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.

Thank you for reading

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Fascinating article. Thanks!
A fine piece of work, Mr. Miller. I enjoyed sticking it to The Man by reading it.
I am reminded of the last years of Ozzie Smith, Carlton Fisk, Ozzie Guileen, etc. When they became victims of Father Time, they went into denial and blamed their organizations for a lack of respect.
all I can say is this is one of the best pieces I have ever read on this site - and that's saying a lot, because I LOVE this website.

Great work Mr. Miller - really interesting way to think about this situation - and certainly in a way that we all can relate to.
This article makes several excellent points. I wish I were a writer for an esteemed publication such as Baseball Prospectus, rather than toiling away at my current job. Then life would be sweet!
Great stuff, Sam.

No disrespect to any of the current or former BP staff, but reading your initial pieces here makes me feel as if the gap created a couple of years ago by the departure of Joe Sheehan has finally been filled.
Joe Sheehan would never, in a million years, write a piece as petty as this. He has repeatedly defended the rights of players to choose where they want to play and reminded readers of the challenges faced by professional athletes as they try to plan their lives. Mr. Miller is a good writer but he is no Joe Sheehan; he may in fact be the anti-Joe Sheehan, but time will tell.
I came here to essentially write exactly what Jivas wrote; this is Joe Sheehan-style prose that made this site shine for many years.

psychdoc, you're wrong about Sheehan. He pilloried Michael Young for his antics last spring, repeatedly mocking the "all he cares about is winning" reputation veteran sportswriters hung on him.
I hate work too... let's all move to Hawaii.
Great piece. It's interesting to observe this phenomena in the sports world, one of the few places where you can objectively measure a worker's value against others in his profession. But I guess it's human nature to overvalue one's self, whether or not you can presented with evidence to the contrary.
You know who gets this--Aussies. Work gives you money to go do things.
The age-old, never ending complaining about one's job was best summed up for me by a co-worker's simple words, "That's why they call it work."

I thought your article was very interesting even beyond a baseball context. By the way, you are also no Mailer or Vonnegut. ;>)
Amazing piece. Eye opening after complaining (under my breathe) all day.
I am in love with this little article, although I kind of hate it, too, because I am in my early 30s and not a professional athlete, which means that I am not rich enough to even consider retiring and have many, many years of work to look forward to, unless I contract a terminal disease, which is a fairly paltry alternative.
Loved the article! At first glance, it may appear ironic that I read it while I was supposed to working. Upon further review, however, that's when I read ALL the articles.
mykyunging... classic
Sam, I think your take on this is refreshing and well thought out.

To throw in my two cents.

The world needs to stop thinking that their lives are defined by their work or accomplishments. Abreu's life and dignity/pride is defined by his life in baseball. He should be concerning himself with how he lives his life outside of the game. With his fame and wealth he has an opportunity to touch and positively influence many lives. What he does with those opportunities should be how he defines himself, and not a game all of us watch for entertainment.

Work is just a part of each of our lives, but it does not define the how great of man or woman that we are. We should not be proud that we have a nice job, but instead be proud of how we handle our lives when things aren't going well.

end rant..
If lives aren't defined by accomplishments, what is the point of living? A professional athlete at an elite level of competition in his sport has every right to complain, just as an elite employee of any company does. If his employer doesn't think him worthy of his pay he can be fired and attempt to try to find a job elsewhere. In fact, the same goes for ANY level of employee. Ask Johnny Damon how that is going.

As Benjamin Franklin said, "Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing."
Or as Jackie Robinson's tombstone reads, "A life is not important except in the impact it has on others lives."
This is more along the lines of what I was saying.
In organizational psychology, this whole phenomenon is predictable.

Renteria/Abreu does not compare his income to a wide variety of "comparison others", he compares himself to people he considers similar to himself and to those who accomplished what he has.

It is only natural and we do the exact same thing in our lives. After all, anyone reading this website is in the 1% if we compare ourselves to the entire world population.
I can always read BP at work to soften the reality that work sucks.