Hustle and aggression are the keys to baseball success

Joe Fleming


In the dog days of summer, when it is 100-plus degrees or after hitting a weak ground ball to first base, players may find it challenging to do one the most elemental aspects of the game of baseball: hustle. 

For years, I’ve seen a trend in baseball where players take a dogmatic approach to the game and only run hard when they absolutely have to in order to make the play and not be scorned by their manager. The persona of, “I’m too good to hustle” seems to be surrounding the game. 

Recently, I’ve seen a trend in the opposite direction. Rookies like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have reinvented an old-fashioned style of baseball and thus begins the era of hustle.

First let me explain one thing, hustle is not just speed. There are plenty of players who have speed, but do not hustle. 

Hanley Ramirez fits this scenario. Most fans can remember the 2010 season’s gaffe when Ramirez let a pop fly drop over his shoulder and then booted the ball all the way down the left field foul line. He subsequently began a leisurely jog after the ball while runs were crossing the plate. Then manager of the Florida Marlins, Freddy Gonzalez, removed Ramirez from the game. The incident earned Ramirez the moniker of “No-Hustle Hanley.” 

And while Ramirez shows moderate effort in Miami, players like Trout and Harper are examples of just how important it is to give 100-percent effort in everything they do on the field. 

Trout, 21, who has reached all of his total offensive numbers from last season in half as many at bats this season, is a prime example of a major talent who exhibits big time hustle. Sometimes called an intangible, or production that won’t show up on a stat sheet, is Trout’s ability to beat out infield ground balls or stretch singles to the outfield into doubles. And for the Anaheim Angels’ manager Mike Sciocia, who plays a small-ball brand of baseball, Trout provides the team a runner in scoring position without having to sacrifice a batter by bunting – all because of hustle.

A couple thousand miles away (2,662 to be exact) in Washington, D.C., the Nationals have one of the biggest storylines of the year in Harper, who is only 19 years old. It’s impressive enough just being on a big-league roster at that age, but he has also turned many heads around in the media across the country. 

The Nationals have rushed the young phenom into the majors partly because the club has suffered so many injuries this season. But with only one full year of minor league baseball under his belt, Harper has not disappointed any of his fans or critics. 

Harper is not shy in saying he plays with a chip on his shoulder and aggression on this field is just what baseball needs. Harper reminds me of a young Pete Rose, a.k.a. Charlie Hustle, who would surely be a first-ballot hall of famer if it weren’t for his gambling addiction. 

Hustle, speed and aggression from a batter can create chaos for the opposing defense. Having to rush the plays because they know Harper is bearing down on the bag can cause inaccurate throws or misplayed attempts. 

In a game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Harper stole home on a pickoff play to first by Cole Hamels. Earlier in the game, Hamels intentionally beaned Harper in the back. After the game, Hamels called it a “Welcome-to-the-Big-Leagues” beaning. Harper responded with the swipe of home. 

The home run ball is still entertaining and there will always be a place for it in the game, but hustle can rise the fans out of their seats just as fast as the long ball.

Joe Fleming can be reached at