Well, hello there. I’m the newest member of the writing staff here at MLBDirt.com. And judging from the pictures of my cohorts, I’m the old guy of the group. Oh well. At least it’s a distinction. Jonathan graciously asked me to hop on board as a member of the team here. And while I have my own site and also write for yet another site, I’m a glutton for baseball and it helps that I really like the guys that work here and respect their work. I’m not really a stranger here as I did a guest post once. I also like this site’s title. It really is a play on words. The main meaning, I would guess, is that you get inside “dirt” on baseball news and insight. But since we were kids and playing or watching ball, dirt has always been a part of the action.
You can’t be a baseball player and not get dirty. You can play football and be the kicker and have a spotless uniform. But if you play baseball and you don’t have dirt on you, then you’re sitting on the bench. And judging from the…umm…sanitation of the average big league dugout, it would be pretty hard to stay clean there too. Dirt is simply a part of this sport I love.
Can you imagine being in charge of getting big league uniforms clean? That dirt on the baseball diamond usually has a large amount of clay involved and that stuff just doesn’t come out. We never really hear about a teams clubhouse manager except when they work for the Mets and get arrested for selling memorabilia. Those poor Mets can’t get any positive press, can they? If you want to get the inside scoop of how clubhouse guys do their job, this link is excellent. A big part of what these folks do is about dirt.
After watching the game for more than forty years, dirt has become an analogy of sorts. Players that are considered “scrappy” are guys with a lot of dirt on their uniforms. They run hard, slide a lot, dive a lot on defense and accumulate a lot of dirt. “Scrappy” has become somewhat of a (ahem) dirty word in baseball writing circles. Ryan Theriot, now the shortstop of the Cardinals has long been considered scrappy. But analysts correctly point out that his being scrappy doesn’t necessarily make him a valuable player.
Theriot is a perfect example. He’s the kind of player managers love and analysts hate. Which is right? I would suspect the analysts. The scrappy player is usually the kind of player that out plays his ability. The fact that these players actually made the majors in the first place is a credit to their fire and their ability to lay it all out there despite their limited resources. But anytime a manager falls in love with one of these guys, be wary because it doesn’t mean the player is any good.
Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox is an example of a scrappy player that is valuable. You can tell he’s fought for everything he has obtained as a player. But despite his size, he produces and that dirt you see on the uniform not only shows his scrappy play but how much he helps his team.
The thing with scrappy players though is that sometimes they don’t last too long. Fred Lynn and Aaron Rowand come to mind. They are guys that dive for everything and run into walls to make a play. But that kind of recklessness comes at a physical price and the shelf life of a scrappy guy as a productive player can become limited. We’ll have to watch that with Pedroia as he already missed a large chunk of last year due to a foot injury. Kevin Youkilis, Pedroia’s teammate is another one of those dirt-on-the-uniform guys. And Youkilis has had health issues lately too.
But the old dirt on the uniform as a method of showing professional abandon is really a misnomer. Any time a player gets on base and has to slide into second to try to break up a double play, he’s going to get dirty. Any guy trying to steal a base is going to get dirty. Dirt is simply a part of playing baseball.
There is one other use of the word, “Dirt,” when it comes to baseball. Some players are known as dirty players. These are guys not adverse to spiking you to get ahead or throwing a fastball at your Adam’s Apple. Ty Cobb was known as a dirty player. Leo Durocher was another. Pete Rose famously destroyed a catcher’s career by body slamming in in the All Star Game! Don Drysdale and Roger Clemens were considered dirty pitchers. Those pitchers would not hesitate to throw a pitch at you and when they did, guess what? You’re right. You hit the dirt.
So yes, I love the title of this site. And I think I will enjoy being a part of it. As I continue to get dirty during the course of the season and beyond, I hope you enjoy my contributions. I know I’ll enjoy bringing them to you.
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis Tagged: | Aaron Rowand, Cardinals, Don Drysdale, Dustin Pedroia, Fred Lynn, Kevin Youkilis, Leo Durocher, Mets, Pete Rose, Red Sox, Roger Clemens, Ryan Theriot, Ty Cobb