The sabrbullies, most of whom were never good enough athletes to play serious ball (BURN), like to mock the concept of “intangibles” such as “veteran presence” and “leadership.” One has to wonder if these sad creatures have ever been a part of a team of any kind at all. In this thing we call human nature, there are four types of people – leaders, followers, the clueless, and hermits. This is true in all aspects of life, whether you’re talking about a sports team, a corporation, a political party, or even a circle of friends. (Although I guess if you’re a hermit you’re probably not part of a circle of friends.)
Now, Latos may not have been well-liked in the clubhouse (was he?), and speaking out like that through the media is a total dick move, but that doesn’t mean his comments don’t hold some truth. Doesn't mean they do, either. We’ve seen how flat the Reds can seem too many times. I don’t know why he wasn’t liked, or at least why he felt he wasn't liked, but I can take some guesses. I'm trying to figure out why he said those things. Some possibilities:
1. Latos is really a pain in the ass and is pissed that he didn’t have a great season. Maybe he’s blaming everyone else. I don’t remember it, but someone mentioned that he made some comments about the Padres when he left them, too. He could just be a bonafide jerk. I want to believe that isn’t the case, but his comments make him come across as a dick. I’m not going to dismiss him or what he said because I wasn’t there. We weren’t there. If my team at work were dicking around in my office and playing video games instead of preparing for the job, I’d be pissed off, too. But this could have been exaggerated. Bottom line is, we don’t know.
2. Mat and his wife Dallas are liberal-minded people in a sport dominated by white country boys and foreign nationals from various conservative Catholic countries south of the US border. The couple supports the NoH8 campaign and various noble causes that traditional folks may reject. I don’t know Mat or Dallas, but as someone who is well-versed in the arts and follies of politics, I have seen countless personality clashes based on such differences. I am not saying this is the case at all. How could I? I’ve never been in the clubhouse and I don’t know any of the players. I only know what I see in the media and from their own social networking accounts. Dallas had a pretty good blog that gave us a great idea what life is like in a Major League household, and she always spoke her mind even when it wasn’t popular. She received a lot of hate mail because there is a lot of hate in this world and because she lived in a part of the country where hate thrives openly when you are on the liberal side of things. People say Mat didn’t “fit in.” I’m not sure what is meant by that, but I take it to mean the clubhouse was a homogenous sort and that very well could have driven complacency. For that matter, Brandon Phillips has never really "fit in," either, and he was once deemed a "clubhouse cancer," but that may have been a case of certain media folks getting their wittle feewings hurt because he wouldn't talk to them.
3. Latos tried to be a leader in the clubhouse and to make his teammates get off their asses but was scoffed at. Perhaps they thought him too bossy or that he complained too much. His leadership skills may be lacking, or maybe there are some really lazy players on our team. I find that hard to believe. However, not everyone is blessed with leadership qualities, and their shortcomings could come across as barking. Maybe he's just more intense than the other guys.
4. Latos didn’t get along with one of the popular players on the team, and players took that player’s side in things. High school never ends for some people; popularity is still a thing with them. To that I say, grow up.
5. Because Latos wasn’t on the 2010 playoff team and wasn’t homegrown, he was from day one viewed as an outsider. Think about it. Most of our guys have played together for a long time, or they shared experiences in the same minor league cities. Maybe it's tough to break into the friendship circles that have formed over the years.
6. The real story about his injury is that Homer Bailey shot him with a crossbow and he's still mad at him. This is probably most likely.
Regardless of what it was, I feel like he could be right about the lack of leadership. While I can’t know why he didn’t try to step up and fill that role or if he tried and failed to do so, I could believe him. Too many times in the last couple of years we’ve watched the lifeless Reds seemingly go through the motions, and I’m reminded of how Barry Larkin could fire up the players and how he would hold closed door team meetings when times were bad and the players were performing poorly. He would kick any videogame playing slacker’s butt if it were interfering with his preparation for a game. If that's really what was going on.
Scott Rolen was one of my least favorite players before he came to the Reds, and even then it took some getting used to before I could accept him on our team. But I came to realize just how valuable he was as the 2010 season wore on and we were poised to make our first postseason in a decade and a half. Veteran presence. Leadership. It can make the difference between winning the division (2010, 2012) and barely getting a wild card (2013) or not getting close (2014). Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
As for the medical comments, there is a joke in Redsland about Dr. Kremchek’s “poking stick.” I’m no doctor, but there is a certain reputation among us know-nothings that something isn’t kosher with Reds medical diagnoses. Latos isn’t the first to complain about the medical staff. (Though I think Jim Edmonds was just a Taint Louis whiner...) Other players love him. Who knows what’s really going on except the people with medical degress who have access to the clubhouse?
One thing that I’ve come to realize impresses me early on is Marlon Byrd speaking up about Latos’s comments before he even put on a Cincinnati uniform. It’s a good sign, not only because he already is defending his new teammates, but because it shows the leadership he is said to possess, one reason he was signed over more productive options, at least from what I've read. I was not a fan of the signing – an aged veteran with a couple of decent seasons and a marginal upgrade from Ludwick in terms of offensive production doesn’t seem to be the answer to the Reds offensive woes. But he’s been around. I’ve heard that he’s respected throughout the league. I have to think his contributions to the team are felt greater in the clubhouse than on the field.
Remember, in 2013 we noticed a lack of “fire” in the team and blamed Dusty for not firing up his players. We questioned the team’s motivation and wondered where the leadership was. Latos’s comments come as no surprise, and maybe it’s better that he did speak up. Maybe it can serve as early motivation. Something should, because with the schedule being the way it is this year, this season could be over in April if we lose too many games to the NL Central teams. Toughest division in baseball again, and now all five teams can compete.
Who knows? We’re not in that clubhouse. Only our red-socked club of millionaires can create the kind of environment that is conducive to winning. Hopefully, the poison has been drained from the team and they’ll bust out of the gate with the kind of fire that we’ve wanted to see in them. Regardless, we’re all ready to get this thing started. Life is miserable in the absence of baseball.