Jay Bruce and Billy Beane: Sittin' in a Tree?

Illya Harrell@illya_1971Analyst IIJune 16, 2009

SARASOTA, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds poses for a photo during Spring Training Photo day on February 18, 2009 at the Cincinnati Reds training facility in Sarasota, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Since Michael Lewis' 2003 bestseller, everyday there are new web sites, blogs, and bar room napkins dedicated to the discussion of "win shares" or "similarity score".  Rather than being one of these people, I would prefer to take residence inside of Bill James' colon.

Don't get me wrong, I very much enjoyed Moneyball.   In fact, while watching Jay Bruce, it has been on my mind a lot lately.

I am a Reds' fan.  So 90 percent of the games I watch will involve the Reds.  If you watch people over and over again—you can sort of get a feel what the person is like off the field. 

Post-game interviews, pre-game interviews, watching their habits on the field, in the dugout.  Every picture, every word—they all tell a story.

It doesn't take a degree in psychology.

For myself, the most memorable part of Moneyball was where Billy Beane, some coaches, and a pitcher they were trying out (at least that's how I remember it), were in a stadium and the pitcher was throwing some pretty good stuff and Beane was just killing pitch after pitch, blasting upper-deck shots. 

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Beane wondered how his career would have turned out had he not jumped straight from high school into pro ball—maybe gone to college for a couple of years.

I am starting to wonder the same about Jay Bruce.

Some players easily make the jump from high school and (after minor league seasoning) perform well in the majors.  Others, I think, need a little time away from home—away from mom and dad.

College is more than being forced to sit through lectures discussing the symbolism in Wuthering Heights.  It's about maturing as a person, getting to know people, having some fun.

I can't put my finger on what exactly it is about Jay Bruce that gives me these uneasy vibes, but the more I see him—the more I have them.

Is it his goofy smile and the way he has to slap everybody's hand after a homer?  Is it his rigid stance at the plate, and his habit of messing with his shirt sleeve every time he is in the box?  The way he bites the side of his lip? 

He just looks like a guy who struggles to please people—and is irritating in his attempts.  The kind of guy others say "hi" to in the hallway while trying to keep the kegger a secret.

He already has had a far better career than Beane did in his six seasons.  And, yes, I know that at age 22, Bruce is very still young.

Still, I can't get the comparison out of my head.

Maybe I just need to turn off my Jay-Dar.