Why Is It Always Minority Players Suffering From Lack of Hustle?

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brandonphillips.jpg

In a Tuesday tilt against the Mets, Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips disappointed his team and his manager when he failed to bust his butt out of the batters box on what he presumed was his second home run of the game. After taking a John Maine pitch deep, Phillips lowered his head and began his tater trot; unfortunately, the ball stayed in the park and he ended up with just a double.

Craig Calcaterra's headline on the incident? "Brandon Phillps' lack of hustle costs him a triple". Also according to Craig, his "lack of hustle" cost the Reds the game, since the team lost by just one run and the hitter after Phillips came through with a long sac fly. Funny, I feel like the few feet that Phillips' hit fell short cost the Reds the game, not Phillips' apparent lack of hustle.

That story led me to posit this: when we read about players who display a "lack of hustle", chances are that player is a minority. This is just a hypothesis, though, and I need some hard evidence to back it up.

Here, then, is an incomplete list of black or Latino players whose names show up in game stories, op-ed columns, and assorted player quotes when one searches Google for the phrase "lack of hustle" and the word "baseball" (takes deep breath):

Elijah Dukes, Julio Lugo, B.J. Upton, Jose Reyes, Alfonso Soriano, Robinson Cano, Jimmy Rollins, Benito Santiago, Willy Taveras, Matt Kemp, Milton Bradley, Derek Bell, Albert Belle, Fernando Martinez, Alex Rios, David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada, Edwin Encarnacion, Eddie Murray, Manny Ramirez, and Andruw Jones.

That's a whopping twenty-one different minority players, most of recent vintage, and all were called out for an apparent "lack of hustle". I could go on, but B.J. Upton's name showed up so many times I began to feel bad for him.

So, how many white players showed up in the search results? One. That's it, just one. David Wright, and the item was on a silly fantasy news website, hardly a bastion of hard-hitting journalism. This was not a case of cherry-picking results to prove my point; no, I searched long and hard to find exceptions! Twenty-one black or Latino players were called out for "lack of hustle" by a writer and/or manager, versus just one white player. This is not a coincidence.

Are we to believe that David Wright is the only white player in the majors who had problems hustling? Has Adam Dunn never lollygagged? Did Cal Ripken run out every single infield grounder? Doubtful. Yet we never hear of managers or columnists calling out white guys for "lack of hustle".

Still, there is no reason to call out any single writer for leaning too hard on this simple, cliched phraseology. Nor is there any evidence that points to any single writer being a closet racist. Still, the evidence is vast: whenever the phrase "lack of hustle" is used, chances are the player is black or Latino. This is disturbing!

Besides, how are we to quantifiably measure "hustle", a quality that is merely subjective? To an old-timer, watching Brandon Phillips admire what he thought was a home run is "lack of hustle". To another, it was a mental lapse and lack of judgment. Phillips may not have busted his ass out of the box after the hit but he sure clobbered the heck out of that baseball. To say that the Reds lost the game because Phillips didn't properly "hustle" seems like a stretch, at best.

Brandon Phillips is human, and when he erred, he showed it. I was not inside Brandon's head when he smashed that baseball, but does anyone really think he thought, "Darn, I'm tired! Let me just trot a bit here so as not to exert too much energy!" No, he didn't run it out; perhaps it was half hubris and half misjudgment. But to attack his character with that horrid phrase smacks of prejudice.

"Hustle" is just as bad a measure of a player's character as it is a measure of his skill-set. If we, as baseball fans, constantly resurrect the ghost of Pete Rose, aka Charlie Hustle, every time the topic of hustle comes up, we are automatically discrediting the concept. Sure, Pete Rose was said to display hustle with his 'grit' and 'gumption' and 'moxie', but he also took a giant shit on the sanctity of the game, admitted it, and was banned from baseball for life. Perhaps he "hustled" when he played the game, but Pete Rose also "hustled" when he was rushing to place bets on his own damn team.

I say we do away with evaluating players based on something so unmeasurable and irrelevant as "hustle". Instead, let us look at ability, and character, and something we don't see on the playing field during game day: work ethic. Let us shed forever the phrase "lack of hustle" when talking about any player, regardless of race. It's pointless.


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54 Comments

The first player to show up when you Google "lots of hustle baseball"?

You know damn well that its David Eckstein.

Also, David Eckstein's dad is apparently named "Whitey" and his "all-hustle" approach was inspired by Whitey.

Fucking racists, man.

I was looking for examples of "lack of hustle" of Colby Rasmus, but couldn't find any. Also, I'm surprised you didn't find examples of JD Drew's "non-hustle."

