In the matter of a four game series, Toronto third baseman Brett Lawrie experienced a microcosm of his entire season. He went 5 for 14 with a home run, three RBI, two runs scored, and a stolen base, showing a bit of a rebound offensively. However, he wrapped that around an ejection on Friday and a verbal exchange with a teammate and his coaches on Sunday.
The latter could become a wake-up call for the fiery youngster.
During Sunday’s epic rally by the Blue Jays, it all came to a head. With no outs in the bottom of the ninth, Toronto down by two runs, and Adam Lind at third base, Lawrie lined a fly ball to right fielder Nick Markakis which he felt was deep enough to score Lind. When third base coach Luis Rivera held Lind rather than test of the arm of Markakis, Lawrie took umbrage with the decision. He purposefully walked back to the dugout slowly, glaring at Lind and Rivera at third, and throwing some choice words in their direction.
When he finally reached the dugout, he continued to run his mouth in the direction of third base, causing manager John Gibbons to finally start yelling back at Lawrie with a heavy finger pointed to the third baseman. The exchange would continue for a few minutes until Jose Bautista took Lawrie to the other end of the dugout and provided some veteran advice; shut your mouth.
You can appreciate a player wanting his team to score every run they can in a close game, but he also has to know the situation and the players involved. Lind is not the most fleet of foot and Markakis has 79 career assists from the outfield over 8 seasons, including 4 this season.
The ejection on Friday night was a similar issue. After a tough called third strike, Lawrie walked away shedding his helmet and batting gloves on his way out to the field. When it appeared he was flicking those batting gloves back towards home plate, he was given the rest of the night off for showing up the umpire. While the actions may or may not have justified the ejection, it was perhaps a product of his reputation preceding him.
Lawrie’s fire has already become his calling card. He hustles on every play, he takes every result, good or bad, to heart, and he expects nothing less from himself than the best. This fire has endeared him to the fans and granted the 23-year-old a celebrity status not normally presented to a 23-year-old player with little results to show for it.
Unfortunately, this fire is also making Lawrie a liability to the team.
You can tell Lawrie’s pressing, with every swing and every out, Lawrie is hulking out, on the edge of blowing up in some manner or another. Only a better end result will free him from the tortures he puts himself through, but until he learns to get past the failures, those better results will continue to elude him.
Lawrie and Gibbons need to sit down and use this weekend’s series with Baltimore as a learning experience. They need to look at the improvements at the plate Lawrie made against Baltimore and use those as encouragement to build upon. They also need to examine what went wrong on Sunday and Friday and find a way to get Lawrie’s head in the right place, putting the petulant child behind him while still tapping into the bellows that keep him going.
Until that happens, Lawrie will continue to sit on the cusp of tapping into that potential we’ve been hearing about for years.
It’ll just continue to get further and further out of reach.