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Full tilt. Amped up. Maximum effort. All out. That’s how Brett Lawrie plays the game.
Whether he’s diving into camera wells for foul balls, running the base paths as if there are a swarm of bees chasing him, or even tossing a helmet at an umpire, Brett Lawrie is an extremely exciting player to watch.
Some have praised the young Canadian for his intensity, while others have criticized him for what can be described as a reckless abandonment for safety. However, there’s no question Brett Lawrie plays baseball with an incredibly unique style.
For a man who’s just 23 years old and entering his third big league season, is that level of intensity sustainable? Can he continue playing the way he does and not get hurt?
It’s the narrative that will more than likely surround Brett Lawrie the first part of the season; will his style of play be a liability for the Blue Jays, or Lawrie’s unique brand of baseball be an asset to the team?
Stephen Brunt asked Brett Lawrie the question we’ve all been wondering on Prime Time Sports on past Wednesday.
“You play the game high speed, high intensity all the time, and you’re going to beat yourself up a bit doing that. Is that the only way you can play the game? Could you dial it back a little bit?”
This was Brett Lawrie’s response:
“Me going hard is how I go hard, and I’ve done it my whole life. To stop now doesn’t really make sense.”
To ask Brett Lawrie to dial it back would in essence be asking Brett Lawrie not to be himself. Lawrie at 75% percent would simply not be the true Brett Lawrie Blue Jays fans know and love. Who knows if it’s even possible for Brett to let off the gas.
In all of Major League baseball, there are very few guys that play the game as hard as Brett Lawrie does. However, the key for Brett Lawrie moving forward will be about playing smarter … not harder.
Is attempting to steal home with two out and Jose Bautista at the plate really the best idea? These are all things that come with experience. Hopefully last season, Brett Lawrie learned what did work and what didn’t work and will take that reconnaissance and make better judgements moving forward.
The thing is, I can’t really fault Brett Lawrie for doing some of the questionable things he did last year. Yes, he may have displayed some over aggression and at times, but Lawrie didn’t display a complete lack of judgement.
He didn’t forget how many outs there were, he didn’t run through any red lights from the base coaches, and he didn’t lose a ball in the sun with sunglasses perched on his cap. The only thing I can fault Brett Lawrie for is doing exactly what he does; playing the game hard.
The whole Brett Lawrie situation really emphasizes the divide in baseball between players who don’t seem to care enough, and others who care too much.
Every year, players are grilled for “dogging it” and not running out ground balls. And yet Brett Lawrie is chastised for playing the game too hard. He’s grilled for caring too much when there are other players out there who could seemingly care less.
Brett Lawrie plays the game without fear; not many baseball players today play the game with the same boldness as he does. Lawrie is unique in that it seems like he does play every game like it’s Game 7 of the World Series, as Alex Anthopoulos noted.
He may be a little frightening to watch at times, but personally … I like how Brett Lawrie’s intensity dial is permanently set at 11. He plays every game like he has something to prove, whether it be Opening Day or the 162nd game of the season.
That style of play may lend itself to Brett Lawrie being a little more injury-prone than your average player, but that also means he’s prone to pulling off memorable plays like this or this and even the one below.
What I really appreciate is Brett isn’t afraid to take risks; which is extremely rare in a sport where athletes are coddled and viewed as precious commodities from the time they’re teenagers. To risk life and limb to catch a foul ball isn’t something you’ll see too often in MLB these days.
I think over time with more big league experience and a little elder guidance, as Alex Anthopoulos said, Brett will learn to pick his spots a little bit better.
Again, it’s not about playing harder … it’s about playing smarter.
In the meantime, if every stadium could just install a ball pit in their camera well, then we could avoid situations like what happened in Yankee Stadium in the future.