Long-time St. Louis Cardinals fans probably remember former outfielder George Hendrick for three things:
1) His role as the team’s power threat during years of a different kind of play by the Cards. He was a part of the club from 1978-1984, covering the first half of the Whiteyball era.
2) His long uniform pants covering his stirrup socks. Hendrick was the first Cardinal to do this, something that is the norm today.
3) His unwillingness to speak with the press, which led to him being nicknamed “Silent George.”
Now in the generally-anonymous role of first base and outfield coach for the Tampa Bay Rays, Hendrick rarely makes the papers these days. Many players have since followed his trend-setting ways.
There may be a new silent outfielder in St. Louis as Colby Rasmus, coming off his second consecutive start and solid performance on Monday night, turned down repeated requests from the press for remarks following the game.
In recent weeks, Rasmus has been a focal point for media as well as fan criticism as his slump in the field and at the plate had reached almost three months in duration. The centerfielder was ceding playing time to fellow left-handed hitter Jon Jay and comments and actions by manager Tony La Russa led to some drawing the conclusion that Rasmus had lost his starting role.
Earlier, remarks made by La Russa just prior to the all-star break regarding Colby’s use of external hitting instruction touched off a firestorm of backlash about the player himself as well as his long-time coach and father, Tony.
Trade rumors, whether founded or not, raced across the sports pages and internet. This remains a hot topic two weeks later.
Against this backdrop, the soft-spoken Rasmus has decided not to talk, apparently to let his play on the field speak for him instead.
On Monday night, several press members, on deadline, expressed immediate concern via Twitter over Rasmus’ new stance. At least one media personality, Brian Stull of 101 ESPN Radio in St. Louis, said he understood Rasmus’ position, drawing disagreement from multiple peers.
Rasmus is in a tough place as everything he says is not only amplified, but also distorted by a subset whose minds have already been made up about him as a player and a person.
Yet if he does not speak, he may take further risk as some will try to view and interpret his actions through their own lenses and may or may not be accurate in their reading of the situation.
Some believe that Rasmus should try to be more open with fans directly, as he was when he granted an extensive television interview with FOX Sports Midwest’s Pat Parris in New York last week.
We have no way of knowing if the 24-year-old’s new stance of silence will change tomorrow or after Sunday’s non-waiver trade deadline has passed, but his father thinks it is a permanent decision.
“I’m betting the house they never get another comment out of him…..ever,” wrote Tony Rasmus, aka RCWarrior, on The Cardinal Nation message board after Monday’s game.
The main question remaining is how long “ever” includes Colby being a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.