MLB's 'Least Likely to Hustle' Team
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport
A lot can be said about a player who runs his hardest every time he takes the field.
But not every player puts 100 percent of his effort into each play or even into each game. Some players simply don’t hustle around the bases; they usually takes their time, especially if they hit a routine ground ball to the shortstop.
Want an example of a player who hustles? Bryce Harper. He arguably hustles more than any other player in baseball.
Jim Caple of ESPN once wrote that anyone could hustle because hustling is easy. Caple is absolutely correct, and yet there are still some players in Major League Baseball who don’t do it.
If there were a team that wasn’t likely to hustle, here are the players who would be on it.
*All statistics in this article were obtained via Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted. All injury information was obtained via Baseball Prospectus. All contract information was obtained via Cot’s Contracts.
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Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians
Being a catcher is a tough position that doesn’t usually require much speed on the basepaths. Carlos Santana doesn’t have great speed at all but also doesn’t put forth the most effort when running the bases.
Santana is much better known for his power from behind the plate. Because Santana hits a solid amount of home runs—55 over the course of his four-year career including four so far in the 2013 season—he gets to round the bases at his leisure.
A bunch of catchers could qualify for this position on this team, but Santana fits relatively well. Watching video of him, even just from this season, it’s obvious that he doesn’t round the bases as quickly as he could.
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Carlos Lee, Free Agent
Carlos Lee is currently one of many players without a major or minor league contract, and we’re well past the offseason and spring training. Is there still a chance that he signs a deal? Sure, but teams may be concerned with his hustle.
Everyone knows that Lee is one of the laziest players in the game when it comes to running hard. Although he can probably still hit, there’s still the perception that he lacks hustle, according to an April 2012 article on Fox Sports Houston (h/t YardBarker).
Lee last played in 2012 for both the Houston Astros and the Miami Marlins. In a combined 147 games, he hit .264/.332/.365 with nine home runs and 77 RBI. Ken Davidoff of the New York Post wrote in March that Lee hasn’t been willing to sign for a low-base salary.
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Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
Robinson Cano might be one of the best players in baseball, but there’s no guarantee he’s going to leg out a double instead of taking it easy by stopping at first base. He has, however, hit at least 40 doubles in each of the last four seasons.
The problem with Cano, though, isn’t always on the offensive side of the ball. Frequently, you can catch Cano taking his time fielding grounders and making up for it by making acrobatic throws. He was benched for a lapse in attention back in 2008.
Through 20 games this season, Cano is hitting .325/.378/.614 with six home runs and 14 RBI in a depleted New York Yankees lineup. It would be smart to assume that Cano might make more money on the open market this upcoming winter if he showed a little more effort this season.
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Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies
There are several good shortstop candidates for this team including Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez, but Jimmy Rollins grabs the starting role here—and for good reason. He was benched last season, and Todd Zolecki of MLB.com tells us why:
Manual pulled Rollins from a 3-2 victory over the Mets when Rollins did not hustle to first base on an infield popup in the sixth inning. Rollins immediately dropped his head upon contact and lightly jogged to first. Only when Mets starter Jon Niese dropped the ball did Rollins pick up his pace.
The Phillies announcers questioned Rollins’ hustle just two weeks prior, and clearly it was becoming a trend. Since then, Rollins has picked up the slack, even if the plays seem routine. But for these prime examples, he makes the team.
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David Wright, New York Mets
All it takes is one lapse for a player to end up on this list. Just ask David Wright. Wright is now the captain of the New York Mets, and that role entails him to act like a professional.
Well, back in 2009, he didn’t act professionally on one night.
In a late-September game against the Florida Marlins—yes, they were still the Florida Marlins back in 2009—Wright was benched after a lack of hustle, according to Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post. Wright reportedly apologized to his teammates for not giving it his all.
“That’s just a mental mistake,” Wright said of the baserunning blunder—who took his time going home from third base on what was an easy play. “That’s my fault, and I take responsibility. It won’t happen again.”
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Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs
When I was compiling this list of players who rarely hustle, I asked for the opinions of the MLB featured columnist community. Several noted that having Alfonso Soriano on the team was a no-brainer. And well, here he is.
Soriano has never been one to put much effort into the way he plays. He never did when he started his career with the New York Yankees, and more recently, he has kept that reputation with the Chicago Cubs.
In 2011, Cubs manager Mike Quade had to talk with Soriano mid-game after he didn’t run hard down the baseline in what could have been a double, according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.
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B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves signed a star over the offseason in B.J. Upton, but before he played in Atlanta, he wasn’t much of a hustle guy with the Tampa Bay Rays. Back in 2008, the center fielder was benched a pair of times by his former manager, Joe Maddon.
In early August 2008, Upton was benched after failing to run out a ground ball the night prior. Then, a couple of days later, Upton was benched again after hitting into a double play where he didn’t hustle down the first-base line to try to beat the throw.
Upton told reporters that he thought that there were two outs and that’s why he didn’t put a ton of effort on the play. He also said he was “stunned” to get pulled from the game.
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Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox used to be managed by Ozzie Guillen, who didn’t have the best relationship with outfielder Alex Rios. Guillen didn’t care for the way that Rios failed to hustle on plays. Now, Guillen isn’t the manager, but Rios still takes his time occasionally.
Guillen benched Rios back in 2011 after he didn’t hustle on the basepaths. The skipper had this to say after the White Sox lost to the Colorado Rockies, 3-2, according to Mike Dodd of USA Today (h/t Chicago Sun Times):
Rios don’t run the bases; that’s why I got him out of the game. It’s not the first time it happened. I don’t like the was he runs the bases…And that’s a message for everyone. If they don’t (bleeping) run the bases, their reputation comes on me, and I have a greater reputation in this (bleeping) game to do it that way.
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David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Many designated hitters have a tough time running the bases, mainly because they’re slow and that’s why they can’t play the field in the first place. But there is somewhat of a correlation between being a DH and putting 100 percent effort into running the bases.
This can definitely be said for Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. Ortiz is rather lackadaisical around the basepaths, and it’s blatantly obvious at times. He frequently doesn’t run out ground balls to the infield because he knows there’s a slim chance he'll be able to beat the throw.
Ortiz has had injury issues lately, which could prevent him from hustling hard. But in all honesty, it’s ugly watching him try to score from second or turn a single into a double. He’s probably just going to get thrown out no matter how hard he runs.
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Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
I’m not sure if pitchers have to hit or run the bases in Korea, but Hyun-Jin Ryu might not have gotten the memo after signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers this past winter.
In Ryu’s major league debut on April 2 against the San Francisco Giants, he got his first hacks at the plate. He grounded out to first base in his first plate appearance, but it was his second that caught the attention of baseball fans across the country.
Ryu hit a ball weakly down the third-base line but barely even jogged to first base despite the ball being live. He was thrown out with ease, and the crowd gave him quite a few boos as he returned to the dugout. Check out the GIF of the play here (h/t CBS Sports).