Felipe Lopez is a talented kid who’s been jerked around his entire career, if not his entire life. According to the Slam Sports story (listed below), Lopez had an attitude and it didn’t sit well with the Jays’ fans, so they were willing to give up on him when he was just 22. I won’t fault them for that because 1) chemistry is important and if it wasn’t there, it wasn’t there, and 2) a good, solid trading can do wonders for a crappy attitude. Though it was probably a blow to his pride, the trade really also benefited Lopez, who came to a team that already contained Jose Guillen, a guy whose attitude problem so outshone any other sullenness that Lopez could easily blend in with the crowd.
I think that Larkin may have been beneficial to Lopez’s game and self-confidence, but that ultimately Larkin set Lopez up to fail. It is my opinion that Larkin was so desperate to have a say in his own legacy that he was willing to proclaim Lopez to be the imminent shortstop of the future even though Lopez really-and-truly was not ready. If I had been told by one of the greats that I was next-in-line to be great myself, I too might have displayed the overdeveloped sense of entitlement that we saw from Lopez at the beginning of this season.
Going into this season, I agreed with the decision to start Aurilia at short over Lopez. It wasn’t about Aurilia; it was about Lopez. I don’t know what the spring training statistics said, but I do know what I saw first-hand while I was there: the sneering mug of an impetuous little punk who needed a chance to grow up before he could reliably take the field full-time.
But, as life-changing attitude adjustments often do, that changed very suddenly at the beginning of May. You could see the change in a quote buried in a story in the Cincinnati Post (Reds Might See New Faces, May 5, 2005): “I’m over that stage of trying to show them what I can do, because I’m sure they know by now,” said Lopez. “Every time they give me the opportunity, I just try to do something to win.”
To me, that said a lot. It said that this incredibly capable guy who’d be pressing, struggling his whole career to grab the good things to which he felt he was entitled had finally decided to just be who he is and let good things come to him. It’s an easy lesson to talk about, but even if you’ve seen it in action, “letting good things happen” is remarkably difficult to live out.
I know I must come off as anti-Lopez sometimes, but I truly am happy to see some of those good things finally coming his way. When he drops that sneer, Lopez has a sweet, genuine smile that just warms my heart. He really can be great, and he does deserve it.