The irrational war on selfishness

In some vocal circles of Mets fans, Carlos Beltran is loathed as a selfish player.  The hate even inspired the semi-popular but ironic hashtag #BlameBeltran.

In his six-and-a-half seasons with the Mets, Beltran selfishly hit .280/.369/.500 with a 129 OPS+.  He also slugged 149 rally-killing home runs, selfishly drove in 559 runs, stole 100 selfish bases, and provided the Mets with 30.9 self-centered fWAR.  Those numbers would be much better if he didn’t miss half the season in 2009 and most of 2010 by not sacrificing and playing through a knee injury.

He also hit three selfish home runs in the 2006 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals.  He even had the audacity to hit solo homers, instead of when people were on base.  Also he struck out to end the season.  The gall.

Never mind that he had a better series than any other batter not named Carlos Delgado, posted 7.9 fWAR during the regular season, and was one of the main reasons the Mets were in the playoffs in the first place.

These accolades easily rank Beltran as one of the top 5 position players in Mets history.  But hey, he was a “selfish player” who “didn’t know how to win.”

We heard this same rhetoric a few weeks ago, when the Mets were interested in signing Brian Wilson to bolster a weak bullpen.  Some people were against the move because Wilson is a “selfish” player, and the team needed players who cared about “helping the team win” not just putting up personal stats.

Why do these things have to be mutually exclusive?

Does the selfish pursuit of home runs, RBI, a .300 batting average, more wins, more saves, more of any stat not also help the team win games?

Why is it selfish for Brian Wilson to want to save more games, or strike more people out, but when Mariano Rivera wants to do the same things he’s helping the team win?

Why is it selfish for a player to sit out when he is injured, so that they don’t hurt the team with sub-par play, but if you play while injured, providing the team with less production while risking making the injury worse, you’re a team player?

Why is it that only superstars like Carlos Beltran are selfish, while guys who are league average or below for their entire careers, like David Eckstein, are team players?

Is wanting to help the team win not a selfish act?  After all, if the team wins, the player gets the glory of playing for a winning team, is more likely to get a large contract, and will have the name recognition that players on losing teams don’t get.

Isn’t being selfish and pursuing better statistics actually an admirable trait for a professional baseball player?  Isn’t baseball, more than any other team sport, a collection of individuals doing things that don’t necessarily rely on the help of teammates (at least on offense)?

Isn’t it time for baseball fans to stop regurgitating the same archaic rhetoric that the media spits out and realize that it is time to start opening their minds to different ways of thinking?

Which team wins more games: one made up of 25 “selfish losers” like Carlos Beltran, or one made up of 25 “proven winners” like David Eckstein?  I think we all know the answer.

Follow Joe Vasile on Twitter at @JoeVasilePBP.

13 comments for “The irrational war on selfishness

  1. February 18, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    It depends on your perspective Joe. Either the glass is half full or empty. Playing hurt and playing with injuries is part of the game. When those injuries start to drop your performance and affect outcome of games then its time to talk to the manager.

    • Joe Vasile
      February 18, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      Virtually every player plays through minor injuries, but I’m more referring to other, bigger injuries that generally land guys on the DL (pulls, sprains, strains, etc.). Take for example, a story that broke in the Post today. Derek Jeter kept a stress fracture a secret from Joe Girardi and tried to play through it. What happened? He ended up breaking his ankle. People associate Derek Jeter with being a “team player” and that kind of behavior as proof of his “caring about winning.” He gets called “gutsy” for playing through injuries, not “selfish,” when the behavior is arguably more selfish than gutsy or gissiony. Definition of grission:

  2. Name
    February 19, 2013 at 1:53 am

    I didn’t even think that people thought this way.
    Who doesn’t chase stats? Stats are how you get paid and recognized, so no one should blame them for doing that.

    I agree that it’s a tough topic with playing through injuries. The only way the player can appease everyone is to play hurt AND produce. If you dont play through the pain, you are called a wimp. If you play through the injury and you stink, people will say he should have been smart enough to realize he shouldn’t have played. So the odds are stacked against the player to look good when he’s injury.

    In a perfect world, we would have a metric for relievers that more accurately measures their contributions to the team and would be accepted by most teams. But we don’t, and for now all we have is a stat that people made called “saves” and since that’s the only way to get paid big bucks as a reliever, you can’t blame anyone for chasing them.

    • February 19, 2013 at 9:03 am

      I don’t blame relievers for chasing saves. I blame managers for building their bullpen strategy around maximizing saves for one individual.

      • NormE
        February 19, 2013 at 10:37 am

        Part of the dreaded LaRussa strategy?

  3. February 19, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Is there such a thing as a “selfish” player?

    If so, does it impact morale?

    • Joe Vasile
      February 19, 2013 at 4:43 pm

      Who knows. If you’re getting into fights with your teammates, then it is a problem, but other than that, I don’t see how it is a big problem. As long as a player produces on the field I have no reason to care what his motivation is.

  4. steevy
    February 19, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    I always liked Beltran and appreciated his productivity with the Mets.

    • Joe Vasile
      February 19, 2013 at 4:42 pm

      As I feel most fans did. There are, however, small but vocal pockets of fans who didn’t like him because of his perceived “selfishness”. When I saw some people refer to Brian Wilson as “selfish” when the Mets were considering pursuing him a few weeks back, I decided to write this.

      • Name
        February 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm

        Do you have any links?
        Just so i know what sites to avoid.

    • February 19, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      Most people do, I think. It’s always the vocal minority making the most noise, fueled by talk radio. It’s the same people that #BlameBeltran for losing the 2006 NLCS, saying that’s all they’ll remember him for, ignoring the fact that he was a big part of the Mets even getting that far (as Joe pointed out above).

      It’s insane that one of the Mets best players-period-is going to go so under-appreciated. He’s the third most valuable Mets position player according to bWAR, behind Wright and Strawberry (and in significantly less PAs than both of them).

  5. Jon Curfman
    July 30, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Astos don’t go to ws cause of Beltran strikeout, get rid of him then go
    Giants win ws, next year get carlos and don’t make playoffs, dump him and win ws
    Cardinals win ws, then get him and don’t go

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