“We’re not selling jeans here.”
Five fateful words in Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball” have encapsulated Billy Beane’s managerial philosophy of the Oakland Athletics for over a decade. No matter how fat you were, old you were, funny you threw or how many strip clubs you were spotted at, if you could help the A’s win, you were on the team.
Enter Brett Lawrie.
See, Lawrie is the exact opposite of Beane’s “not selling jeans” philosophy. This is a guy who will probably be a Levi’s model when he retires in 10 years. He’s probably receiving thousands of Valentine’s Day cards via mail as you read this. You could probably fit two Brett Lawries into one pair of Jeremy Brown’s — the 5-foot-10-inch, chunky A’s catcher that Beane drafted in the book — jeans. Not only could he sell jeans, but he’d look so good in them that it would distract from the fact that he probably went 0-4 with a golden sombrero during the game.
It’s for this reason (it is, I swear) that Lawrie automatically became my favorite baseball player when he came to Oakland from the Blue Jays in return for Josh Donaldson. He was the exception to the not-selling-jeans rule — that good-looking baseball players succeed in the big leagues.
First off. The dude is jacked. He can clear a 66-inch vertical jump with ease and probably boxes kangaroos in his free time. When he’s not playing Edward 40-Hands with himself, he’s probably chugging down an energy drink to make sure his BRBC (Blood Red Bull Concentration) doesn’t dip under 60 percent or wishing it were winter so he could crush a pep mocha.
But even though he brought the intensity of a D-Day soldier to every at-bat (which is ironic, because he’s Canadian), Brett, or Brehhhhht as I like to call him, just couldn’t translate his physical gifts to the field. His monster swings led to a .299 on-base percentage, and his monster calves could not propel him to catch come-backers that rolled into center field. I was invested in him as a player because there was absolutely no way a player with this many physical gifts could be this mediocre.
Brett, in many ways, is comparable to Beane when he was a major leaguer during the 1980s. Both were extremely gifted first-round draft picks with high expectations brought upon them, but could never — or in Brett’s case, has yet to — put it together in their times in the Show.
The good news is that time is still on Brett’s side — now with the Chicago White Sox and just turning 27 in January, which is around the age when most successful Major Leaguers “put it together” during their peak years.
It’s very rare for me to continue liking players after their time in Oakland. This exception shows how much I want Lawrie to succeed and become the Red Bull-chuggin’, dinger-hittin’ second baseman that the Blue Jays thought they were getting when they called him up in 2011. And if he ever hits another grand slam against Oakland like he did in his debut season, you better believe I’ll be right there cheering for him.
Chris Tril is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].