The Modern Baseball Player

Skill is No Longer Enough

March Madness is upon us but the bigger news is that the baseball season is also upon us.  As mangers evaluate their teams, we can step into their shoes and try to determine some of the factors that go into judging modern baseball players.   Even players who show high levels in all five categories associated with everyday players—hitting for average, hitting for power, throwing, fielding, and running—may not score high on an overall evaluation because they lack other basic ingredients intrinsic to success in baseball.

Work Ethic

Some great athletes are simply lazy.  It takes hours of work behind the scenes to translate into success on the field.  Much of the work players do behind the scenes is simply repetitive.  However, repeating an action is often the difference between success and failure and few infielders are born with perfect footwork on every possible play they’ll be expected to make.  Work ethic is a large category and it can be divided into sub-categories.


There are a surprising number of players who never advance because they refuse to learn or can’t be taught.  No it all athletes can be great from the athletic standpoint alone but professional teams also have a large number of average athletes who understand that everyone has to work together for the team to achieve success. 

Players need to treat practice in the same way some online casino players treat free games: as the chance to learn and improve.


This covers a lot of ground from accessibility to fans and reporters to ability to withstand the pressures of being a big league baseball player.  Humility and humbleness are indispensable attributes of good teammates and good opponents.  In baseball, it’s considered very bad manners to “show up” and opponent.

Character also covers a player’s relationship with umpires.  It’s up to the manager to kick dirt on an umpire’s pants, not up to the players.  Character means being wealthy without making a show of it. 

Character is also the ability to avoid the many vices that everyone is exposed to in modern society.  The day when players could play drunk are over but excessive alcohol consumption is still a prominent societal problem, one that baseball players have to avoid.

There’s No 'I' in Team

A team comprised of players who genuinely don’t like each other would be impossible in today’s game.  The experience in recent years of the Cubs, Indians, and Astros as highly successful teams that enjoy each other’s company are a direct contrast with the Yankee and Oakland A’s teams that won despite not being one with each other.

The Chicago Blackhawks in hockey attributed their success in winning three Stanley Cups in five seasons to their closeness off the ice in addition to the obvious skill on the ice.

Baseball teams spend so much time together that getting along in the clubhouse and even in the dugout are vital to a team’s cohesiveness and ultimate success.

Players as Investments

Bill Veeck, the esteemed former owner of the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox was far from wealthy in his own right.  Free agency hit him harder than it did the independently wealthy owners and ultimately forced Veeck to sell his team.   Veeck complained about the high cost of talent but he was even more vociferous in his condemnation of the “the high cost of mediocrity”.

Mediocrity is the default level of talent of baseball players but mediocrity is expensive.  Teams might choose a player of lesser athletic ability who has many intangibles that cannot be measured but will contribute more to winning than hits and runs.  The experience of the Chicago Cubs with David Ross is a perfect case in point.

Ross will never be a Hall of Fame player but he had Hall of Fame intangibles that were directly responsible for immeasurable success on the part of the very talented players.

Full Time Job

Character and understanding how expensive one is to his team go hand in hand with the responsibility of players to see baseball as a full time job.  College students who are exceptionally serious about getting the most out of their college years see being a student as their full time job.  Athletes need to see baseball as their one and only job.

The days when players could come to spring training out of shape are over.  Coming to camp “in shape” is also no longer enough.  Teams expect players to come to camp ready to improve during the spring so their improvement can be translated into wins during the season.  Spring training is too short for teams to wait several weeks for a player to get into playing shape.


This is the last intangible beyond raw talent but it is far from the least important.  Gratitude or more accurately the lack of it is what fueled the fan revolt in the NFL this season.  Fans know that players are always looking for better contracts.  Fans understand that players may not feel any specific allegiance to the city they are playing for.  But fans do expect players to show more than lip service levels of gratitude to the city that took them in and elevated them to hero status.

Hockey players have been considered the most humble of all professional athletes.  Hockey players in Canada used to leave their homes at very young ages to play in the Junior Leagues. 

Although that humbling experience is not in the background of baseball players, fans, teammates, and management expect players to have a deep appreciation of where they came from and how hard it is to reach the pinnacle of baseball leagues.  This is as important for the individual baseball player’s attitude toward his personal success but even more so to appreciate his less achieving and less talented teammates.

Increased Competition

We expect to see fewer football players in the United States going forward because of short professional careers and long term head injuries.  This will add to the pool of baseball players.  As important as the five skills are and the many skills pitchers must have, the intangibles listed here will become even more important in evaluating players.