Why can’t baseball players run out plays like Pete Rose did 50 years ago.

A couple of commenters noted in last night’s game that maybe the Nats read my RESPECT 90 piece in my MASN column. Three players were noticeably digging out of the box last night and that was Bryce Harper and Michael Taylor on groundouts and Ben Revere beat out an infield hit. Ryan Zimmerman turned a Web Gem on a foul ball running 94 feet to get it. Michael Taylor ran down a ball in the gap. Hustle was on display last night for the Nats, but baseball is mostly devoid of it.

Pete Rose seems to be most closely connected to the word ‘hustle’. Pete had a teammate named Harper who hit in front of him on his 1960’s Reds teams. Harper was a fast guy and could hit some home runs and in 1970 was a 30/30 guy. Harper stole a league best 73 bases in 1969. Pete loved the way Harper ran the bases. Pete Rose didn’t have that type of speed, but Pete Rose made up for it with hustle and grit and determination. Pete Rose was truly a grinder before that word was part of the baseball lexicon.

Pete Rose played against a 22 year old kid drafted by the San Diego Padres named Turner back in 1976. Rose also played against a guy named Dusty Baker and another named Speier and another named Lopes. The names all sound the same, but the game has changed a lot. You have replays now and the games seem to take forever, and there does not seem to be the same respect level or hustle. The paychecks are so big that even the rookies in baseball make more than the average cardiologist these days, and many of these players break our hearts.

Players talk about respect the game and being old school, and Bryce Harper talks about Making Baseball Fun Again like it’s a campaign slogan. When did hustle become synonymous with ‘you only go as hard as the play looks’ meaning you only hustle when you think you can beat out a play.

Respect your teammates and do the little things, and most of all respect the fans.

Joe Maddon in an interview last year said, “Respect the game…All I want our guys to do is run hard to first base…I really believe that kind of effort permeates the rest of your game.

 You’re gonna do all those things, just by having this little thing within you that causes or makes you want to run hard to first base all the time.”

That little part has left this game where players treat running hard to first base like a joke. Carlos Gomez was pimping a home run and enjoying the flight of his ball on Monday night until it was caught in front of the warning track, and Yasiel Puig and Odubel Herrera were both recently benched because their managers questioned their “hustle” or lack thereof.

Matt Williams once benched Bryce Harper for a team rule about hustle back in 2014. It got cheers from some and criticism from others mostly on the way it was handled. Dusty Baker has not benched a player that we know of for lack of hustle or other mind-boggling plays.

Joe Maddon will also bench a player as he did with BJ Upton for not hustling on their Tampa team. Maddon is an amazing motivator and tactician who expects the little things to be done. Little things add up to big things. His Cubs’ players respect him, and they work harder for him.

Last year it was Maddon’s “Respect 90” and this year is “Don’t Suck”. Every year he likes a new message he said just like Ernie Banks used to do for the Cubs.

“It really is the message I want to get out there,” Maddon said. “I believe if we respect that 90 feet every day, a lot of good things are going to happen here.”

The most noticeable player who you see hustle is Ichiro. It’s who he is. There is a lot to be said for building up good baseball karma and Ichiro Suzuki has made a career out of it. It’s been a pleasure watching Ichiro Suzuki come from Japan and show the kids from the Western Hemisphere what hustle is.

How many infield hits does Ichiro have in his MLB career? 691 (he had another last night)

Of Ichiro’s 2,968 hits, 23.28% were infield hits which is almost a quarter of all of his positive offensive output. They did not keep records of how many of Pete Rose’s 1,097 groundball hits were infield hits from his record 4,256 career hits, but you can bet “Charlie Hustle” had a bunch also.  Trea Turner, like Ichiro Suzuki, combines hustle with speed. It’s a rare combination these days. #Respect90

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