Lance Lynn shed 40 pounds during this offseason, taught himself to play the guitar, learned Latin, climbed Mt. Rainier, and released his debut album, but none of those things matter now. He quite literally committed the most Cardinal sin ever by not doing everything possible to fit himself into the cookie cutter outline of utter humility some fans expect. How dare Lynn feel confident about having a starting rotation spot secure. Jerk.
Even worse, Lynn had the gall to express his actual thoughts on the subject rather than toss out some company line about “working to win a spot”. No, Lynn upset the delicate sensibilities of some Cardinal fans who have grown far too accustomed to false modesty and feelgood soundbites. All those years of Albert Pujols claiming that he worked every year to earn his position on the team have brainwashed some. Remember him as the same man who declared a desire to be a Cardinal for life before taking the money and slow-walking his way to the Angels.
Yadier Molina says much the same thing every year despite being the best defensive catcher of his generation and a perennial gold glove award winner. Does any sane person truly believe that Yadi has to really compete for his starting spot? Nope. Did Pujols have to compete for his? Certainly not. Sure, Lynn has a ways to go to reach the same echelons inhabited by Pujols and Yadi respectively, but that doesn’t make the reactions to his attitude any less ludicrous. Even more ridiculous? Yadier and Albert kept using that same tired line even when they were locked into deals years away from free agency. They were going nowhere, and they had to know it.
If Pujols had said something similar after his rookie campaign, he certainly would have been taken to task by people who feel athletes need to keep saying the right things even if they don’t believe what they are saying. Those same people continued to laud Albert for his “hungry rookie” act long after it had grown obviously tired.
So why the backlash against Lance? Is a rotation spot not his to lose? More importantly, consider the difference between a pitcher working to make the team versus one who has the confidence of having a spot secure. The confident pitcher has the luxury of working on secondary or tertiary pitches without the constant scrutiny about every single appearance he makes. The guy working to take a spot can’t afford to take the same chances for the sake of tinkering with mechanics or arm slot feel. One represents the potential to grow and improve, and the other likely means getting a lot of what you already thought you had anyway.