This flowery phenomenon is not unique to writers, however. Think of your favorite broadcasters, or even manager, pitching coach and general manager. Such are the kind of words that have and will be flowing from their mouths.
You know, the baseball lexicon is truly unique. I flipped open my copy of The Sports Junkie's Book of Trivia, Terms and Lingo and checked out definitions of some often-heard terms. While I am sure they are accurate, they didn't seem to quite fit what I was looking for.
So, here are a few examples (ok, two dozen in fact) that in my estimation are what public figures really mean when they use some common baseball-related terms.
Feel free to join in on the fun with this. Post your personal favorites on our Message Board to share with others.
"Innings-eater". A long-suffering starter most likely
found on poor teams. Every see the Yankees looking to sign innings-eaters? I saw this term being attributed to
Morris in one of the
"Workhorse". As in "Brett Tomko is a…" Similar to innings-eater. The former Cardinal has often received credit for pitching a lot of innings, but that doesn't mean he was very good when doing so. As an aside, Tomko left the Giants rotation just before Morris entered.
"Gritty". As in, "Bo Hart is a gritty player." Plays hard, but not necessarily well.
"Gamer". Always plays whether injured or not feeling well or whatever. Again, not always necessarily great results come from the gamer, but he always looks good in doing so. Jim Edmonds has been called a gamer by some.
"Knows how to win". Another backhanded compliment. Average pitcher on a good team who is fortunate to rack up a lot of wins. There are those who lump Mark Mulder, Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis in this category, as if ability has nothing to do with it.
"Plays the game right". Unspectacular player who performs without showing off, but again, the results may or may not consistently be there. So Taguchi and any other "fundamentally solid" player come to mind. Japanese imports always receive the benefit of the doubt here, at least until the honeymoon is over. See Kaz Matsui.
"Throwback". A reference to a player who plays like they did in the "good old days", as if players always did before, but never do today. Often also "plays the game right" and is a "gritty" player. Regularly "gets his uniform dirty", making this type of player universally disliked by clubhouse attendants throughout the game.
"Makes the difficult plays look
easy". Well, maybe those plays WERE easy? Also, sometimes these same players make
the easy plays look hard.
"Gold Glove-caliber defense". Either the player has a Gold Glove or he doesn't. In this case, doesn't. This term usually sprouts up when teams are lobbying in the court of public opinion for their favorite player. Mark Grudzielanek had a nice 2005 season, but hadn't earned a Gold Glove in any of his ten previous seasons, either.
"Clutch hitter". Often based on reputation, not fact. Here is a classic example. Who could ever forget renowned clutch hitter Tino Martinez' .210 average with runners in scoring position for the 2003 Cardinals? That would have to be more accurately characterized as a slipping clutch.
"Second-half hitter". Commonly heard during the first half of the season when a hitter is performing terribly. Wouldn't it be great if these guys would receive second-half salaries only?
"Playing for a contract" or in a "salary drive". When a player is in the final year of his current deal, it is implied that he will try harder than usual and achieve better numbers as a result. Statistics don't support this, though it is commonly assumed. Just ask Morris and Julian Tavarez about their second halves of 2005.
"In a zone at the plate". Used when a hitter is on a hot streak. Apparently, they are in a different zone (ozone, perhaps?) the rest of the time. Or, as in the case of Einar Diaz, at least a different area code.
"Fireballer". A hurler who throws very hard, but not necessarily accurately. Reference as "Exhibit A" the pitcher formerly known as Rick Ankiel.
"Future Ace". A young pitcher, usually a fireballer, who has not yet proven over a period of time whether or not he can stay healthy long enough to consistently get hitters out. Anthony Reyes has clearly been anointed as the Cardinals' Future Ace.
"Closer of the future". Used for the guy who may have formerly been the Future Ace, but had to be converted to relief. Unfortunately, for whatever reason (injury, trade, ineffectiveness or a combination thereof), the closer of the future usually never becomes the all-important "Closer of the Present". With his departure, Jim Journell has formally vacated his long-held title to Mark Worrell, perhaps.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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