Bradley Zimmer has been really good this season, with a number of great plays in the outfield and a .268/.332/.441 batting line that would have him among the contenders for American League Rookie of the Year if not for Aaron Judge having clinched that honor sometime in June.
Zimmer is one of the fastest players in baseball, and is someone most fans would say plays hard. Tuesday night against Colorado, though, Zimmer decided not to run out a weak infield pop-up, and depending on your attitude about such things, Zimmer may or may not deserve to be called out for his lack of hustle.
Here is the play, from the 7th inning last night:
Many will say the Cleveland Indians would have been unlikely to score that inning even if Zimmer had run hard from the start, they will say the Indians went on to win anyway, they will say Zimmer is only a rookie. All of those things are true, but they don’t change the fact that Zimmer’s decision not to run hard from the start led to an unnecessary out.
I think there’s a valid argument that it’s understandable when a frustrated player doesn’t run out a ball that leads to an out more than 99 percent of the time, the towering fly ball to the outfield, the easy grounder to second base. Frustrated or not, a player probably should run hard on all those plays, just in case, but it’s not a huge deal to me. I could observe that this is not the same as those plays though, because the ball Zimmer hit almost always leads to one out, and him choosing not to run created a second out. That isn’t really what strikes me about this though.
My actual point is that the belief that it’s understandable and alright if a player doesn’t run out every bit of weak contact only holds up if you apply it consistently, for all players, and in reality, that isn’t how it’s applied at all.
If it had been Carlos Santana who did that last night, a far higher number of Indians fans would have howled about it. If Yasiel Puig had done it, it would have been one of the biggest stories of the night. Fans aren’t consistent in how they judge players for various infractions, and that’s the problem. If you don’t care that Zimmer didn’t run hard, okay, but then you don’t get to criticize any other player for doing the same thing.
And if you take to your rooftop to shout about Puig not playing the game the right way, then you had better be shouting at Zimmer.