Honestly, what are the chances Phillips stretches that into a triple? What happens when Phillips gets thrown out trying to stretch a fly ball off the wall into a triple? BRANDON PHILLIPS MAKES CRUCIAL OUT ON BASEPATHS, DOESN'T RECOGNIZE SITUATION. MORE HEADY PLAYERS PLZ

I show Victorino as the 2nd result. What does he fall into?

For the record Craig Calcaterra is a bigger self loathing bleeding heart liberal than Liakos so I don't think he had any hidden agenda by that story

Confusingly, this is David Eckstein's entrance song.

White people run the bases like this...

I show Victorino as the 2nd result. What does he fall into?

"Other"

Isn't Adam Dunn famously a lazy asshole who doesn't care about his team and hits selfish homeruns?

And yet Pharrell, Jay-Z and Cassidy all claim to be hustlas. It just doesn't add up.

The thing about that double that Phillips hit was that, off the bat, it looked like a home run. More precisely, off the bat, it looked exactly like the home run that Phillips had hit in the first inning off the same pitcher to the same part of the ballpark. He watched that one too for about the same length of time (and, for what it's worth, his trot on the first home run wasn't obscenely slow or anything).

True, he should've been running on contact, but so should everyone. What he did was no different than what a dozen players do everyday. It's just this time he possibly, maybe lost a base on it (and watch the replay on mlb.com - he was definitely upset with himself for not being able to take third). That's the kind of thing that happens ( and, hey, at least he got a double out of it instead of the single/out Pujols got last week - http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/Did-St-Louis-television-cover-for-a-non-hustlin?urn=mlb,237918 ). No reason to call him out specifically.

Pete Rose was famously lazy, but unfortunately couldn't spell "Charlie Lackadaisical."

@Phony
I would have gone with Poky Pete

Lar kills it again. Thank you, Mr. Tater Trot Tracker Guy!

Minority players lack hustle because they do not need it, for they are gifted with copious amounts of athleticism and explosive speed.

Just wanted to say, fantastic post. I nodded so vigorously that I may have injured myself.

I'm actually trying to keep track this year (and probably for the next few years) of the times a player is given some intangible trait with a slight racist connotation, if you guys could help out, that'd be great.

http://dingers.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/scorekeeping-subtle-racism-cliches-and-bad-catchphrases-in-baseball

Also: I like the cut of Iracane's jib here. I'll say it now, just to be pre-emptive: If any writer accuses Andrew McCutcheon of "lack of hustle", they should have their credentials taken from them. They should also be set on fire.

Jonah got creampuffed

@dingers
Most of your examples are either very vague or look like a huge stretch.

@bctf the comments or the post itself? Any advice is welcome.

Victorino = Portuguese-Hawaiian American. And yeah, thanks for some quantification on this issue. I've always had a vague feeling that this was the case, but those numbers, even though they exclude my boy Shane (though that was just a couple of days ago), are pretty conclusive.

I caught myself the other night saying "Nice hustle" on a play by Orlando Hudson. Fortunately, JJ Hardy gave me an opportunity to use it in it's proper context, complimenting whitey.

"'Mariners’ play-by-play guy Dave Sims called Oakland A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki a 'good little player.' Suzuki is 5’11″ and of Asian descent; he is a Hawaiian native."

Calling a guy a "good little player" is racist?


"On May 3, 2010, Mike Francesa called Gary Matthews Jr. a 'good defensive replacement' on WFAN New York"

Misguided but not racist

Googling for "lack of hustle baseball" now pulls up an article on SB Nation referencing this post, and this very post.

As far as Victorino goes, I believe he was called out by Charlie Manuel for his "lack of hustle". So if the phrase originates from within the organization, not the media, does that make a difference?

You've never heard the claim that asian people are small? That they're tiny? Little? Short?

I'll admit that claim on Sim isn't iron clad, but the goal isn't to just list any time someone calls a black player out on hustle. It's to take any piece of information that could be construed as racist and compare it across the boards. We're not just calling broadcasters and anyone with a platform out, we have to see if there IS actual racism in this; that there's a large amount of white players given credit for hustle and a large amount of black players discredited for lack of it. That's why I listed Vin Scully calling Clayton Kershaw "talented" and "gifted," even though Kershaw is white. At the end of the tallying, if there is a line drawn on race, then we have something significant.

Has a 5'11" white or black person been called a "good little player"? I dunno, I haven't heard that yet, but if he is, I'll put it in there.

On that latter one, you're probably right, but I'm just marking it down and keeping track any time a player is given credit for good defense when he shouldn't be. I'm interested if a player with a worse bat is given credit for defense and vice versa. Think Pujols vs. Yuniesky Betancourt.

Dan Gladden does radio for the Twins and he is always calling someone a "good little player". It doesn't mean the guy is small.

