How The Teams Are Shaping Up ... Like, Really Shaping Up

SAN DIEGO, CA : Livan Hernandez #61 of the Washington Nationals is knocked on his back after making the catch on a line-drive hit by Chris Denorfia #13 of the San Diego Padres during the third inning. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

On Monday, the excellent Big League Stew posted a screen capture of Todd Coffey in a Washington Nationals throwback uniform.

 

 

David Brown took the high road, focusing on the fact that Coffey was wearing floods. It must have taken great restraint -- it was a teasing, funny post, and it confronted the Capri pants head on, but it never mentioned the obvious fact that Todd Coffey is shaped like a half-and-half carton.

 

 

 

And so here we are, one day older than we were yesterday, but now armed with the knowledge that Todd Coffey is shaped like a half-and-half carton. This brings a question that has legitimately bothered me for a long time: when is it okay to make fun of a player for his size or shape?

The first school of thought:

Players are paid to perform an athletic feat. Therefore, any failure to get in the best shape possible is an example of the athlete being negligent, so he’s fair game.

I understand this point of view, but something about it seems a little too judgmental for my tastes. I really have no idea what it’s like to be a professional baseball player, to throw bullpen sessions, warm up, or spend an hour long-tossing. No idea.

But I do know what it’s like to be a writer, and if after writing, writing, writing all day, someone I didn’t know shoved a copy of The Elements of Style in my face and said that I should spend more time learning how not to horribly split my infinitives, I’d ignore them. I get along just fine without studying some silly grammar book all well.

I don’t know why Todd Coffey is the size he is. It’s almost certainly not any of my business. And it's a little weird to judge someone for being or not being in shape. Because while throwing a baseball is an athletic endeavor, being on the rotund side doesn't preclude a person from throwing a baseball well.

Which brings up the second school of thought.

Making fun or denigrating a player because of his size is never okay.

This is the morally pure option, but it’s so danged hard. When a player is shaped like a half-and-half carton, it’s human nature to point it out. It’s not a good thing, but it’s so natural.

That conflict is the basis of the third school of thought:

Make the jokes, but every so often acknowledge that it might not be a nice thing to do, which allows you to both make the jokes and still pretend that you’re in the same zip code as the moral high ground.

Bingo. I’d never do something like this, certainly not in this very post, but I can understand why it’s pretty much the only option. We all grow up on David Letterman, Don Rickles, Saturday Night Live, or something that gets chuckles from lampooning another person's physical appearance. So it comes naturally.

But that doesn't make it right. And every time I have to write about Livan Hernandez or any of the other less aesthetically pleasing baseball players, a rude joke will cross my mind, and about 90 percent of the time I'll let them go. The other 10 percent I can't help myself. I'm not sure if it's worth it.

So this brings up a comment starter and a poll for Baseball Nation readers. When you read a snarky little dig at a player, does it make you chuckle? Or does it make you less likely to read that writer in the future? I mean, when Pablo Sandoval breaks a bone that includes the words "ham" and "ate," what are we supposed to do?

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