It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night For Marcell Ozuna

Marcell Ozuna evidently had himself a truly fantastic night of sleep, his restlessness soothed by the high-amplitude, low-frequency delta waves that shut off his conscious mind, and carried him into a dream state …

A dream sleep where all of the pitches are hanging sliders, and RBIs are as plentiful as coins in a fountain, and home runs are delivered on demand, and a wee .331 slugging percentage is erased and replaced by something from the Babe Ruth collection. And during the deep sleep cycle, muscles receive more blood supply, the blood pressure decreased, energy levels are recharged, body tissues are repaired, plate discipline sharpens, and the urge to pull outside fastballs fades.

Yes, this was a wondrous night of sleep, and so blissful that it caused Ozuna to rise too late to report for work. And he missed the 12:15 p.m. start of the Royals-Cardinals game at Busch Stadium.

And while it was wrong of Ozuna to oversleep and fail to be there for his team —  more on that in a moment — let’s face it, this man probably needed to sleep … a long sleep.  It’s been a hard day’s night. Ozuna is off to an unexpectedly poor start as a first-year Cardinal, and stress and anxiety are his enemies.

As the sage Ernest Hemingway once said, “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”

Ozuna could have been dreaming of his 2017 season for Miami with the delta waves replaying a video loop of prolific offensive production: 37 homers, 124 RBIs, a .548 slugging percentage, .924 OPS.

Yeah, and that would make sense, given  Ozuna’s meager output of 3 homers, 20 RBIs, a .331 slug and .626 OPS for the Cardinals. It’s like that old Otis Redding song: “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember.”

OK, let’s get sort of serious now.

Many quickie, Bits-sized points for you:

1. Ozuna screwed up, no excuse, plain and simple, shouldn’t have happened, unprofessional, etc.

2. No one from the media has to lecture Ozuna about that; he knows he messed up, did something foolish and is sincerely contrite.

3. One more dollop of advice for the medias: Ozuna’s salary doesn’t matter.  So don’t tie his late arrival to his pay grade. It is not relevant. Ozuna  makes $9 million this season. If he made $900,000, or $90,000 or $9,000 … the principle is the same: Gotta show up for work.

4. Ozuna overslept and was late for a game with Miami in 2015, so this makes it two snooze-u-lose episodes. Not enough to qualify as a pattern of unprofessionalism or irresponsible conduct. Maybe Ozuna needs a clock that could double as construction machinery, and serve as a backup alarm for the local firehouse. A friend of mine who had the frustrating habit of sleeping through wakeup bells or buzzers found a gonzo setup that has four alarms scheduled to go off 10 minutes apart; is equipped with a 113-decibel  alarm, which is as loud as a jackhammer; comes with flashing lights and a bed-shaking unit that’s attached to tour mattress.  Not kidding.

5. His manager thinks highly of Ozuna, the person and teammate. His teammates think highly of Ozuna the person and teammate. This is matters. That he has their respect, and that they are willing to forgive him. That speaks volumes … even if Ozuna can’t always hear it if he’s snoring and in a sleepy trance.

6. As part of the “learning experience,” that always accompanies the acknowledgement of a mistake, I’m assuming Ozuna already has learned that being a baseball player in St. Louis is a helluva lot different than being a ballplayer in Miami. To use the old cliche, baseball players are in a fish bowl here. In Miami, baseball players aren’t in a fish bowl because the 5,000 fans who care to show up attend games in a stadium that has a fish bowl with real fish …  in a built-in aquarium. Ain’t no ballplayers in there.

7. Are fans upset at Ozuna? I don’t know. You tell me. But if you are mad or disappointed, how much does his below-average performance factor into this? If Ozuna was rocking and socking 12 homers, a 39 RBIs and a .589 slugging percentage right now would it be easier to dismiss his sleep-in as a minor foible? Bring the lumber, we’ll forgive the slumber.

8. My friend and 101ESPN co-host Michelle Smallmon made an interesting point, and I think I have come around to agreeing with her:  Rather than get ticked at Ozuna’s game-time no-show Thursday, many Cardinals fans were probably cool (happy?) with this Ozuna-Snooza for this reason: it meant Tyler O’Neill would be in the lineup and playing left field instead of Ozuna, I have no idea why O’Neill wasn’t in the original lineup in the first place, but …

9. As you’ve read and heard approximately 5 million times already, Ozuna has felt pressure to do well for his new team and fans. He put extra pressure on himself, especially after lurching to a slow start. Human nature and all of that. After making a mistake that’s a source of embarrassment for him, Ozuna will likely tighten up with even more pressure. I hope he can resist, and somehow decompress. Because the more that Ozuna huffs and puffs and tries to prove that he’s a power hitter … he becomes a weaker hitter. It’s self-defeating.

10. Fans and media generally have been patient and supportive as Ozuna thrashes his way through the slump, the bad batted-ball luck, his own jumpiness, and his pull-happy trigger that has him trying to bash every pitch into the upper levels of left field.  After Ozuna scratched himself from the lineup by spending too much time with the Sandman, is the patience expiring? Is the support thinning? I guess we’ll find out.

11. If Ozuna cranks two homers three doubles and drives in eight runs this weekend to help the Cardinals win a series in Pittsburgh, this little sleep number will change.

Instead of talking about Ozuna taking 40 winks, we’ll be talking about him reemerging as the force that nearly hit 40 homers last season.

Instead of taking offense at his sleeping …  we’ll be pleased to see his offense reawakening.

12. Now if only Greg Holland could show up too late to pitch.

13. Just remember something: this was all John Mabry’s fault.

14. When manager Mike Matheny was informed that Ozuna hadn’t shown up and wasn’t answering the phone and someone had to go to Ozuna’s apartment to handle a potential emergency and a downright scary situation, Matheny signaled to the bullpen for Bud Norris.

15. When Matheny made the late lineup change before the game, subbing O’Neill in for Ozuna, he attempted to make a double switch.

It’s way past time for me to take a nap.

Thanks for reading …


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