Repetition is absolutely crucial to a hitter’s success.
It’s also one of the most difficult things to simulate. Sure, one can take batting practice, hit off the tee, or watch film, but what is absolutely essential are at-bats, in a game.
Which brings me to Jedd Gyorko, the Padres once-heralded second baseman. I’m not throwing in the towel on Gyorko (I stand by what I wrote before the season), but I am wondering how the team plans to get him out of his funk.
By sitting him? To work on his swing with hitting coaches Mark Kotsay and Alonzo Powell? What was Spring Training for then?
Granted, not every player is going to start the year out with a bang. It’s baseball, where peaks and valleys are a regular sight in the long journey of a season. At some point, though, mastering mechanics—pitching or hitting—can get confused with the delicacy of a baseball player’s mindset.
There’s a reason why the sport is labeled a “game of failure.”
It’s notoriously difficult to do anything with true success and sitting Gyorko again—he’s now been on the bench in six of the last seven games after sitting April 12-14 for three games—is not the right way to get a young player out of a funk.
He has to get at-bats, and not just against lefties.
Now, the Padres also have to win. I get that. Ownership wants to compete. Fans want it. They deserve it. And Yangervis Solarte deserves to play. His numbers speak for themselves.
My point is don’t expect your $35-million second baseman to start producing if he doesn’t play on a consistent basis. At the time of his contract extension last April, the thought was to lock him up now and shave off a year, potentially two, of free agency down the road.
But, if the Padres are going to pay a young player that kind of money (at a time when they didn’t necessarily need to), he is not going to get any better warming the bench. And I refuse to think that any player who, just two years ago, hit 23 home runs in 125 games as a rookie (while batting in the 2013 Padres lineup) is a bust this early in his career.
Last season’s struggles were due to a combination of heightened expectations, more extensive scouting on Gyorko, and health.
A hefty combination for any young player to overcome, and maybe we will learn later that he didn’t do his part to push past certain challenges.
But, to already pull the plug—just 52 plate appearances into his third season—is playing with fire.
And not the kind of fire that get’s a player going, but the kind that consumes everything in its path.
Notably, a bright future.
Let us know what you think in the comments below.
–Andrew Burer (TWITTER: @andrewburer)