Morning Edition: Leave the kid alone
There was an interesting scene in the clubhouse this morning. On the television, the crew at MLB Network was dissecting Domonic Brown's swing, pointing out flaws they feel have contributed to his slow start this spring. Harold Reynolds isn't exactly the most reserved analyst in the world, so much of the clubhouse was watching the critique. Brown was not in the room at the time. Not long after the segment ended, the rookie strolled in and headed to his locker.
"Good timing," one observer said.
After all, imagine if you were an accountant and you were sitting in a room with a bunch of your peers watching so-called experts pick apart your latest spreadsheet on cable television?
This is what it is like to be one of the most hyped prospects in recent Phillies history. All eyes are on you: not only those of the fans and the media, but those of your own coaching staff and your own front office and, to some degree, your own teammates. Baseball is a fascinating sport because it is one of the few in which all eyes in the stadium are trained on one individual: the batter in the box as he swings, the pitcher on the mound as he delivers. At any given time, there are at least nine other individuals on the field. But at the precise moment when an athlete performs his assigned task, he is all alone.
It's why a guy like Harvey Dorfman, who we write about in today's Daily News, was such a valuable resource for so many baseball players. In a remembrance that Peter Gammons wrote about Dorfman, he relays a quote from the late psychologist that captures the situation with an impressive degree of insight.
"They're just like you and me, only more gifted," Dorfman told Gammons once. "They bleed like you and I, only they do it in public."
Which is why being a reporter can sometimes be a difficult position. You are offered a front-row seat to the triumph, but also to the bleeding, and rather than submit to the natural human inclination to help alleviate the pain, your job is to describe it in graphic detail.
Brown's current situation is not nearly as melo-dramatic as the aforementioned paragraph. Yet it provides a good example of the dichotomy you sometimes feel as a reporter. Part of you realizes that people want to read about why Brown is 0-for-12 with eight strikeouts in his first four Grapefruit League games, but another part wants to just leave him the hell alone.
After all, Brown isn't the only player who is off to a slow start this spring. In fact, he has reached base one more time than either Ryan Howard or Raul Ibanez. If Brown goes 4-for-4 in his next game, he'll be hitting .250. Without a doubt, he is struggling to get comfortable right now. Without a doubt, there are some legitimate questions concerning his readiness to take over the vacancy in right field on an everyday basis. But those questions existed long before he went 0-for-12 with eight strikeouts in the first week of the Grapefruit League season, and they will exist even if he goes 8-for-8 with two home runs over the next two days. To a certain extent, they will exist until he has accumulated a couple of years of major league service. Really, the only thing to do is sit back and watch and occasionally check in and not treat every Grapefruit League game as if a career hangs in balance.
Of course, life under a microscope is part of the package when it comes to playing in Philadelphia. And Phillies fans will be happy to know that Brown seems to be handling that part just fine. By all accounts, including first-hand observation, this is a good kid with a good attitude and a quiet confidence and an easy-going nature, and all of that allows him to greet the never-ending line of media members with a relaxed smile instead of a frustrated scowl. It's all part of it, he tells himself, which is the same thing you tell yourself when you think about the fact that the best thing you could do for the kid is just leave him alone.
Also in today's paper (which is something I'll try to do from here on out, since I've received several emails requesting me to do so):
-Chase Utley's uncertain health could prompt the Phillies to err on the side of an extra infielder when it comes time to fill out their bench. Among the contenders: Pete Orr, Delwyn Young and Josh Barfield, among others.
-Roy Halladay's relationship with Harvey Dorfman began with a chance encounter in a bookstore 11 years ago. It continues today, even after the death of his mentor.
-The Phillies appear to be making progress toward a new deal with Charlie Manuel.
Speaking of Brown, he gets a day off today against the Orioles. Roy Oswalt is scheduled to start, followed by Vance Worley. John Mayberry Jr. is in right field. Brian Schneider is catching. The rest of the regulars, aside from Utley, are in the line-up.
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