In the world of writing in general, and baseball writing in particular, platitudes get a bad rap. The expectation is that someone who is paid to create words, whether those words are projected on paper, on the web or elsewhere, is creative enough to form thoughts in a way that is more adventurous.
It’s a valid expectation, but at the same time, we need to recall the purpose of language. Whenever one puts pen to paper the end goal is to convey meaning to another person, or a number of people. No matter how impressive your vocabulary is, or how ingenious your thoughts are, if your message is not understood you have failed.
As a result, platitudes are actually very effective writing tools, in a sense. They may be stale and unoriginal, but they are also easily understood and convey a particular meaning with clarity.
If I were to say something like, “Rob Refsnyder, always the bridesmaid, never the bride” I would deserve 0 points for writing prowess, but we have moved the conversation forward quickly because you know what I’m getting at, or the gist of it.
Refsnyder always seemed destined to be a folk hero for Yankees fans. He’s not particularly physically imposing, he doesn’t have a lot of power, prospect guys never loved him and he’s a bit old for someone trying to get a foothold in the major leagues as he turns 26 prior to next season.
Despite those flaws the second baseman-turned-outfielder continually put up outstanding stats in the minors that made box-score scouts drool. When he got his first shot in 2015, he put up a tidy .302/.348/.512 line in 16 games. So, how did his road to being an average player who is disproportionately liked get derailed?
Well, at the end of the 2015 season there was a thing that happened called Greg Bird. Bird fever (Bird flu?) swept Yankees nation as the big first baseman looked like a middle-of-the-order presence the minute he arrived in the major leagues. It seemed clear that he was the new toast of the town and Refsynder had been relegated to second-tier youngster of note.
Then when all seemed lost, Bird tore a labrum in his right shoulder putting him on the disabled list for the duration of 2016. That opened the door once again for Refsnyder. While Starlin Castro had taken the second-base job, there was some outfield and first base playing time available early in the summer when the Yankees appeared to be another old and relatively uninteresting bunch.
That was Refsnyder’s window. He could have come in, put together some solid at-bats and endeared a Yankees faithful looking for a reason to cheer. Instead, the Korean-born rookie put together an uninspiring .250/.328/.309 line and lost his chance to be a pinstripe favorite.
In August, Gary Sanchez arrived. At the deadline, the Yankees made trades that put them in position for a full-on Youthquake in the years to come. Aaron Judge is a guy with galvanizing talent. For this point on, there are too many positive things going on for the Bronx Bombers for the average fan to concern him or herself with a plucky underdog with good Triple-A numbers and defensive uncertainty.
Refsnyder was coming up at the perfect time when any young talent would have been lionized by a fanbase unused to delayed gratification finally looking to the future. He would have meant very little during better seasons, but his lean-years folk hero potential was undeniable. Now, it’s too late. He’s been overshadowed by Sanchez and Bird and the wave of talent on the horizon.
That doesn’t mean he won’t contribute to the Yankees success going forward as a role player. That was his most likely scenario as a prospect and he certainly looks capable of doing that now. He just won’t be more than that Yankees fans.
He won’t get to be the bride.
Photo: Kim Klement/USA Today Sports