Constructing a baseball roster to maximize winning is largely an exercise in cold rationality, trying to view players in solely in terms of the wins they add to the roster. Fandom, on the other hand, is largely a subjective, aesthetic experience. Occasionally a front office will make a move that is justifiable from a rational roster construction perspective, but drives our subjective fan side crazy. As should be obvious by now, that’s how I’d categorize the re-acquisition of Yuniesky Betancourt.
As much as hearing his name mentioned in conjunction with the Brewers makes me want to jump out of a window, this isn’t a terrible move. With Alex Gonzalez filling in at first while Corey Hart is out, the team does need a utility infielder, and as far as utility infielders go…well, most available utility infielders are just as bad as Yuni, albeit possibly in different ways. He does have some power, which can be useful. He’s bad in the field, but he CAN play second, third, and short; it’s not like throwing Adam Dunn at those positions. For a month or two while Hart is on the DL, it makes a certain amount of sense to have Yuni on the roster. He’s basically a replacement level player, which is generally what you expect a utility player to be.
However, I’m not here to tell us that adding Yuni is an okay move and we should all settle down about it. I’m here to embrace the terribleness, and detail all of the reasons that Yuni drives us insane. I called the fan experience subjective and aesthetic, but this is not the same thing as irrelevant, nor would I ever claim it is. To some extent what I try to do is these blog posts is make sense of this fan experience, even when it’s not sensible, and so it’s what I turn my attention to today. Why do we cringe at the thought of Yuniesky Betancourt on our team? For some, it may be his plate discipline, more specifically his complete lack thereof. I have created an image which I believe accurately depicts Yuni’s approach at the plate:
However, this was never the part that bothered me. No, personally I have always been driven up a tree by Yuni’s defense. I really, truly hate to accuse any athlete of not trying, because I don’t believe you can get to the highest levels of professional sports without putting in all the effort you can. So please believe me that I’m not saying Yuniesky doesn’t try hard enough on defense; I will, however, say that he does a fantastic job of looking like he doesn’t try. To wit, consider this memorable moment from game 6 of the 2011 NLCS (h/t to Carson Cistulli for the GIF):
Apologies for the painful memory, but it’s best to inoculate yourself now, as you will be seeing Yuni play defense again in the future. Watch him charge in, then immediately let up while he tries to come to grip with the futility of human existence. You can almost hear him thinking, “Even if I could get the baseball, what then? We get another out? We sooner end this game of baseball, meant only to distract us from the larger game of life? If the sound and fury of this tale signify nothing, what could a baseball possibly mean?”
I guess what I’m trying to say, is that watching Yuniesky Betancourt play baseball is an existentially disturbing experience.