy in 2009 or 2010.  I never pegged him as a slacker so much as a huge disappointment.  But, just because you can’t see into a guy’s frame of mind, doesn’t mean you can’t question his intentions.

So, guess what?  I’m questioning the intentions of Jesus Montero.  Sue me!

Yes, it’s coming from a place of bitterness and anger, but that’s neither here nor there.  There are PLENTY of young baseball players his age who are able to figure it the fuck out.  When you consider someone coming from his talent pool – who was a top-rated prospect less than two years ago – it’s only all the more galling.  I refuse to believe he was as good as he’s ever going to be two years ago.  Now, maybe that will prove to be the case, but it doesn’t HAVE to be the case!  I contend, if he was putting in the time and effort behind the scenes, if he was studying his craft the way he should, then we’d be seeing the results of that effort by now!

I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again:  raw ability will only take you so far in life.  Jesus Montero has the raw ability to be one of the great hitters in baseball.  But, instead of trying to get better, he has opted to coast on what’s gotten him here.  As a result, he’s quickly turning into a bust who has already lost all of his catching responsibilities and has been sent down to Triple-A.  Had he WORKED a little harder, maybe we’d be talking about Jesus Montero, Catcher of the Future.  Instead, what we’ve got is Jesus Montero, Maybe DH of the Future, But Most Likely Trade Bait of the Future.

Let me ask you this:  would the Mariners have made a big thing out of drafting Mike Zunino if they believed Jesus Montero was the real deal?  Of course not.  Now, you can take that as the organization realizing his defensive liabilities early and hedging their bets that they would need a REAL Catcher of the Future.  But, I choose to take that as they discovered Jesus Montero doesn’t have the mettle or the focus to do what it takes to BE a catcher in the Major Leagues.

Either way, this is where we are right now.  And I say, whenever you run across a highly-rated prospect who doesn’t pan out, QUESTION their work ethic.  They were highly rated for a reason.  These scouts aren’t idiots.  But, being highly rated doesn’t automatically make you a Hall of Famer.  That takes work and effort.  Work and effort these busts aren’t following through on.

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