photo illustration by Samara Pearlstein
When I first saw the headline “Shelton upset by demotion”, I thought that Big Red had been, gasp gasp horror horror, whining about how he gets sent down to AAA while Sean Casey gets to lump about at first base with the big boys. And goodness knows we can’t have that, not this early in the season, and not from anyone who wants to ever actually play for Jim Leyland.
Once I read the article, though, turns out to not be that bad. It’s more like some reporter decided to ask a bunch of possible whine-inducing questions (“What makes you cry the hardest when you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror???”), which Shelton answered more or less honestly. For instance, here are some of his answers; I have retroactively invented the questions, based on what they very well might have been (all answers are quoted from the above-linked article).
Q. So you aren’t getting the first base job to start this season. Obviously you didn’t try hard enough. In fact some are saying that instead of trying, you spent all your time eating Cheetos and pretending to be a lounge chair. What do you have to say in the face of these accusations of SLOTHFULNESS??
A. “I hit close to .400 this spring. What more could I possibly do? All I could say is I made this [decision] as tough as I possibly could on them.”
Q. Be honest: do you think you ever even had a chance to make this squad? ‘Cause we heard that Leyland and Dombrowski sat down in February in a conference room with a bowl of jelly beans and a whiteboard, and picked out all their favorite players, and you weren’t on the list.
A. “I don’t want to say they had their team set, but they have so many guys back from last year. I don’t want to say I didn’t have a chance, because they gave me a chance.”
Q. Do you think you have a future on this team, a team who is blocking your progress to the majors with an elderly slow man who has two brittle sticks of balsa wood for legs, from your own former squad?
A. “That’s not up to me to decide. It’s up to those guys to decide. All I can do is play.”
Honestly, as much as you can rag on Casey’s speed, ability to play in the field, age, etc., he does have one very big advantage over Shelton: we know that Sean Casey can handle the majors mentally. Shelton? We know he can hit, we’ve seen that… but then we also saw him take all the media attention and pressure that came when he WAS hitting amazingly well, and we saw him wrap himself in that media attention and pressure like it was a great big furry attention and pressure coat, made of the skins of a thousand reporters, and this coat weighed him down until he wasn’t hitting a lick and had to be sent to Toledo to reflect broodingly on his sins.
Now he’s being sent back. I can understand his frustration; surely no one wants to spend more time in Ohio than they absolutely have to. But I do hope Shelton realizes that we’ve got the “fat first-baseman-DH type hitter” slot more than filled up right now.
Work on your defense, Shelton, and work on keeping your hitting going even when people are looking at you, because it’s pretty hard to ask an entire ballpark to turn around and stare at the backs of their seats when you’re up to bat.
If he can’t handle that, I suggest a mid-season cage match. Big Red takes on The Mayor. It would sell more tickets than a bobblehead night.