Jazz Chisholm led off Friday’s game in Houston with a home run. He bunted on the first pitch Thursday and stole second. The Miami Marlins’ rising star has four home runs and nine runs-batted-in entering Saturday since a loud team meeting Tuesday that reportedly centered around him.
If the point of that meeting was to get Chisholm out of a slump, mission accomplished.
If it was reign in Chisholm’s personality as some reports have it, well, the Marlins’ official Twitter account switched on Friday night to a picture of Chisholm sticking out his tongue. How’s that for an answer on who won out?
Baseball needs more Chisholms. The Marlins sure do. He’s the best player in their lineup, a dynamic talent capable of igniting an offense and a reason to watch through a so-far humdrum season.
There he was after his first of two home runs Friday night, running around the bases with dramatic hand motions, flexing a bicep and offering his signature Eurostep just before stepping on home plate.
Seriously, it was a big deal to baseball traditionalists. “Mercy,” respected baseball writer Jose de Jesus Ortiz tweeted. “Even by the ‘Let the kids play’ standards his antics during his home run trot were something.”
He’s something different. That’s for sure. It’s not for everyone to run the bases like that, just as the monotone, act-like-you’ve-been-here trot doesn’t have to be for everyone, either. A little spark is good for baseball’s soul.
Chisholm, as a kid in the Bahamas, watched Ken Griffey Jr. swing. Griffey had a poetic arc of a swing. He also wore his hat backwards in practices as a kid in a manner that baseball traditionalists like manager Buck Showalter ranted against. It sounds get-off-my-lawn funny today.
Now it’s Chisholm’s turn in the sun. This isn’t all about personality. His work habits reportedly are an issue. It happens. At the end of spring training, long before he called the team meeting Tuesday to let players air grievances, manager Don Mattingly said Chisholm’s work habits were, “a little all over the map. Like a young player, he’s up and he’s down. I want him more consistent in his routines, consistent in his preparation. We just want to see growth.”
That’s part of many players’ journey. But as for Chisholm’s growth? He either leads the Marlins or was tied for the lead in runs, home runs, stolen bases, triples, runs-batted in, on-base-plus slugging percentage.
That’s typically a ticket for other players to say, “I’ll have more of what he’s having.” But some veteran teammates question how Chisholm acts or — “teammates apparently aren’t always as enamored as fans who love the style and sizzle,” as the New York Post’s Jon Heyman wrote.
There are lots of things to question about this Marlins season. Avisail Garcia being signed to a big contract by Marlins’ standards and having an anemic .566 OPS. The ability of general manager Kim Ng and owner Bruce Sherman to acquire another bat in a lineup needing one or two is another issue.
The only thing to question about Chisholm is if that team meeting broke his 1-for-35 slump. If so, it got him back on track and the Marlins back to winning. They’re 4-0 entering Saturday since that meeting and he’s a prime reason why.
In a sport of full of unwritten behavioral rules, Chisholm often writes his own. He wears Grand Theft Auto-patterned cleats. He’s part owner in a glove company that makes blueberry and strawberry gloves he wears. He dyes his hair different colors. He talks big and bold.
“Forty-forty, that’s what a breakout season is for me,” he told me this spring.
Forty home runs and 40 stolen bases for a player who had 18 and 23, respectively, as a rookie?
“If we’re talking about a breakout year, it’s not 20-20,” he says.
“We can talk about 30-30 as a breakout year,” he says. “But I’m sitting the bar high as high as it goes. Forty-forty.”
He has 12 home runs and 10 stolen bases about a third into the season. That means his lofty goals remain in play. You allow Chisholm to be himself if that’s where it goes. Maybe he needs a directional nudge here or there, as many players do.
But quit watching his Eurostep if it bothers you for some reason. Watch his game’s progressive step. That’s the kind of behavior you don’t question in team meetings unless it’s to ask: How do we start producing like Jazz, too?