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June 21, 2011

Changing Speeds

The Found Poetry of Player Comments

by Ken Funck

Among the bells and whistles currently found on our player pages, by far my favorite section is the list of player comments taken from BP Annuals past. The cast of authors may change from year to year, but each season’s comments are equally well-written and educational, and when read chronologically, they often provide a tremendously entertaining overview of a player’s career—or at least how a player’s career has been perceived over time.

To that end, I’ve decided to repurpose a few player comments, using them to create found poems intended to describe a current (or recent) player’s career. I’ve done this by taking at least one phrase from each season’s comment from the first year a player appeared in the Annual through his BP2011 comment, placing them in chronological order, and using a little editorial license to morph them into a quasi-biographical sketch.  If I’ve done my job well, you should be able to guess which player each poem describes, though if it’s not clear, the players are listed at the end of the article.

Believe me when I say this laddie does not fancy himself a poet, but I hope you find the results of this cut-and-paste diversion enjoyable nonetheless.
 

The Rime of the Ancient Righthander

Only the joints in his right arm will be made into glue
Or gelatin, out of the frying pan and into the fire
The most abused. Libertad Dulce!

Predicting doom for so long it’s almost cliché
Friendly parks, strong offenses, Cuban mystique
If he collapsed, how could you tell?
A 60-mph curve to Edgar Martinez in a hitter’s count
For a strike
Great iron man of the mound kept rolling

Eventual breakdown, impending collapse
Sir Mix-A-Lot in spikes, the devil you know
Pitching equivalent of a Yellow Pages emergency
Deathless as a barrow-wight
Human diversity transcends
Easy assertions
 

O heart! heart! heart!

Twenty years from now, people will be arguing
His defense, questioned in the minors
His defense
His defense
Analysts can argue all day about his defense
He’s not moving anytime soon
His defense really is that bad; it doesn’t mean he should be moved
His dismal defense; that’s right,
We’ve got a trend on our hands

You can forgive the Yankees for ignoring the problem
Hall of Famer, key player, inspirational leader, fine hitter… and he gives
Up a lot of singles with his glove
Why is that so difficult
To accept? A shared foolishness
Gold Glove shortstop, carrying a piano on your back
Great offensive seasons, professionalism, dedication
More than made up for the singles
He allowed. The margin is shrinking and will soon vanish.
The emperor has no clothes.

 

Whose Frown And Wrinkled Lip

A slider that flirts
The Cubs are done flirting, hopelessly generic
Ming vase teetering on the brink
Of an unsteady shelf
Out of whack, a genuine pleasure
To watch as he grinds his opponents to powder
Years of hard pitching at tender ages
Flustered, pitching a little angry
Exceptional and execrable
Mound petulance
The increasing insanity of relief-
Related obsessions. Could you blame him
When he blew his stack? Outrage might have been
The closest thing to reason
 

I Shall Be Telling This With A Sigh

He’ll escape the jinx, give up chasing his Derek Jeter dreams
A glove made of thickly-lacquered cedar, stunting his growth
Worse than cigarettes. They finally allowed his talent
To shine through: a 20/20 season

The mental lapses, jogging on ground balls
He can be as good as he wants to be
There’s no effort number, retreating to the doldrums
Attitude-related complaints, substantial decline
Still out-produced the average center fielder
Even if they fall
Short of superstardom

 

His Befuddler’s Three

A parked pickup
The extent of the injury was unclear
Cancelled plans, no reported complications
The absence of complete information
A hardball Jekyll and Hyde case, an accident
Compelled to happen by some invisible
Malevolent force. A bar fight in February
Instigated, not provoked

Fabergé eggs, china dolls
Beautiful things that are fragile
He’d better get started
To overcome the dual hurdles of
Health and consistency

Clear the crucible, something redemptive
Running the table all October long
He may be high-maintenance
Staking his own claim
The latter-day Lefty is there for all to see

Bounding from very lucky to unlucky
Leaning towards the former, he added
An effective third pitch
Luck rewards those who help themselves
A cutter—a trick he learned from watching
To go deeper and clean up his own messes
Of late
 

Habeas Corpus

A chance to realize a common Latin dream
            if he would learn the strike zone
Exhibit #834
            that minor league stats are valuable predictors
First is his cannon arm, indeed impressive
            however, he will swing at anything
Sometimes a player like this becomes Jermaine
            but betting on that is a bad idea

The club’s starting right fielder
           before tripping over first base and spraining his knee
Smoked the ball
            using a corked bat
Crushed Triple-A pitching
            when promoted, he flailed
Playing the role of Wily Mo Pena
            visited by the Ghost of Redlegs’ Future

It takes a special guy
to so aggravate
Second on his team in home runs
his organization suspends him
                        in the thick of a pennant race
                                    then bars him from the playoffs

A lot riding on being a solid, productive citizen
            he’s never learned, shocking no-body
He stumbled, starting a brawl with Angels
            prior to the revelation
The rage issues that plagued him
            a steady diet of anabolic steroids
The Royals snapped him up
despite the suspension

That sure went well
            he erupted in a profane tirade
Going into the stands to challenge a heckler
            at home
He pulled out an ingrown toenail
by himself
Tearing his ligament
            putting on his shinguards
A shipment of 50 preloaded syringes
            intercepted by the DEA

The itinerant malcontent
            remains to be seen

************************

The Rime of the Ancient Righthander: Livan Hernandez
O heart! heart! heart!: Derek Jeter
Whose Frown And Wrinkled Lip: Carlos Zambrano
I Shall Be Telling This With A Sigh: B.J. Upton
His Befuddler’s Three: Cole Hamels
Habeas Corpus: Jose Guillen

Ken Funck is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ken's other articles. You can contact Ken by clicking here

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