Juan Encarnacion just doesn’t get it. With Juan’s blatant reduction in playing time, he and Manager Tony La Russa have been going at it in the press. Tony thinks Juan could put forth a bit more effort. Juan thinks Tony should just shut the hell up while insisting he’s playing hard and doing his best. Juan, you just don’t get it, do you? It’s not about doing your best or playing hard, it’s about laying it on the line because you refuse to lose – or, at least refuse to be the reason your team loses. Juan just can’t see the difference.
You take Chris Duncan, for example – that man is fearless with his body. He isn’t even close to being the best fielder on the team, but he lays out his body, runs headlong into the wall, and bounces around the outfield head first just to make an attempt at making a play. As one ESPN analyst on the Mike & Mike radio show stated, players like Duncan play with a certain level of fear – not fear of failing or fear of losing or fear of getting hurt, but fear of letting your teammates down. That’s what compels Duncan to stretch out his massive frame and go for a ball seemingly out of reach. It’s the fear of walking back in that dugout and seeing the look of disappointment on his teammates faces.
Take Rick Ankiel as another example, the young slugger who may have just snatched Juan’s regular spot from him. In one of his first games in the Big Leagues, Ankiel was beat on a ball hit over his head and near the wall. I am absolutely positive Juan would have turned his back and faced the wall, waiting to play it off the bounce. Not Rick. Knowing the hit could give the Dodgers life and a chance to erase the 5 run lead (which Rick helped build with a 3-run homer), Ankiel made an over the shoulder basket catch, hit the ground on his back, and tumbled on the warning track until slamming into the wall. And you know what? He held onto the ball.
That’s it, Juan. That’s the “bit more effort” La Russa is talking about. You just don’t have it in you, because it has to start with a mental and heart-level commitment to winning and your team that you just don’t have. You’re not a winner, but you’re not a loser, either…you’re just a ball player. And ball players are a dime-a-dozen, Juan. What are YOU going to do to be special?