Example: "Since Joe Nathan has gone down John Rauch has stepped in and become a nice little closer for the team."

No one is going to confuse the 6'11" Rauch of being small, it's just a the way he says it.

If you can come up with the date for that, I'll post it in my comments

I was just using that as an example of how the phrasing would go. Like if someone pulled up in a new car and you told them. "That's a nice little car you have there".

BCTF: I drive a Mazda you racist pig.

@Drew
Is is a Miatta?

Is it

"Did Cal Ripken run out every single infield grounder?" might be a bad example. I'm no Orioles historian, but it's entirely possible that Iron Cal did run out every grounder. To say that Cal embodied discipline is to recognize that the English word "discipline" is occasionally insufficient.

Overall, though, your point is taken. Try "questions about his work ethic" and "football" for a similar experiment.

I don't think I agree that only minorities get called out for lack of hustle, but I didn't bother to try and prove you wrong. You may well be right.

I disagree with the second part of your argument, however. You seem to be saying that we shouldn't ever call anyone out for lack of hustle. That's bullshit. When Carlos Lee stares at his homeruns, it pisses me off, but it isn't a big deal as they're usually long gone. When Lee is out at first by a mile after the second baseman bobbles the ball because he didn't bust ass out of the box, it's completely valid to say he should have hustled.

I've always been of the opinion that Reds fans are equal opportunity complainers about lack of hustle.

Over the last decade alone, Reds fans have complained about the perceived lack of hustle of the following:

Ken Griffey, Jr. (Black)
Brandon Phillips (Black)
Edwin Encarnacion (Hispanic)
Adam Dunn (White)
Alex Gonzalez (Hispanic)
and I even remember a few
Austin Kearns complaints.

Also Willy Tavares needs to come off the list. He was not a major leaguer while in Cincinnati (or elsewhere in my opinion), and on the list of reasons for why not hustle is about number 5,000.

@ dingers

Doesn't setting out with the intent to find "racist" connotations make it impossible for you to come back empty-handed? This is the problem with your theory, this article, and media coverage in general. We've become so caught up in picking apart verbiage, that the speaker's intent barely factors into the discussion anymore. It's beyond ridiculous that people like you have made it their duty to police our thoughts and speech.

At the same time, with people like you beating us over the head with silly examples of "racism," you do more to harm your cause than help it. The amount of resentment generated by the constant crying of "Wolf" as it pertains to race does far more to widen the divide between the races than it does to bring them closer together.

It would be sad, if it weren't so damned annoying.

Before it gets predictably picked apart, let me clarify on my "crying wolf" statement. Citing racism in a case where Kurt Suzuki is described as a "good little player" makes it all the more easy for many people to be dismissive of LEGITIMATE cases of racism, because they're tired of hearing about silly examples like these. I'm not saying racism no longer exists, I'm merely saying that it's the most over-stated, over-reported problem in today's world.

Why is anyone surprised? The Reds, the baseball media and Reds baseball fans have always had a history of racismn when it comes to black athletes and baseball. Who in the hell are we trying to kid? If you listen to Mo Egger and Lance McCallister you know that they play the "RACE CARD" when it comes to certain athletes because thats what brings in phone calls. Racist Lance and Mo sspent all 3 hours hating on Brandon Phillips after the Reds won an extra inning game. They didnt even bring up the game but talk about Brandon Phillips the whole time. NOT ONCE did they mention Drew "i forgot how many outs in a inning"Stubbs, NOT ONCE did they bring up Johnny "i havent hit a cutoff throw in years" Gomes, NOT ONCE did they mention Jay "I'm white so it's o.k. to watch my homeruns" Bruce. And baseball, the Reds and the baseball media apologist in Cincinnati wonder why fans (black fans especially) arent going to baseball games or care about "their game"? It is the BLANTANT IN YOUR FACE "GOOD OLD BOYS POLITICS OF BASEBALL that have made the sports of baseball the TEA PARTY of pro sports. I hope the racist in baseball are happy. Thank GOD for articles like this. It's about time soeone told the truth. Eric Davis, frank Robinson, Barry larkin and Ken Griffey Jr. appreciate it along with many in the "community". And these fools wonder why baseball isnt as popular as basketball and football? hhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm????

This is a terrible argument.

Convenient that you don't mention the manager by name....Dusty Baker is black. He sparked the conversation by talking about how he was disappointed in Phillips. Talk about a non-scientific "argument".

Basketball is more popular than baseball???? How do you figure?

How do you "figure" that basketball isnt more popular than baseball? Take a look around you, the only people who dont play basketball or football are the players who play baseball. Get a clue

Baseball is much more popular than the NBA...it isn't even close. Ratings for nationally televised games are one way to see that. Revenue, attendance, etc. I love basketball, it just doesn't have the popularity that you claim it does.

