Better the devil you don’t know?

A number of years ago, Col. Henry Blake of the M*A*S*H television series, when faced with a choice of the known or the unknown, commented, “Better the devil you know.”  Often people prefer the status quo, despite any shortcomings, to the fear of encountering something new and untested.
So why are baseball fans just the opposite?
Reading the posts on MVN, or the various mailbags on mlb.com (see a Brewers’ example), and, of course, just about any fantasy baseball site’s list of “sleepers” ready to emerge that all include Alex Gordon, Kelly Johnson, Dustin Pedroia…and, of course, the Brewers’ very own Ryan Braun.  It seems that fans are anxious to see these unproven prospects advance to their respective parent clubs well before the clubs’ GM’s feel that they are ready.  Two theories I’ve developed include:
1. Every new player represents a “Holy Grail” leading to the promised land of a World championship–without any prior MLB stats, every rookie/prospect could, theoretically, be the next Ted Williams (a .400 hitter), Hank Aaron (home run king), or Cy Young…the, “Holy Cow…can this kid play” phenomenon that is enough to put any team over the top.
2. We all love a bargain. Let’s face it, we all cringed when Barry Zito got inked for over $100 million and just about anytime the Yankees or Red Sox sign away a top talent in hopes of buying a pennant. Contrast that to a homegrown, “we found him (and developed him) from scratch…na na na na na.”
Of course, for every Albert Pujols, there are two Nick Neugebauers. GM’s, therefore, avoid rushing players, as if, somehow, a poor week at the plate will scar a hitter’s fragile ego for life (didn’t seem to hurt Prince Fielder that much, did it?). Of course, GM’s also have to consider payroll and when to start a player’s MLB playing time clock…as well as roster limitations and having players at every position in their system (in other words, promoting the only catcher at Nashville to sit on the bench in Milwaukee could cause all kinds of problems).
So what’s a fan to do? Two things come to mind:
1. Gripe and gripe some more.
2. Pickup one of these sleepers in your keeper league…so you might have something to brag about…next year.
David Hannes
Copyright 2007

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