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March 30, 2012

Pebble Hunting

Your Job Sucks, and So Does Bobby Abreu's

by Sam Miller

Back in December, Ken Rosenthal tucked this into a column about Bobby Abreu: “Abreu, who turns 38 on March 11, is not the type to demand a trade, but he would welcome one, according to sources with knowledge of his thinking.” The news in that sentence was that Abreu would welcome a trade, but the most telling part was that Abreu “is not the type to demand a trade.” To oversimplify things: we don’t like guys who demand trades, and we like guys who don’t. Rosenthal was protecting Abreu and stressing that Abreu is a good guy in a tough situation. Rosenthal knows Bobby Abreu well—I’m pretty sure; Rosenthal knows everybody well—and Rosenthal vouches for Abreu. Abreu is not the type to demand a trade. Remember that.

Two months later, of course, Abreu demanded a trade, or at least said it would be “the best thing... The right thing to do.” He also said he has “learned not to have much trust in these people,” which is just a staggeringly dumb thing to say about one’s boss. He suggested that the lack of clarity on his role has affected his preparation, sort of making an excuse for his sub-.100 batting average this spring. It’s gotten ugly, and Bobby Abreu looks like a jerk. But he’s not a jerk, is he? Ken Rosenthal vouched for him. So what’s going on?

As it turns out—and this might not be news to you, but maybe it is—jobs are the worst. Your job is the worst, of course; that’s not news to you. You are underappreciated, and your boss is stupid, and your coworkers are always stealing your lunch, and you aren’t paid what you’re worth, and you don’t get to spend as much time relaxing as you wish you could, and you have to go to Oakland three times a year, and you feel like you’re just wasting your days. But, actually, all jobs are the worst. Bobby Abreu’s job is the best job in the world, and Bobby Abreu is unhappy over some petty noise like whether he’s being properly respected. This is what work does to us. All work. All of us.

Seriously, this quote: “How long am I going to have to continue proving to people what I am, and what I’m able to do? At times it’s like the work one does doesn’t get appreciated, but here I am, and we’ll continue the fight.” Bobby Abreu has lost his job because the Angels signed the best player of his generation, creating a glut at DH. Bobby Abreu lost his job because the Angels’ previous best player, Kendrys Morales, is healthy, which isn’t quite like Ted Williams coming back from the war, but there are parades scheduled for Morales’ first real home run. And, most significantly, Mike Trout is now going to start the season in Triple-A, riding a bus and getting a quarter of the per diem Abreu will have. Abreu is complaining about not getting the respect he deserves, but beyond the question of whether he still deserves the respect is the simple fact that he is actually getting a large degree of respect, at the expense of a kid who is unquestionably better than Abreu and who could probably use the money and the service time.

There should probably be a term for this phenomenon, where a player is first credited with being a total professional who would never make trouble, then almost immediately makes trouble. We could call it mykyunging. He mykyunged. Or we could call it something better.

We—me, maybe—don’t like to hear players complain about their lot. It sounds ungrateful. It sounds selfish. It’s certainly not tactful, any more than it’s tactful when one of your coworkers starts complaining too loudly and too persistently about his boss. A player’s reputation is often tied directly to how often he complains, or whether he’s “not the type to demand.” But it’s hard to keep our blessings in the forefront of our minds. Consider 2010, when Edgar Renteria’s Giants won the World Series. A quick inventory of Edgar Renteria’s blessings at the time:

  • He grew up in a country where the average income is $8,900 per year. He has earned $85 million in his life.
  • He has won two World Series rings.
  • He plays baseball, which is a good time.
  • He is totally beloved in Colombia, where he was given something called the San Carlos Cross of the Order of the Great Knight.
  • He has his own baseball academy and is rich enough to retire to work on it if he chooses.
  • He lives in a century when people just keep living and living and living, until they die of having lived for too long.
  • He had produced 0.3 WARP for the Giants but been paid $18 million over two seasons.
  • He was offered $1 million to play for the Giants, or 112 times his home country’s median income.

He called it “total disrespect” and said it wasn’t worth his time. Edgar Renteria plays baseball for millions of dollars, and Edgar Renteria hates his job! This is a game-changer, folks.

Renteria is also very well regarded. Sergio Romo called him one of the best teammates he ever had. Buster Posey called him “one of my favorite teammates for sure.” Tim Lincecum called him the heart and soul of the 2010 Giants. Aubrey Huff said that the speech Edgar Renteria gave in the Wrigley Field batting cages that September brought the team together. “Renteria broke down in tears, telling his teammates he didn’t care if he had become a role player,” wrote Andrew Baggarly. Not a jerk!

Renteria, Michael Young, Abreu. Nothing in common, except they’re all well liked, they’re all wise old veterans, they all seem like good enough guys, they all complain about their jobs. I’m trying to figure out how I can use this observation to help my fantasy team, and I’m coming up blank. But it should help me deal with my actual life. If these guys hate their jobs, then it says something about how we should look at work. Your job doesn’t suck because you’re a failure at it, and your job doesn’t suck because you’re a victim, and your job doesn’t suck because you’re not paid enough—so don’t waste so much energy feeling like a failure, or like a victim, or like you’re poor. Work just sucks because work sucks. If it didn’t, they wouldn’t pay us.

Happy Friday.

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

Related Content:  Edgar Renteria,  Bobby Abreu,  Michael Young,  Jobs,  Work

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