Thursday, March 11, 2010

We Love Derrek Lee Even If He Isn't So Great

If I were Derrek Lee, I might be a little insulted.

In the course of debunking allegations from the Pacific Northwest that the fans of Chicago don't like African-American players that aren't Hall of Famers, both David Haugh and Dave Kaplan pointed at Derrek Lee as their prime example of why that isn't so.

Haugh wrote:

"If Bradley believed playing on the North Side can be so tough on African-American players who aren't Hall of Famers... Why did Derrek Lee, one of the most popular modern Cubs of any race, recently express a desire to retire here?"

Kaplan wrote:

"Are you kidding me? Have you ever heard of Derrek Lee? Lee is well liked and respected and loves playing in Chicago. So much so that he stated a couple of weeks back when I interviewed him at spring training that he wants to retire as a Cub."

Now, I don't think that Derrek Lee will ever be in the Hall of Fame, nor do I believe it will be the greatest injustice in the world when he doesn't get in, but quickly pointing a finger at one of the two best players on the Cubs as prime examples of a player that isn't great seems a bit awkward.

It seems like the scene in Seinfeld where Elaine told Jerry his standard in girlfriends was too high and he replied, "Well, I dated you."  The point may have been made, but it isn't really the most tactful way to do it.

Surely, they could have thought of other African-American players that Cubs fans have liked that maybe aren't on the team right now.  Maybe some guys whose careers are done and they have definitively not made the Hall of Fame already, so that they aren't inadvertantly pissing on Derrek Lee's fine career by pointing out what it isn't instead of what it has been so far.

They could have referenced Shawon Dunston and the famous Shawon-O-Meter.  Fans would get pissed at Shawon every time he swung at that low and outside breaking ball, but man did we love his hustle and the absolute cannon from which he would occasionally throw a ball into the stands.

They could have mentioned Glenallen Hill whose occasional long homeruns created a love by fans far surpassing his actual usefulness to a team.

To Kaplan's credit, he did reference Doug Glanville, but I don't remember Doug getting a ton of love despite owning the last game-winning RBI in Cubs' post-season play.

The fans loved Lee Smith.  They loved Gary Matthews.  They even loved Leon Durham until he let that ball through his legs and put the rest of his career up his nose.  I'm working off the top of my head here.  I'm sure there are plenty of others and you can feel free to put them in the comments section.

I don't think Haugh or Kaplan meant to insult Lee, nor do I think Lee will even take it as an insult.  But if I were Derrek Lee and I heard someone say what they wrote, my reaction would have been, "Dude! I'm standing right here!"


Unknown said...

The fans loved Lee Smith.

The 9-year old version of me strongly disagrees with this statement.

Aisle 424 said...

I think many people recognized Lee was pretty damn good as the Cubs' closer for a mostly crappy team. Maybe I remember it wrong, but I know I was pissed they traded him for the two white wastes of space known as Al Nipper and Calvin Schiraldi.

Unknown said...

Great post!

It really kind of feels like the press doesn't know a thing about the Cubs or Cubs history, but their ears suddenly perk up when they hear "racism" or something of that paper-selling and scandalous nature.

Anonymous said...

i didn't really care for smith when he was closing for the cubs. i was just a kid and all i remember was smith blowing saves. years later i've met smith a couple of times and i have to say he is one of the nicest former players i have ever met.

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