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Indians Indians Archive A Shell of a Guy: Taking a Look at Shelley Duncan
Written by Nino Colla

Nino Colla

shelleyduncanThere are plenty of cheesy clichés and stereotypes that sports announcers bestow upon certain athletes.

None cheesier than the one about hating a certain player you play against, but loving him if he plays for your team.

Yet as cheesy as it may sound, Shelley Duncan is the absolute epitome of that type of athlete. It seemed only fitting that he was born and bred into being a New York Yankee, the team that is despised by many.

He doesn’t earn the distinction by simply having donned the pinstripes. There is a different type of “hate” that goes towards someone like Derek Jeter, who is definitively Mr. Yankee. That hate is more envy and bitterness for being “Jeter” and “A True Yankee” that is just associated with greatness.

Duncan hasn’t earned the hate from fan bases for continuously defeating their teams like some players earn.

No, he’s earned that tag of being the player other team’s love to hate because he’s done things that just make you hate him.

But now Duncan is a member of the Cleveland Indians and after surviving a round of roster cuts and remaining on the 40-man roster, he looks like he’s here to stay for now.

The Indians and Duncan make for an interesting pair. Shelley is the son of Dave Duncan, current pitching coach of the St. Louis Cardinals and former player for the Tribe. The father-son pair holds the distinction of being the second father-son combination to hit at least 10 home runs in one season for the Indians.

That alone makes for a good story when you consider why and how Duncan is with this team. But given history, you would think Duncan and the Indians make for an unlikely partnership.

In 2007, while playing for the Yankees, Duncan did a nice thing and signed an autograph for a fan of the opposing team. Unfortunately Griffin Whitman was a Red Sox fan and not many share Shelley Duncan’s sense of humor.


Whitman was a 10-year-old at the time and the Boston Herald quoted him as saying he was happy that Duncan gave him his autograph, but not so much about the message that preceded it. His mother was much more disapproving.

With a youth, that is understandable. Perhaps if Duncan “joked” with an older fan, it would have been hilarious.

Regardless, Duncan said it was just that, a sophomoric joke that was taken the wrong way. If anything it gives you a look into whom Duncan really is.

It pretty much subscribes to another cheesy cliché about athletes, especially baseball players. Duncan is playing a kids game, so why not do what kids do best? Have fun with it.

What that situation would really tell you about the perception on Duncan is the reaction. Yankee fans, for more reasons than one, probably loved the joke and rushed to his defense. Equate it to jocks in a locker room giving high fives an exclaiming, “Shelley Duncan, you the man!”

Red Sox fans and a majority probably sided with Whitman’s mother. Shelley Duncan, you are a grade-A Jerk!

Now that Shelley Duncan plays for the Indians, it would be easy for Tribe fans to look back and see the humor in it and side with the Yankee fans.

Was it a bad example to set? Perhaps, but do you know Shelley Duncan? There’s a big difference between doing something and doing something with intent. For the fans that don’t know Duncan, they probably are not quick to take his intent into account.

Knowing Duncan the way you do now, does it not seem like a bunch of laughs? A whole lot of fun? Given, this fan base does not have a deep relationship with Duncan, but we know him to not be the crazed hot-head perception told us he was.

Then again…If there is one thing that the Indians fan base knows about Duncan, it’s the fact that he comes to play. He comes to play and he comes to fight for his team. Sometimes, he takes that last part literally.

Fast-forward to this past season with the Indians in a game against the, shocker, Boston Red Sox. Josh Beckett, certainly not one to hide his intensity, was playing his own game of bean-ball with the Tribe.

Beckett pegged Duncan early and Shin-Soo Choo later after Lou Marson had hit a solo shot off the Boston right-hander. Later after Jensen Lewis made his own statement towards Adrian Beltre and the benches cleared, Duncan claimed Beckett said the Tribe was to blame.

"He was yelling at some people on our team and saying that the whole thing was our fault," Duncan told reporters.

The two players with perhaps the most emotion on the field were in the middle of the scuffle. Beckett would not back down and Duncan staunchly tried to defend his team.

Ah, defending his team. Would you expect any less from Duncan? Especially if you remember what he did two years ago in spring training.

Francisco Cervelli ended up with a fractured wrist after Ray’s player Elliot Johnson barreled into the Yankee catcher at home plate. It should not come as a shock to anyone that it was Duncan who retaliated with a hard slide of his own into second baseman Akinori Iwamura.

The action prompted another emotional player, Jonny Gomes, to sprint in from the dugout and attack Duncan.

Many would view these acts as ones reserved for that of a hot-head. It perhaps attributes to the notion that Duncan is hated by every fan base but the one’s he plays for. But if you go back to intent, you would likely find that his acts are those of a baseball player.

Wikipedia lists the incident with the Red Sox fan and the slide into Iwamura as “controversies.”

These incidents are merely that of a baseball player with the intentions of enjoying the game he plays, but also making sure people are not taking away that enjoyment from himself and his teammates.

Controversial they may be, but strangely they perfectly define who Shelley Duncan represents as a baseball player. Do they do him any justice as who he really represents as a person?

Perhaps not, but make no mistake about it, Duncan is a ball player and he may fit in with what the Indians are trying to do in the short term.

The Indians are a team without any aged veterans, at this point in time. While Shelley Duncan isn’t exactly ready to go into a retirement home and younger players on the squad have more experience in the majors than he does, Duncan brings a different attitude.

Duncan fits the Shapiro-Antonetti mold of a good clubhouse guy, that’s for sure. But he brings a different kind of mentality, and even a swagger, that the club would lack without him. Is this team going to contend for a World Series in 2011? Odds are very low of that happening, but that should not prevent the Tribe from carrying a veteran like Duncan.

Keeping a player like Duncan around gives the Indians someone to set an example for not just young players, but all players. There are few players who have been through the challenges Duncan has been through. There are few players who get labeled like Duncan has been labeled and still managed to find success at the major league level.

Players learn from other players like Shelley Duncan, even if he is just another cheesy stereotype.


You can follow Nino on Twitter @TheTribe Daily where he compares Shelley Duncan to Andy Marte and often tweets about the Cleveland Indians.

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