Everybody has something to like about Corey Hart.
Some people like his bat, some people like his versatility, and a lot of people like the fact that he’s willing to do what he can for the team. This can make dealing with the business side of baseball hard.
In the case of many professional ballplayers, fans young and old look up to them for their work ethic and ability to sacrifice themselves for the betterment of the team. This isn’t necessarily a fallacy, but it is overstating the point. The real fact of the matter is that these people want to stay employed. The way to keep a job is to keep doing it right, or at least make your self bow to the will of your corporate overlords in hopes of earning their good graces.
Does this mean that Corey Hart’s good-faith offer as posted by Adam McCalvy this week is just a simple ruse to keep a job? Does this mean that Corey Hart is not a good guy? Of course not. It just means that he’s really smart about toeing the company line.
Corey Hart is not an outfielder, or at least not any more. He’s lost his outfield range, he’s lost speed, and he’s lost the trust of millions of Brewers fans as they watch him wander around the high wall in the right field corner looking for another double dropped down the line. He lost his position – or would have regardless – to Norichika Aoki, who is far more competent at that position.
Luckily for him, circumstance and experimentation has found him a new one. For now.
The move to first base has been most fortuitous for Corey, who got to rekindle some of his early days in baseball and has turned out to be quite respectable on the defensive side. But he’s not really a first baseman, either. He is a replacement first baseman. If we could project that Mat Gamel produced at the same rate he did before the injury, you’d find that Corey Hart becomes obsolete almost entirely as a Milwaukee Brewer.
That is a realization he has no doubt made. But he knows he is also well-liked and comfortable in Milwaukee. The fans like him here; we rally around him. He’s one of us, in a way. Just a hard-working guy with a family who is willing to do what he can to help out.
It’s hard to say, but in the business of baseball I think you’ll find the idea of a ‘locker room guy’ recedes in importance as said guy’s contract numbers begin to rise. Corey is going to make $10 million next season, and that number certainly won’t stagnate if he and his agent have anything to say about it. Which they will and have every right to – a guy’s gotta feed his kids, right?
But the fact of the matter is that he simply doesn’t need to feed his kids that much on the Brewers’
dime with his performance. He has been consistently inconsistent throughout his career with Milwaukee. He hits for power, but at the same time doesn’t drive in runs. He strikes out almost 1/4 of his at-bats. He’s injury prone. In truth, he’s on the down slope of his specific career trajectory. He’s performed well in the past, but never enough to warrant anything major. As a career .276 hitter, he’s good – but NOT irreplaceable.
Don’t feel bad if you’re a Corey Hart fan – 90% of Major League players are the same way. He’s just your player, so it’s understandable that you want to push for him. But there comes a time when everyone has to move on, including Milwaukee’s front office.
So it makes sense that the Brewers aren’t discussing a contract extension with Hart right now. There’s no need to – he’s under contract (and a very good one, at that) for another year and he hasn’t really shown anything to say he needs to be a top priority at this point. It was a shrewd move by Hart to lay himself at the mercy of the team through his agent and then to the press, but the fact that nothing’s being discussed shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. There’s very little to discuss.
If Corey Hart wants a new contract from Milwaukee, he’s going to have to earn it. At the rate he would stand to make from Milwaukee at this point, he’s got a whole lot more to show than the numbers he’s putting up.