Without a doubt, being an asshole has some evolutionary advantages. Assholes are typically alpha-males. Most assholes are self-consumed and oblivious to the needs of others. They lack empathy and are unnaturally narcissistic.
Being an asshole can get you as far as being the Republican candidate for president.
And, in professional sports, as long as you put up the statistics, it will, in no discernible way, affect your legacy, assuming you’re indifferent to your legacy as a teammate and a decent human being.
So how does the Red Sox management—excluding NESN’s predictable and milquetoast after-school special coverage of Red Sox players—deal with the fact that their 22 year-old rookie phenom Andrew Benintendi may be a veritable asshole?
To this point, they aren’t.
Assholes in baseball have a long history. Everyone wants to think the nice guys finish on top but that has little to do with the truth.
Start with Ty Cobb. While being one of the statistically greatest players to ever play the game, the Tiger’s Hall-of-Famer was an indefensible racist jerk and, by all accounts, a terrible teammate and human being. A total asshole.
Joe Dimaggio, when charged with welcoming his inevitable replacement, Mickey Mantle—arguably the best player ever (yes, my vote is Willie Mays, too)—was a smug prick without an ounce of graciousness or empathy. Dimaggio would never get over himself.
The man who holds the MLB record for hits is generally considered to be a classic dick, a hard-hustling dick (Freudian slip acknowledged). One only has to watch Pete Rose in the pregame interviews at the 2015 All-Star game to validate those claims.
Oh, and what about the douche bag whose career at Fenway Park came to an unceremonious close on Thursday night? A-Rod was one of the greatest players of his era—yes, Ken Griffey Jr. was better. But his chickens finally came home to roost to the reviled former-Yankee. (Yet there is no self-respecting Red Sox fan alive who will ever see A-Rod without a face-full of Jason Varitek’s glove.)
So Sox fans are now watching a young man step into the venerable left field slot. How can anyone walk into a position held by Williams, Yaz, Rice, Greenwell, Ramirez without humility?
The short answer: Rake like Benintendi.
Sure, Teddy Ballgame was a dick with the press but he was also the greatest hitter to ever play the game. And take note, Jim Rice waited until his last vote of the HOF ballot, mostly due to his acrimonious relationship with the media, until getting in.
And Manny was an anomaly. Manny was doing Manny. That type of idiocy, oblivion and insouciance can never be faked, although never fully forgiven, either.
If Benintendi continues to hit at the major league level then maybe he can make a case for being a pompous asshole, despite the fact that it screams of a Napoleon complex. Fans are far more forgiving when the team wins.
But there’s also something to be said for being nice, possessing humility and being talented, although as history has taught us, the three can be mutually exclusive.