Baseball made me sad last night. It wasn't the Blue Jays' loss or seeing a division rival clinch the AL East pennant. I felt sad because of a fantastic 21-minute interview that TSN's Scott MacArthur conducted with Colby Rasmus. If you are a Blue Jays fan, spare 21 minutes out of your day--hell, watch 21 fewer minutes of the game tonight--to listen to Rasmus pour his heart out in this interview. He didn't sound good. He didn't sound right.
I'll wait while you do that.
I have never met Colby Rasmus, but over his four-season tenure here in Toronto, I've grown to like his personality more and more. He's not like any ballplayer I've seen. His likable personality is not immediately obvious, but it is visible through a few off-field things he's done--I'm thinking of his Bob Bannerman ads, his participation in the Winter Tours, his "chicken hot dog" video, and most recently his little dugout dance during the seventh-inning stretch.
And it is because of that personality that made it tough to hear him talk about all the people who have tried to change him through the years and all the frustration he felt trying to be what others want him to be. Some of those quotes were just devastating. His father worked him extremely hard as a kid to get a chance to get to the big leagues, but I don't know how much Tony Rasmus thought about his son's mental state. Those exercises and swings in the cage and protein shakes may have made Colby physically strong, but he would combat the physical pain by putting on headphones and blasting the music loud so that his "head's about to explode". So lazy, he is not.
Then another Tony got into his head. Tony La Russa, his manager in St. Louis, had told him that the way he acted in the minors--enjoying the sport, smiling, interacting with the fans--was inappropriate for the Cardinals clubhouse. Players made fun of him for having a personalized glove. So he changed. (Interestingly, when he arrived in Toronto, fans would call into Mike Wilner's post-game call-in show and complain that Rasmus didn't look like he cared, because he never smiled on the field.) That made him like baseball a lot less, and he said that it became so "unenjoyable that he had "trouble wanting to come to the yard everyday." This wasn't news--we all knew he didn't have a good time in St. Louis--but what was saddening is that he felt a bit of that this season (but he didn't elaborate on it). I do think that his was, as least in part, referencing that time he showed up late to the park and was benched.
One of the overriding themes of the interview is that because everyone sees the talent that Colby Rasmus has, everyone thinks they can help by giving Colby Rasmus advice. And when they see him fail, they think back to the raw talent and conclude that all Rasmus needs to do is to try harder. But then that just leads to Rasmus beating himself and working more instead of working smart, as Shi Davidi told us last season. He felt a bit better towards the end of last season after he had established a rapport with ex-hitting coach Chad Mottola, but he has had a less successful relationship with Kevin Seitzer this year.
Rasmus mentioned that his trouble at the plate has something to do with the defensive shifts other teams employ against him. That is something he will need to figure out how to combat, but he was right in mentioning that his line drive rate (23.3%, from FanGraphs) is the highest in his career. His BABIP (.294), a statistic that he also mentioned, is close to his career average (.298) so it isn't as depressed as he claims, but it is depressed compared to his two most successful seasons (both in the .350s). Rasmus has been swinging at pitches outside the strike zone more than any point in his career and has had poor contact rates on his swings this season. I don't know how much of these changes in approach come from himself and how much comes from Seitzer and his father. But with the tendency of others to give him advice, perhaps it would help him more than the typical major league player to change his environment and go to a team where he feels more comfortable.
It's hard--and unfair--to judge from behind the keyboard, but it sure sounds like Rasmus is burnt out. He mentioned in this interview that he was looking forward to the offseason, and he told Jamie Campbell that he "just wanted to go home." Yea, he is making much more money playing baseball this season than most of us will make in our lives, but he seems to have fallen out of love with his job. So before he falls out of love with his life, maybe he should go home.
But, I think we'll let him decide. Enough people have been telling him what he should do.