Wednesday, March 29, 2023

In Praise of 'The Fun Player'


This will be Joc Pederson's tenth season in the major leagues. Kinda hard to believe.

After having a stellar rookie season and becoming well-known as a home run hitter in LA, Pederson has mellowed into a fairly solid mid-lineup power hitter. What's more, Pederson seems to be filling the role previously occupied by Hunter Pence in the Giants' lineup as 'the fun guy'. Which, in my opinion, every team needs.

Baseball, in general, is too serious and too simple for my liking. Too many players just come at the game with this stone faced resolve, and say the same 'well we're just gonna do what we're gonna do' things when the press talks to them, and we don't get enough of an eye into how their personality works or how much they actually enjoy the game. At the end of the day, baseball's a kid's game, it's a game people play with their friends, and so if you're a grown-ass man and you get to play baseball, the fun should show a little bit. As much as I love people like Aaron Judge, Justin Verlander, Shohei Ohtani and Nolan Arenado, you don't get a lot from them other than stock seriousness and determination.

Joc Pederson shows up with like a dyed blonde mohawk and says 'let's play', and I think that's a lot more interesting. And that's before you even go into detail about his work with people with disabilities, his run on the Israeli team, his fantasy football hijinks, any of that. Plus, he just seems like one of those guys who has fun, who loves the fans and who can be a true hero like that. Pence was awesome at that, and I think Pederson's a worthy successor.

For my money, the crown prince of 'fun player' archetypes is Joey Votto, and you wouldn't think it just from how dry he is a lot of the time. Votto has a TikTok presence [or will until that gets taken down due to questionable reasonings], he'll go around talking to fans during games, his press conferences are always fun, he thanks fans for coming to games, and he just exudes charisma and personality. The Reds fans already had a guy like that with Sean Casey, who they literally referred to as The Mayor, and for them to have a guy like Votto who's arguably more important, and a much better player, has to be awesome. Votto's a Hall of Famer, there's a chance this could be his last season, and he's still having fun and being himself. 

And now we have people inheriting the game that seem more intent on bringing the fun back, like Julio Rodriguez, whose desire to keep the game enjoyable has made him the cover boy for the game in the span of a year, and Hunter Greene, who's been keen to play up the novelty of throwing 100+ miles all the time while being a tangible, approachable sports figure. We now have Anthony Volpe, who looks to be a bit more of a Spider-Man esque MLB figure as the young kid who grew up a Yankee fan now joining the team. So at least this mentality is growing, but it's mostly younger players who haven't found their full focus and groove yet.

I really hope this trend stays alive, because this, rather than changing rules, is the key to keeping people invested in baseball. If fans have fun characters to root for and fun things happening, they'll watch more.

No comments:

Post a Comment