Lawrie knows only one speed: very fast. Usually this is a positive aspect, as he provides a “Hustle+Heart 3.0” attitude that goes above and beyond any Blue Jays marketing campaign. The fans love it when a ball player cares enough to make an effort on every single play, even when it looks for naught, as he has proven time and time again. Unfortunately, in this case, it has provided our young Canadian star with a bit of an ego problem.
On July 18, Brett Lawrie did what he has always done for his club; put his body on the line for a defensive play against the New York Yankees. Usually it would consist of a diving lunge at a baseball near the third base line in order to turn around and throw to first, except this time he went for a foul ball near a camera well at Yankee Stadium. What resulted was a right calf contusion after flipping over the guard rail and striking his leg on another rail behind it. The only concern for Lawrie was to make the play, and did not indicate any remorse when speaking to reporters after the game. What should have resulted was some sort of admission to going too far on a risky play, or knowing when to give up. A serious discussion should have been brought up between player and manager, and even if there was, it should have been brought up to the media. Made them aware that this sort of recklessness needs to end there.
Fast forward to September 14, where the Toronto Blue Jays were facing the Boston Red Sox. Lawrie’s aggression and heads-up-play attitude made a routine groundout turn into a tag play in the fifth inning with two outs, as he tried to tag Aviles going to third instead of simply throwing the ball to first to force an out and end the inning. What resulted was Aviles using a spin move and evading Lawrie in order to make it safely at third, followed by Nava singling in two runs after the fielding gaffe. After the game, Lawrie was asked about the play and responded, “I figure I can just go tag him and just run right in the dugout. I wasn’t thinking too much about it.” By not thinking too much about the right call, he helped cost his team two runs, which would become crucial later in the eight inning. With the game tied, Lawrie was thrown out trying to advance to third on a ball grounded in front of him at shortstop, something which is fundamentally beat into you as early as a 10 years old ball player not to do. Instead of admitting fault after the game, he cried, “No, because Escobar ended up getting on first base and then got to second on a passed ball so it’s the exact same thing.” What Lawrie failed to realize is that instead he cost his team a run and made a rudimentary baserunning error. He needed to take his lumps and admit wrongdoing, move on and learn from the experience, and that was not accomplished.
Which brings us to the present. With only 4 days left until the end of the regular season, Lawrie and John Farrell had an exit interview in which they discussed what can only be imagined as any and all issues that both player and manager has encountered during the season, how to improve and an outlook towards next season. However attentive Lawrie may have been during that interview went out the door Sunday afternoon, during the third inning of another Jays-Yankees game. In another situation with two outs, Lawrie fielded a hard hit grounder in the shortstop position (due to a Farrellball defensive shift) with a spectacular backhanded snare with the glove, to proceed to rush his throw to first and sail the throw over the first basemen, causing the runner at first to reach third on the error. It was simply another case of Lawrie giveth, and taketh away, all in one play. And it was another case of Lawrie being Lawrie; refusing to learn from his mistakes.
With only 3 more games left in the season, there’s little time left to make a significant change to right Lawrie’s errors on the field right now. Benching him so late in the year would do little to show the player the impact of their decisions, especially when the games potentially lost are against the team with the worst record in the American League from the Minnesota Twins. Lawrie could have been made an example by being benched earlier in the year, one that could have affected the baserunning decisions of Adeiny Hechavarria and Moises Sierra, the latter laughing off running through a Brian Butterfield stop sign at third in a game earlier in the season. However, it’s not fair to play coulda, woulda, shoulda about how something should have been dealt with in the past. What does need to happen in the future is having a tighter leash on all players throughout the Jays organization going forward, with an open dialogue between players, managers and the front office about what is and isn’t to be tolerated. The entire Blue Jays organization has to be on the same page, that enough sloppy play will result in actual consequences. The players should be taught how to play smart baseball, the managers to learn the end limits of players and the front office to know when the appropriate time is to step in and step out of situations important to the ball club.
It should be noted that Lawrie is still a very young man who’s made it to the Majors in such a short amount of time. There’s still a chance to change the way he plays, but that change will have to come fast as Lawrie himself.