Dear Cody Bellinger,
I write this not to be like the fans who ‘at you’ on twitter. We have written other open letters, and maybe they were read. It’s likely that they weren’t. I guess the purpose of this letter is to get my thoughts down on paper, and for my own therapeutic reasons. Certainly, I wish this was another installment in our ‘Bellinger Bombs’ series. It cannot be that because you went 0 for 4 tonight. You’re going 0 for 4 entirely too often this season, and you’re now 1 for your last 21.
None of this is to say that your 2018 season has been bad. You have come to the plate 199 times this year. I think I have seen all but about ten of those plate appearances. Studying your tendencies, I won’t pretend to be Turner Ward. Nevertheless, I am seeing things I can’t ignore. I’ve been patient – and I’ve waited almost two months to avoid being reactive. You’re a young ballplayer, and you had immense success at an age that most guys are still trying to conquer the lower levels of the minor leagues.
But the last couple games, I noticed something. Your socks are high. To me – that’s you mentally acknowledging that you’re struggling. You look like a player who lacks confidence. Before the season started, you said that you don’t ‘give an (expletive)’ about a sophomore slump. It’s just baseball, you said. You look as healthy and as athletic as you ever have. It’s great seeing you play center every night. So if you’re healthy, the problem has to be mental and from an approach standpoint.
I’m not going to write an open letter to an Austin Barnes, or a Chris Taylor, or even a Pedro Baez. They’re fine ballplayers. But I write this letter to you because I believe you have the talent to go down in the annals of Dodger greats. I have been watching baseball obsessively for almost 30 years now. When I saw your swing last season – almost from the first time I saw it – I said aloud that it was the best left-handed swing I’ve seen since Ken Griffey Jr.
I cannot tell you how highly I think of your abilities. But if we’re being honest with one another – you’re playing substandard baseball. The Dodgers need more from you. Quietly, you’re a reason the Dodgers are underachieving. It’s a lot to heap on a 22-year old player – the expectations were enormous – maybe almost unrealistic. I still think you’re good enough that you can get hot and carry a ball club for a few weeks. Few talents in the entire game have that quality.
Night after night, I see you swinging through hitter’s pitches. We hear about adjustments you saw on video, or that you’re right on the cusp of a breakthrough. All the while, your average has plummeted to .244, and you’re getting on base at a .307 clip. That is Jurickson Profar and Jose Iglesias territory, Cody. You’re slugging .444, putting you behind guys like Leonys Martin, Kevin Pillar, and Miguel Andujar. There is no way that these things should occur on any planet in the world where baseball is played. Players like Tyler Austin, Jed Lowrie, and Pedro Alvarez have more home runs than you. Even for someone who doesn’t judge a player on the long ball – and I love the long ball – it drives me nuts to see this. Your name should not even be mentioned in the same few sentences with these players.
You’re Cody Bellinger. The 2017 Rookie of the Year. You set an all-time record last season for homers in the National League by a rookie. What in the world is going on between your ears that has allowed the book on getting you out to become ‘throw this guy fastballs and there’s no way he makes contact’. That’s insanity. Pure insanity.
I want to see you take more walks. Using the whole field really would help slow the game down for you. These are the very basics that a fan who didn’t play above collegiate baseball has no business telling you. The take home message here is that Cody Bellinger is the one holding back Cody Bellinger.
You’re getting yourself out time and again. The weight training, the nutrition; all that stuff made for great headlines. It’s made for really unspectacular baseball.
I think you’re a good week or two from turning this around and having a big season. You’re one of the marquee stars in the greatest organization in sports. The world is your oyster still kid – so have a little fun out there – and don’t play tight. I think the game has probably always come easy for you. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Obviously, you will have to start mastering the mental approach of baseball; that’s something that only the greatest could ever master. Read Ted Williams’ book on hitting. You’re still one of the best physical talents the game has to offer.
We can get all the guys healthy that we want – but we can’t make a run without Bellinger being Bellinger. You have to get right, whatever it takes. It has to happen soon – not in late August and not for a week or so in July. I believe in you, as much as anyone out there. But it’s time to ride or die. Let’s drop the socks and start getting some knocks, shall we?
Dodgers Nation (Clint)
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