"And these fools wonder why baseball isnt as popular as basketball and football?"

I am a fool and I have never wondered why baseball isn't as popular as football or basketball. So there goes that theory.

@TheDDG of course, I'm very aware of that and I don't want to be part of the problem. What BCTF was missing out on is my goal. I'm not trying to call out anybody and this isn't a witch hunt, I'm trying to figure out if these perceived racist claims have truth to them. Read Chunk's first post in the comments of my link.

At the end of a three-year sample, I'll assemble all of the data and compare it. Five white players were called scrappy to three black players and two latinos, etc. If the percentages are skewed, then we have something, but right now I'm going in assuming nothing.

Like I said in the post, I want to get data from white players getting called out for hustle and black players receiving compliments for the opposite.

Quit white whining: Baseball will stop using the word hustle the day we all stop remembering Pete Rose (i.e. never). I can't believe I read this article the same day I read that Griffey slept through a pinch hit opportunity (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=5178137&campaign=rss&source=ESPNHeadlines).

Not sure if that's "lack of hustle" but it sure is one of the most lazy things I've heard. Baseball takes the least endurance of the major sports, so 'lack of hustle' has got to really hurt.

San Diego Padres announcer Mark Grant doesn't like the dreadlocks dangling from under the hat of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez. Grant thinks that Ramirez doesn't look how a ballplayer should look. Mark Grant also doesn't like the antics of the Milwaukee Brewers after Prince Fielder's walk-off home run last season. The Brewers, waiting for Fielder to cross home plate, fell back in unison after Fielder jumped high in the air and landed on home plate. During a recent broadcast, Grant explained how Willie McCovey, Willie Mays, or Willie Stargell would never have done that. Then, realizing he was just mentioning dark-skinned players, grant added "...or Ted Williams." Because, obviously, those old time negroes knew how to act. The point Grant is trying to make with all of this is simple: the black man (Dominicans are basically just "non-white" to the good ole boys) should know how to act when playing the white man's game. The black man should not get so comfortable where they find it acceptable to sport dreadlocks, wear do-rags, or choreograph a dance after a homerun. And since when are we judging people by the type of hair they have? Mark Grant may think that Ramirez looks sloppy. But so what. Does Grant's shaved head make him a better person?

Rob-
there are some problems with your analysis: were the players accused of lack of hustle by minority speakers (managers/coaches)? was the lack of hustle terminology used by minority reporters? was the lack of hustle terminology arrived at by a reporter asking a question repeatedly until he got the answer he wanted? are the search results the complete universe of comments on lack of hustle? the complete universe of published comments? Would different answers to these questions change your argument or conclusion?
I concede there are a lot of biased people in the U.S., and that some of them work in baseball and the media. But hustle and work ethic are inseparable. If you believe as do I that most of what you get out of life is a result of talent, chance, and hard work, and that you can only affect the last of the three items, hustling is a good place to start.

I'll tell you what. You can have Hanley Ramirez and Milton Bradley and I'll take Derek Jeter and Jim Edmonds and we will see who wins more.

You may be right but i to be honest, i never really paid attention to it until i read your post. Is it racist for them to associate the term hustle to minority players mostly? Maybe, but i don't think it's worth losing sleep over. I'm pretty sure most players could care less what writers say about them.

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its painfully obvious that minority athletes do not hustle, Manny Ramariez being the poster boy of a lazy "me" athlete. but the politically correct atmosphere will not allow for honest discussion. NBA, NFL, MLB are full of lazy "me" athletes. Check the NHL--you're lucky if you can find one, hockey players wouldn't stand for this crap. Until the politically correct crowd can face facts and look in the mirror they will always be in denial.

its painfully obvious that athletes that dont hustle are usually minority athletes, Manny Ramariez being the poster boy for a lazy "me" athlete. but the politically correct atmosphere will not allow for honest discussion.Being politically correct and playing the race card and not doing the necessary self reflection in order to move beyond this problem is where you will be stuck, spending your energy rationalizing and lying to yourself. Its like the parent that can never admit that their child may not be "perfect". They spend their energy justifying and rationalizing bad behavior instead of facing the "real" issue and helping their child grow. Unfortunately you'll be stuck in you're politically correct conundrum; preventing personal growth until you face reality. When and if you do choose to face reality instead of denying you will be set free of your denial. NBA, NFL, MLB are full of lazy "me" athletes. Check the NHL--you're lucky if you can find one, hockey players wouldn't stand for this crap. Until the politically correct crowd can face facts and look in the mirror they will not face facts and will be in denial.

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