The Game From Where I Stand: A Deeper Look
Back in June, I read Doug Glanville's "The Game From Where I Stand." I loved it, and found it very informative and full of lots of great perspectives. Doug Glanville is a wise man full of terrific awareness. His playing career operated in the middle of a massive Venn diagram, where he was a minority, an Ivy league graduate, first round draft pick, struggled in the minors, struggled the first few years in the majors as a platoon player, became a starter, had a great season, started to struggle again after an injury, went back to being a bench player, and was released after 9 years. He had experience in nearly every facet of Major League Baseball that one could have. It greatly contributed to this fantastic perspective where he understands the game at a much deeper level. In his book, Glanville brings up many good points that got me thinking, and I'd like to highlight a few of them.
Athletes after Retirement:
In his final chapter, Glanville outlines a rough post-retirement reality for athletes. He cites a stat from the Professional Sports Wives Association that 80% of pro athletes are divorced and $250,000 in debt after they retire. That number make not make sense for the big time players who earned a big contract. What about the minor leaguers who came up for partial duty one September? Glanville talks about getting into real estate shortly after he retired, and how that venture collapsed. He was newly married, and there was disaster all around him.
While he had a good parents who raised him right, and an Ivy League degree to fall back on, most athletes don't. Even though Glanville didn't have a big fat contract to sit back on, I'd still consider him to be one of the luckier ex-ballplayers. It's a drastic adjustment going from an extremely structured professional athlete to suddenly having too much free time and not knowing how to manage finances. A quote that resonated with me the most:
"Most players are not set up for real life at all. Having been nearly invisible for a decade between March and October, you have no idea how to be an ever-present father or a spouse, no idea how to create a resume or handle a job interview, no idea what is required to run a business or even what to do in the summer.- a season with, suddenly, an inordinate amount of time. Plus, because you can no longer perform athletically, you're probably fighting a strange emptiness that you can't talk to just anyone about; with a million dollars at your disposal, your complaints don't resonate."
I'll be honest. I never really felt bad for retired athletes. They got to live the dream, and had a chance to make big bucks. They won the genetic lottery and typically got paid for it. But money doesn't buy happiness. And throwing a pile of cash at someone who maybe didn't get the background to manage it can be asking for a problem. Is it the fault of the player for not managing their situation properly? Or was it a system that failed them?
Glanville played during the height of the steroid era. He wrote a whole chapter aptly titled "The Integrity of the Game." He talks about status in baseball, the measuring sticks: awards, statistics, World Series rings, and so on. Steroids can corrupt the once airtight standards of success. But it's not as simple as black and white. Players are brothers, even if they disagree with what their brother is doing. Baseball players typically don't sell out teammates. It's complicated.
Glanville wrote about how the Mitchell report was a list of 104 names to be used internally by MLB players to figure out how widespread PEDs were. A survey was collected and to be destroyed, but instead got leaked. Suddenly a bunch of private information was out in the open, for all to see, further complicating issues.
Glanville talks about a time when Larry Himes mentioned to players, "Don't you want a Sammy Sosa body?" and Glanville saying no. He stayed away from PEDs, as a personal point of integrity. He wanted to be real, even if others were taking shortcuts around him.
Doug mentions the different types of clean players in baseball
Faith-based clean players: players who won't do drugs based off personal integrity.
I use other drugs but not steroids: players who think that steroids were too far, but other things weren't.
I will never break the code: players who would not rat out teammates, because their own personal integrity is more important.
I will let everything fester and be bitter: players who got jealous while others got ahead.
I Don't Know Who I Can Trust: players who kept to themselves.
Let Manny Be Manny: players who let people be whoever they want to be.
Crazy Man in the Room: player who was an outsider.
Show me the Science: players who thought maybe steroids don't have the huge impact on performance?
Doug mentions being in many of these categories throughout his career. But by the end of it, he seems to fall into the fester/bitter group. He mentions his jealousy of other hard working first rounders who suddenly became major power hitters, leaving him in the dust. He mentions a specific story about when he was being released in 2005 despite putting up similar 2004 numbers to Fernando Viña. Viña got a 6 million 2 year deal, while Glanville was out of baseball. Viña was later linked to the Mitchell report and PEDs. Did Glanville's cleanliness cost him millions of dollars? According to Baseball Reference, Glanville made $11.5 million in his career. That $6 million dollar deal could have been half of what he made in his career. I don't blame him for settling on a bit of bitterness.
Did the MLB reward PED users? Do the users appear to be more committed to being good at baseball than non users? Or is this all just completely based on performance? Tons of fascinating questions.
Doug's Playoff Hit:
In 2003, Glanville made the Cubs playoff roster as the 25th Man. He talks about how he had to basically become an emergency infielder. He hoped that he wouldn't cost the Cubs a game on the field, while maybe getting a chance for a big hit. He would get a chance.
Game 3 in Florida, series tied 1-1. 11th inning. Game is tied at 4, one out. Kenny Lofton's on first, and runs with the pitch. The SS shifts to second to cover, and Glanville hits it right into the gap. It rolls to the wall, Lofton scores, and the Cubs go on to win. It was such a special moment, that Glanville mentioned it probably half a dozen times in his book. I can't say I blame him.
It starts at the 38 minute marker:
It becomes the biggest hit of his career. Something to hang his hat on. For one day, he got the Cubs that much closer to the World Series. His career might have had ups and downs, but he will always have that time when he was the hero.
Go read The Game From Where I Stand. It's fantastic.