"Bench me or trade me." - Chico Ruiz
We don't know who first said the more common "Play me or trade me" ... but we know that Mike Minor hasn't said it. Not yet anyway, despite what you might have read on the Google yesterday or this morning.
Minor is a left-handed pitcher currently employed by the Atlanta Braves. The seventh overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft, Minor's minor-league track record is impeccable, including a 2.82 ERA in 22 triple-A starts. His record in the majors isn't as impressive: 4.74 ERA, though his strikeout-to-walk ratio is more than solid.
He wants to pitch for the Braves this season, but is reportedly in a three-man competition for the No. 5 slot in the rotation. A year ago, he was in a two-man competition for that slot, and lost to the other man (Brandon Beachy).
Guys got hurt so he wound up starting 15 games for the big club. But he's tired of the minor leagues and it's hard to blame him. He's really good and he knows it. Here's what got the Internet revved up, via AJC.com's David O'Brien.
"I’ve been in Triple-A all last year pretty much," he said, "and the year before I had some time [in the majors]. I’m getting older every year, so there’s no reason for me to be sitting in Triple-A."
"Overall, it’s not really – it’s about making the team, but if … I can control my third pitch and have a decent fourth pitch, then there’s no reason I shouldn’t pitch in the big leagues somewhere. If they don’t have room for me here, then there’s no reason they shouldn’t trade me or just do something with me."
Okay, so I've seen these comments interpreted as "Play me or trade me." But the actual translation is more like "Play me or you might as well trade me because it's obvious that you don't appreciate my considerable talents and I'm sure that another smarter team will."
Except the Braves are going to play him, unless something terrible happens next month. The general manager has already labeled Minor "the incumbent". What's more, those three guys supposedly in the running for the last spot in the rotation? They're actually vying for two spots, because Tim Hudson's slated to miss the first few weeks of the season. And of course a lot of things can happen between now and late April.
Mike Minor didn't issue some sort of ultimatum. He's in no position to issue an ultimatum. I suppose he could threaten to refuse to pitch if he doesn't win a job in the rotation this spring, but when's the last time that happened? Let alone worked? If he doesn't get the job he wants, he'll do what he's told because he has to. And it's possible that he might eventually be disappointed, for the simple reason that when everyone's healthy the Braves do have six pitchers good enough to start for any team in the major leagues.
Usually, though? These things take care of themselves. Because usually somebody gets hurt. Yay for getting hurt.