Defense? I'm the Franchise Player and You Want Me to Play Defense?

Ben CummingsContributor IMarch 24, 2008

Where has the demand for the art of defense in the MLB gone?

Why is it that players are not signed to multi-million dollar contracts based solely on defense?

Is baseball all about offense?

The Baseball Writers Association sure seems to think so.

The Colorado Rockies set a MLB record last season for fielding percentage. However, not a single Rockie got a Gold Glove Award.  The Rubberband Man, Todd Helton, was robbed of a Gold Glove. 

Rookie sensation Troy Tulowitzki had the best numbers of any shortstop in the NL.  He lead in nearly all major defensive categories including: assists, fielding percentage (tied with Jimmy Rollins), double plays, and had an unassisted triple play.

Tulowitzki was also robbed (as he usually did to hitters) of the Rookie of the Year award. 

The Milwakee Brewers' Ryan Braun, without question, had better numbers in most offensive categories but quite possibly could have been the worst third baseman in the history of the game. 

His numbers were nauseating.  As we all know, Braun won the ROY award.  That fact alone proves that defense is not important according to the so-called experts of the MLB.

Let's put this into perspective.

The crowd goes wild when a slugger hits a no-doubt homerun over the centerfield fence to win the game. 

What happens when a centerfielder makes a diving catch with a runner on third with two outs in the bottom of the ninth? 

He may, if he is lucky, get a sound of applause half of what that same slugger who hits a walk-off bomb.

Why is it that no one appreciates the hard work of a catcher behind the plate? 

Without the catcher, the entire defense is messed up.  Do we ever hear a commentator spend more than a few minutes praising the job he is doing? That catcher is lucky if he gets his name mentioned in a telecast.  We sure don't hear about him on SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight.

Why is it that whenever the first baseman picks a ball out of the dirt to get the runner out by inches only gets a few claps from the loyal fans? 

For those of you who haven't played first base, it is not even close to as easy as it looks on TV.

The double play is an art in itself.  It requires so many different aspects.  Much of the double play is finess while the other part is pure grit and dedication. 

Second basemen could be the toughest players in the game next to catchers.  They take a beating on every turn. 

As we saw this spring with the Yankees and Devil Rays, players can get cheap and intentionally try to cleat the player trying to turn two.  The shortstop was the player getting spiked in the Yankees vs. Devil Rays affair. 

Without a solid middle infield, a pitcher entering the game in a jam has no way out without allowing a run.  Double plays get those middle relievers and tired starting pitchers out of jams that could mean the difference of the game.

Loyal fans know when their team is playing good defense.  The scores of the games will show how solid the defense is.  However, the average Joe will just look at the game from an offensive perspective. 

It would be nice to see more teams focus on defense as the Rockies did last season and will most likely do again this season.  As fans of baseball, we need to tip our hats to the guys who are making solid plays on defense. 

Even the routine plays need to be acknowleged—they just saved that game.