If you’re straggling through Western Civilization with the rest of us, merely trying to understand what exactly it is we’re supposed to be outraged about this week, you may have just learned of Jomboy Media, the media juggernaut best known for its breakdowns of standout sports moments.

What sets Jomboy breakdowns apart from the eighty billion other sports opinions on the Internet is the happy blend of talents enjoyed by its founder, Jimmy O’Brien. Yankees fan O’Brien is a lip-reading hotshot who never studied the craft or worked for the CIA (that we know of.). He can just do it. By combining in-depth knowledge with excellent editing in a multicamera format, Jomboy has at last broken into the sports mainstream.

What’s Really Going On

The sports mainstream, if you’re wondering, is announcers shouting out your YouTube channel in the middle of a broadcast. When the crew in the booth cops to having absolutely no idea of what’s going on in an unusual situation– and given the healthy amount of baseball this nation plays for six months out of twelve, it happens far more often than you’d think–they usually tag Jomboy and wait patiently with the rest of us for the upload to find out not what was going on, but what was really going on.

I discovered Jomboy four years ago while searching for this glorious moment in Reds history, the Reds-Pirates brawl of 2019 (severe baseball language warning.) Not only is O’Brien’s appraisal of the situation hilarious and comprehensive, it reveals what the hot mikes on the field didn’t.

In the almighty brawl situation, O’Brien quickly discerned what Joey Votto was yelling about early in the proceedings as he pointed at his head– when asked later about what he was communicating, Votto sidestepped the question by saying something about “thinking,” but, as it happens, Joey Votto was not saying one single thing about thinking, and it involved a lot of words I’m not allowed to type up in here.

The Story

Jomboy videos are an addictive force not only because they provide a 360  glimpse of  the happenings on the field and in the dugouts. They treat every game and every building moment of the game as a narrative. Everybody’s involved: The players, the umpires, the fans, the occasional ballpark employee.

He seeks and hones in on easily missable details of the unfolding story because he deeply understands that sports is, in substance, a story. And, just as I have zero interest in cars but still absorbed every possible second of Top Gear, Jomboy cordially and non-condescendingly invites non-baseball fans into the tale he’s retelling, even if it only lasts for a single pitch.

What’s especially great about this approach is that O’Brien studiously avoids piling on anyone he’s dissecting. There’s not a lot of judgment, opinion-driving, or waspish commentary, except when warranted (“This is a disaster,” he says over footage of a group of friends attempting–poorly– to high five one another; he also unilaterally declares Sonny Gray as the hero of the 2019 dust-up.)

Is He?

Sometimes, O’Brien, as a legitimate aficionado of the sport, takes a long look at a multipitch at-bat or a player’s technique. He did so recently with our Elly De La Cruz, and in doing so highlighted the ways in which gestures, tics, and body language are the real drivers of baseball.

The context of this discussion was a seemingly backhanded compliment from Dave Roberts who mentioned that if Elly and his “sheer speed’ were tutored how to key in on the “little fine tune things of base stealing,” then he’ll really be scary for opponents.

A proper Reds fan will bristle at this, because it intimates that De La Cruz is operating on talent alone, with little baseball intelligence to augment his natural gifts. Do you hear, my people? Are you bristling?

But… is he?

Flailing About

O’Brien presented several instances of Elly stealing from second base, because, he said, that position provided better footage. And while De La Cruz indeed watches the pitcher, there’s something interesting about his jump en route to the next base.

Elly De La Cruz takes off like a disorganized grenade. “Flailing about,” as O’Brien puts it. “He’s almost dabbing.” He flings his arms in the air, which has the worrisome effect of rendering him more noticeable to the opposing catcher and the pitcher’s peripheral vision. He sallies forth from his full height instead of bursting from a crouch.

There is zero application of momentum. Elly throws aside every possible advantage. He does this while adorning himself with neon to the point that he looks like he just came from a taping of Dance Party USA.

The rest of baseball, in the act of stealing, tiptoes through a dark tunnel, shoes off, phone on silent. Elly bangs the door open, turns on all the lights, throws his keys on the table, and demands to know what that smell from the fridge is.

The Disorganized Grenade

I never noticed this because I tend to concentrate on the outcome of the steal attempt, not the way it began. But by layering several attempts over one another, O’Brien demonstrated that Elly’s takeoff was not necessarily the most efficient way to go about covering a very small patch of ground in a very short amount of time.

Jomboy– and this is where he really earns your click– noticed that every time Elly probably did what his coaches were probably telling him to do, the outcome was always the same: Failure.

In the few instances in which Elly did not begin his run like a disorganized grenade, shuffling towards his target like the rest of major league humanity, the ball was always waiting for him at the other end. He telegraphed his intentions and was thrown off his stride when attempting to do so “correctly.”

So at some point in Elly’s early development, he started dabbing-grenading, and who are we to say he lives in sin? Either there’s more than one way to steal a base, and we must shrug and allow for that, or the Reds spend the offseason trying to teach De La Cruz how to steal with his arms glued to his sides– and reap the stats whirlwind.

