Jarrod Dyson is one of the fastest players in the American League, so when you see him jogging down to first base on a double-play ball, it sticks out like a sore thumb.
On June 24 I tweeted that Dyson had jogged to first base. I didn’t say why, I just pointed out that Jarrod was not going full speed. Most of the time I don’t travel with the team so just like the rest of you I waited to hear if Dyson had something physical going on which prevented him from running hard, but I didn’t hear anything about it. Dyson played in the field on Sunday so it seemed like he was probably OK.
The following Monday I did an online chat and made a remark about Dyson not hustling. On Tuesday, Andy McCullough did his chat and was asked if Dyson was banged up; Andy said that on Monday night Ned Yost had said Dyson was healthy. Sometime the same day Andy posted a story online that said Dyson had been hurt since the Seattle series — he tweaked a groin muscle — and was trying to play through it.
In the first game against the Astros, Jarrod hit a ball back to the pitcher and once again went into cruise control on his way to first base. Dyson was criticized on the local TV broadcast and that set off the people who comment on social media.
Here’s what Jarrod Dyson had to say:
“Right there, it’s all about being smart. You don’t have to hustle every play. I don’t take plays off. I hustle. If I can go, I’m getting down the line. But right there, you’ve got to be smart. Just because if it’s feeling good doesn’t mean it’s gone all the way.”
And here are the last two paragraphs of Andy McCullough’s story:
Dyson believes that by Wednesday his worries about his groin will have passed, and he’ll be able to run with less caution. By then, the tempest about Dyson’s perceived lack of hustle probably will have passed.
“I’ve got one person to answer to, and that’s not Twitter,” Dyson said. “That’s my manager.”
So if Jarrod Dyson was banged up and trying to play through it, but being cautious when he could, those of us who criticized him without knowing the full story owe him an apology.
If Dyson’s hurt, why not say so?
OK, so Jarrod hurts himself in Seattle, but it doesn’t come out until the following Tuesday; if Dyson’s hurt, why not say so?
Because it gives the opposition an advantage.
If I’m a pitcher and I think I have a healthy Jarrod Dyson standing on first base, I have to use all the tricks in the book to keep him from stealing second. I hold the ball in the set position, I attempt pickoffs, I throw more fastballs, I slide step, I might even throw a pitch out. I’m distracted by Jarrod’s presence and all the things I’m doing to stop Dyson from stealing a base will help the hitter at the plate.
If I know Dyson’s hurting, I don’t have to do any of that.
They keep things from us for a reason
I once attended a manager’s pregame news conference (it wasn’t Ned) in which he was asked about a left-handed reliever’s health. All the manager would say is the player was “day-to-day.” He kept getting asked about it and kept repeating that the pitcher was day-to-day. Finally he berated a reporter for continuing the line of questioning; he’d been asked several times and they had his answer. The news conference broke up, the manager and I walked off together and he laughed and said: “He’s hurt.”
The manager didn’t lie — we’re all day-to-day — but he didn’t tell the entire truth either. Being a dope I asked why not. “Because all I have to do is have him get up and move around the bullpen, do some stretches and I keep their left-handed pinch hitter on the bench.”
The media loves to write about injuries, lineup changes and roster moves. They’re easy stories that fit the definition of news, so we pursue them vigorously. It’s eventually going to backfire if people lie, but teams don’t always owe us the whole truth; a team should not give away an advantage because a reporter needs a game note.
There’s a lot we don’t know
Hang around a team long enough, develop enough relationships so people will tell you the truth (sometimes it has to be off the record) and you begin to understand just how much we don’t know.
A player gets picked off first base and is hammered by critics for being a dummy. Later you find out he got picked off because he was stealing signs and looked in the catcher’s direction just as the pitcher threw over to first base. The player doesn’t want that out there because A.) He doesn’t want to get drilled the next night and B.) He plans on stealing more signs.
A player does not hustle down to second base and break up a double play; instead he peels out of the base path early. Later you find out his throwing shoulder is injured and he doesn’t want that out there because teams will start running on him every time he touches the ball.
A player lays down a sacrifice bunt in the first inning and the manager gets roasted for playing small ball too early. Later you find out the player did it on his own and was being selfish: if he gets a good bunt down he gets a hit, if the bunt’s mediocre it goes as a sacrifice.
With social media, forget fact-checking
All those above examples really happened. In the old days — like 2010 — I could wait to find out the real story before writing about those things. Now, I’m expected to comment right away.
If you’re covering baseball you’re expected to be on Twitter and if you’re on Twitter you’re expected to tweet fairly often. So people are desperately looking for things to comment about and that’s why we send you important information like the guy you just watched hit a home run, did in fact hit a home run. We’re also big on food, music, weather; whatever the hell will give us something to comment about.
So when Jarrod Dyson doesn’t hustle down to first base, there’s no time to find out why; just get it out there. And if he gets unfairly criticized, that’s his problem.
Like I said at the beginning; if Jarrod Dyson’s hurt, some of us owe him an apology — and that includes me.