As some of you may have noticed I have an affinity for a certain Royals outfielder that I find hard time keeping under wraps. It is what it is, and I don’t feel like I should be ashamed to let my feelings show. I just don’t.
But quickly making his way of my ladder of affection is a certain Royals left handed pitcher that I’ve spent more time than usually necessary, talking about over the past week: Danny Duffy.
There are a number of things to like about the guy. He seems honest, to which most people would add “to a fault” but really, it’s refreshing and insightful. He has the type of stuff to make him an above-average or better starter (which isn’t something Royals fans have seen much of over the past decade) and he has enough left-hander quirkiness right down to the ill-fitting cap to be endearing. And, has a history with the organization for fans to attach themselves to.
Coming into Spring Training Duffy is being looked at to provide a big spark to the rotation and take a big step forward in his development. Some think it may be best for Duffy to start out the year in AAA, which may not be the most terrible idea, but any 2012 projections for the Royals certainly include a major step forward for him.
But remember where we were two years ago with Duffy?
On March24, 2010, Duffy announced that he would be taking an “indefinite leave from baseball”. Details at the time were sparse and the reactions were swift. No one really knew what to make of the decision, and the confusion surrounding the organization at the time (with similar situations with two other players) lead to mass speculation over their handling of their prospects, and the mental toughness of Duffy himself.
There were some, like Greg Schaum, that wrote with heart about Duffy’s decision and left their personal judgments out of it. At the time, I wrote for another website, and my take on the situation was met with comments and emails disparaging the character of a 21-year-old convinced that he would someday, without a doubt, regret his choice.
As the Royals broke camp last week, and Duffy has been the focus of the majority of media coverage both for his expectations for 2012 and the adjustments he’s made, I’m reminded of the reaction from just two years ago. (Well that, and the comments of a blowhard radio host.)
Too many times fans, observers, and commenters, tend to pass too much of their own ethos onto the emotional decisions of others. Whether are not this is merely a reflection of society or some built up combination of guilt and envy, I don’t know, but there is judgment being cast on athletes that is grossly misplaced.
Something my journalism professor used to say, that I’ve held with me as a yard stick to measure my personal feelings, holds true in situations like Duffy’s two years ago: the emotions of personal decisions of others have no grounds for your judgment. You cannot begin to know all the information, you cannot begin to know all the thoughts, and you cannot begin to know all the emotions surrounding a decision that affects another’s life, as they see it. Therefore you are not in any position to apply your judgment.
Duffy made a decision that, at the time, he felt was best for him and his life, and that’s all anyone needs to know. The fact that he has returned to the team, and is being counted on, as one of the main starters in a weak rotation in just his is second year, is irrelevant to his decision two years ago. His return and his eventual success is not an affirmation that his original choice was a bad one, nor, is his decision two years ago in any way an indication of his character or toughness moving forward.
But this is how things go, especially in the world of sports. Growing up, all fans – or at least a great number of them – dreamt of someday playing in the Major Leagues. Those small child dreams affect how fans view professional athletes and their jobs. Because that is all they are, jobs.
The amount of money, the amount of fame, the amounts of perceived time-off that a professional baseball player is afforded during his career does not alter the meaning of his profession from “job” to “game”. Baseball players do not “play a game” for a living. They work for a living. At one point, Danny Duffy was unsure if that’s what he wanted to do, and that should have been okay with everyone.
Instead, judgment was passed and fans that responded negatively to his decision turned it personal. And that, is just wrong. Fans and commentators today continue to respond negatively and turn it personal, and that, is worse.
Today, I’m happy to see Duffy doing so well. For whatever reason he left the game in the first place (and despite what some loud-mouth, ignorant, and irresponsible radio personality my say, his decision to leave is of no business to anyone) and the fact that he’s been able to refocus his energies on his career and find enough happiness to get back on track for major league stardom, is admirable. He’s going to be a major piece in the 2012 Royals success and that may not have ever happened if he continued down the path of unhappiness that we was seemingly on.
Dayton Moore and the Royals organization deserve a heaping-ton of credit for how they handled Duffy’s departure. They deserve more for allowing him to come back and not making a big deal and disparaging the character of the young man. (At least not publically.) Duffy deserves equal amounts of credit for finding about himself, whatever it was that needed to be found, and becoming (hopefully) the pitcher that his athletic talents say he can be.
And anyone commenting today on the events of two years ago, and the character of someone who is still just 23-years-old, would do well to remove their personal emotions from any situation involving a player’s decision regarding their own lives.