Working Against Gravity

And, and. Here’s the truly remarkable, borderline terrifying takeaway of Elly’s magnificent failure to crab: If he’s better at stealing bases while standing at his full height, calling more attention to himself rather than less, moving in the least efficient way possible, and in general deciding that the rules of physics don’t apply to him, all the while knowing that they hinder instead of help him–what does that say about the outpouring of ability he apparently doesn’t even need just to do this much?

No matter how good you think he is, Elly is even better than that.

Elly De La Cruz is scorching every record in town while wilfully handicapping himself. He’s working against gravity with one neon-coated hand tied behind his back. And he’s. Freaking, Everybody. Out.

I don’t care how many lights he turns on or what kind of racket he makes.

 

 

 

 

15 Responses

  1. Andrew Brewer

    Yeah, but it has now been proven that it’s not Elly De La Cruz and the Cincinnati Reds… The Reds have made the comeback from nowhere by firing on all cylinders. Elly still has a lot to learn about playing baseball, and batting, in the big leagues. Some of us think that his speed and great arm make him better suited to the outfield. And he has to remember that there is a time to steal and a time not to attempt it.
    It’s interesting about his take off, but that sets him in motion. There are some things that they shouldn’t mess with when it comes to his running. It’s good to know that someone really knows what’s going on (Jomboy) inside of the game.

    Reply
  2. Rednat

    I dont know if Elly will ever be an elite base stealer. Like Rickey Henderson or Vince Coleman. He has a higher center of gravity which will make it a little harder to get that tremendous jump those players had.
    Carl Lewis never got great starts to his 100m dashes but he had great closing speed to win his races. Of course,Carl had 100m to work with while EDLC only has90 feet.
    Where you will see EDLC elite speed most is when he is going 1st to third or 2nd to home or stretching a triple into an inside the park homer with his temendous stride length. Great “down hill” runner.

    I would like to see the reds in general, run on more friendly base stealing counts 2-1, 1-0 etc. With a protective distraction swing by the batter to assist. You rarely see that anymore. I think this would help our success rate tremendously.

    Reply
    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I’m glad you brought up center of gravity. It does make a difference. The average height of a modern MLB player is 6-1. Elly is 6-5.

      He overcomes just about every small disadvantage that can make a difference and this is STILL the result. Phenomenal.

      Reply
  3. Mike Adams

    You come up with some gem word pictures, MB: “…tiptoes through a dark tunnel…what that smell from the fridge is.”
    Both descriptions were so apt and I could see them as I pictured them in my mind.
    Getting a good start with no wasted motion is real and ELDC could improve.

    On the article the idea of stealth at the start of a steal attempt I think is based on old-school unwritten wisdom of baseball with no basis in fact. Slow guys might fool opponents but everybody is watching ELDC when he is on base.
    It is like taking off your t-shirt so you can run faster. Any weight difference is insignificant.

    Reply
    • Mary Beth Ellis

      thank you for the kind words!

      And… yeah, the last sentence is me taking off my socks in the doctors office to get weighed.

      Reply
  4. LDS

    EDLC is a physical phenom with a lot to learn. If he does, the sky is the limit. A big part of that development comes from coaching. And I have little confidence in the Reds’ coaching staff. I wonder what O’Brien would say about the “everyone loves playing for Bell” canard?

    Reply
    • Mary Beth Ellis

      One of the reasons Jomboy is awesome is that he avoids the weeds of politics or clubhouse drama. It’s just balls and strikes and dudes failing to high-five each other in the stands.

      Reply
  5. Mark Moore

    It took me a bit to get “into” this piece, but I do like the analysis of Elly and his physical machinations. To an extent, Roberts is accurate. Then again, most extremely talented 22-year-olds are running far more on talent than refined skill. I just hope he can connect with the right coaching to leverage that. If not (and I’m not entirely certain that’s available within our organization), he’ll remain very talented and sometimes thrilling to watch. It’s certainly a kind of transition year for him.

    Reply
    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Anything Elly turned in this season that could be reasonably considered as “not worse” was the big 2024 goal for me.

      Reply
  6. Jimmy

    What if the “flailing” actually affects the pitcher & catcher? Does the pitcher grip the ball tighter & is less likely to hit his spot? Does the catcher’s adrenaline lead him to move his glove, and the pitcher’s target, earlier than he might otherwise? Does the chaos Eli creates lead to a better chance of a steal than without it?
    I don’t believe Eli’s “problem” with steals is the time it takes him to reach the base. However, as others have said Eli & the entire Reds team should be more selective on when they should be stealing.

    Reply
    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Picking your pitcher is a good point. We were just talking about how it’s great to see this team more aggressive on the basepaths, but the Reds get picked off A LOT. We’re the fourth-most picked off team in all of baseball.

      Reply
  7. Oldtimer

    ELDC and Barry Bonds had SIMILAR numbers their first 150 games in MLB (props to Lance McAlister for doing the comparison on his show this week).

    Reply

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