When I was a kid, my mom used to listen to the Cubs games on the radio while she tanned. She’d put the radio in the kitchen window, crank it up, and listen while she caught some rays. The one thing that really sticks in my memory from the piece of my baseball childhood is my mother cussing a blue streak every time they put Paul Assenmacher in the game to pitch. She despised him and swore that the Cubs put him in the game because they wanted to lose. To this day if you bring up his name, it will set her off.
So here I am, a couple of decades older, and I came across a Paul Assenmacher baseball card in my meager collection. The memories of my mother’s rants against Paul Ass N Balker (that’s what she called him) spurred me into finding out just how terrible a pitcher he really was. And with the help of Baseball-Reference.com, I discovered that…he wasn’t that bad. Aside from a couple of bad years, he was an overall decent reliever.
So why the hate?
I’m guessing the bad outings permanently tainted him in my mother’s mind.
This has led me to the creation of a new term: Assenmacher’d. It’s applied to a player that is hated on for past or perceived crappiness regardless of how well he is currently playing.
Take last year’s Jeff Baker for example. Never a sexy choice to begin with, his inability to hit right-handed pitching really worked against him. People cried and whined when Quade started hitting him lead-off against left-handers, even though his numbers showed he was mashing lefties.
Baker is lucky, though. He seems to have been granted a reprieve from being Assenmacher’d, in part because people FINALLY realized that he was killer on southpaws and because he’s hitting righties much better this season. The reprieve isn’t guaranteed to last (particularly if his righty-hitting abilities suddenly regress), but he should be in the clear for a little while.
For another example, look at this year’s Jeff Samardzija. Okay, stop screaming. Did he bring a lot of this on himself? Absolutely, what with his inconsistent pitching and questionable facial hair. But we also have to admit that he wasn’t helped with all of the bouncing around he endured. And yes, he’s still walking guys, but he’s also getting outs before the free passes come back to haunt him. If he continues this much improved streak (like I hope he does, not just for the benefit of the team, but also so I don’t end up looking like an ass), people will still curse and groan when he’s brought into games. I don’t feel there will ever be a break for him. He’s been firmly Assenmacher’d in the hive mind of Cubs fans.
Of course, the arguement can also be made that just about any player that puts on a Cubs uniform will find themselves Assenmacher’d at one point or another.
If they’re lucky, those points will be very short.