He's ESPN The Magazine writer Tom Friend, who's written the puffiest of puff pieces about Papa Gwynn and his precocious son, Ant'ny. I'll spare you the lion's share of the verbal fellating; I want to focus on the parts that make the Brewers organization look like it's run by a bunch of cartoon villains who were willing to do everything in their power to make sure Li'l Tony didn't get his much deserved shot in The Show.
To give you some context: this first line comes after an extended discussion of the game in September 2007 where TGJ, in the highest of ironies, tripled off of Padres great Trevor Hoffman (who Jr. apparently calls "Uncle Trevor") to steal a win and keep the Pads out of the play-offs and blah blah snorrrrrrre:
How did the Brewers repay Little T in 2008? They tried to replace him.
What a bunch of cold, heartless fucks, trying to replace the guy who helped the Brewers go 83-79 instead of 82-80. Can these men not see value? That's a whole extra win, right there.
First, they signed Mike Cameron, even though Cameron had to serve a 30-day suspension to start the season. And when Little T went down with a hamstring injury (after beginning the season 4-for-7),
Yes, friends, your eyes don't deceive you – that's a sample size of SEVEN AT-BATS cited as proof that TGJ was off to a good start in '08. I also enjoyed the part where Tom Friend (he's another dude whose full name must be used at all times, I've decided) glossed over the fact that the guy couldn't even stay healthy for five fucking games at the start of the year; nothing like taking advantage of your (allegedly) long-overdue opportunity by blowing out a wheel in the first series of the year. Carpe diem, indeed.
they fell in love with another center fielder, Gabe Kapler. The timing couldn't have been worse.
… except for the Brewers, who went 8-12 in April and May with Gwynn (when he wasn't on the DL), and promptly ran off a 58-30 stretch between the time TGJ got sent down (May 23) and got called back up (September 1).
Little T had finally mastered the art of hitting the ball where it was pitched -- the core belief of his dad. He'd keep his hands back. If they pitched him inside, he'd pull it; if they pitched him away, he'd aim for the 5.5 hole. It was simple. But then, it wasn't.
It wasn't simple largely because TGJ can't fucking do it. Sure, I've seen him try to pull in his hands and pull the inside pitch, and try to take the low-and-away pitch the other way, but it seemed like, eight times out of ten, the end result was the same: TGJ rolled over the pitch and tapped out meekly to the second baseman.
When he returned from the injury, with Cameron and Kapler hitting for power, Little T sensed the Brewers preferred players with pop in their bats.
Stupid Brewers wanting guys who hit stupid doubles and stupid home runs and draw stupid walks. I blame stupid fat Bill James for this. (Also: as a factual matter, Tom Friend is wrong when he says that "Cameron and Kapler [were] hitting for power" when Eensy Weensy Tony came back from his busted hammy. Jr. came off the DL on April 23. Cam's 25-game (not 30-day, as Tom Friend called it earlier) suspension didn't end until April 29, when he made his debut against the Cubs.)
His strength was putting the ball in play on offense and running everything down on defense. He could steal bases. He was perfect for, say, cavernous Petco Park, but maybe not compact Miller Park. He felt an inherent pressure to do more, to hit more doubles, more gappers. And even though he had zero career home runs, he felt going deep once or twice wouldn't hurt, either.
Let's play the fortune cookie game with these first couple sentences, OK? But instead of ending every phrase/sentence with "in bed," let's use: "but he had a bum leg."
His strength was putting the ball in play on offense and running everything down on defense, but he had a bum leg. He could steal bases, but he had a bum leg. He was perfect for, say, cavernous Petco Park, but he had a bum leg.
That was tons of fun. Now let's look closer at this: His strength was putting the ball in play on offense argument. I guess that's half-true, since TGJ has always been allergic to walks (just because I can't throw this out there enough: career OBP with the Brewers: .300). But he also strikes out quite a bit, and he can't bunt all that well, and he's got all of 18 infield hits in his career. I mean, he's not exactly Ichiro out there.
But all that did was play with his mind, and his fundamentals. He couldn't keep his hands back. He was given only 49 big league plate appearances the entire year, batting a career low .190, and spent most of the season (93 games) in Triple-A Nashville.
Come on, Tom Friend – finish the sentence: "where he did nothing to show that he deserved another shot at the majors, putting up slash stats of .278/.328/.331 while hitting only 8 doubles, 1 triple, and 1 homer."
It's really not worth it to go through the rest of the column. As you'd probably expect, the fact that TGJ has cooled off considerably since his fast start – following a two-hit game against the A's on June 20, he's gone .188/.206/.281, with one extra base hit and one walk – gets buried at the end of the piece amongst some preposterous jibber-jabber about how Jr.'s timing got thrown off after he hit a home run.
Listen: I don't have anything against Tony Gwynn, Jr. My problem was the large contingent of slapnuts who thought the guy was the Second Coming, and would give TGJ a standing ovation right before he grounded into a double play. That said: this shit – and by "this shit," I, of course, mean articles like Tom Friend's – has got to stop. He's not a good baseball player, and no amount of ESPN puff pieces is going to change that.