Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Lightning 8.22.2010

  • Less value, less hype, less worry:

Every once in a while, when driving through the streets of Brooklyn I'll see a very expensive car like a Ferrari or Lamborghini. It's rare, but it happens. Said cars, parked in spots on the street and looking very inviting and/or vulnerable, stick out like Sarah Palin at a MENSA meeting (unless she's serving drinks; ostensibly the only purpose for her being there). Inevitably, the one thing that enters my mind is the following question: Is it worth it?

Is it worth having to repeatedly look out the window and wonder if someone is going to bump it; scratch it; walk by it and look at it wrong? Is it worth the aggravation and concern of a potential car-jacking? Of paying so much money----whether you can afford it or not----for something that is more of a headache than a productive tool?

I wonder if the Washington Nationals are having a similar reaction to the continued paranoia with prized pitching prospect Stephen Strasburg.

For the second time in a month, Strasburg's arm is causing him trouble; first it was inflammation in his shoulder and last night, there was the scary moment when he unleashed a pitch to Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown, grimaced and shook his wrist and arm as if it was the flailing limb of an out of control puppet and had to be removed from the game amid fears that it was a devastating injury.

The world stopped. Again.

From top-to-bottom in the Nationals organization, there had to have been nausea and a near loss of control of collective faculties both physically and emotionally.

Judging from how it looked, it didn't appear to be an elbow blowout. The reaction was more in line with an adhesion break that's more of a scare than something serious; the initial diagnosis----pending the MRI----is a flexor tendon strain.

What to do?

The worst part of something like this isn't the injury itself, but the stomach churning fear that it might happen; that there's never a chance to relax and enjoy the prodigy as he goes about his business. Even the opposing teams are watching and concerned when a talent so vast is possibly grievously injured.

Also, there's no one to blame.

His mechanics are fine; he's in shape; he's on a pitch/innings-count. The 20/20 hindsight popping up is laughable. Armchair experts abound with their criticism of his motion; of the money he was given; of anything and everything. But what were the team and Strasburg's bodyguards supposed to do?

The pressure on the Nationals management and Strasburg himself must be stifling. "I can't get hurt; we can't risk him; don't blame me; I followed the guidelines; I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry..."

How can anyone work to the best of their abilities under these constraints?

Similar to missing the opportunity for someone----anyone----to hold responsible for a crime and seeing them punished, who would there be to blame if Strasburg required Tommy John surgery? If he tore his rotator cuff? Or if he stumbled and tore every ligament in his shoulder trying to break his fall?

No one.

The Nationals, San Diego State, Tony Gwynn, Scott Boras and Strasburg's parents couldn't have been more judicious in the use of his gift----a gift genetics bestowed upon him. Nothing has been left to chance; he's been coddled, babied and protected...but he's still having injury issues.

What is there to do?


Fear of loss is a far greater motivation than the joy of ownership. This can be transferred to any desire be in romantically, professionally or by "having" a possession. I can't help but wonder if the money and stomach twisting terror justifies the pain; if teams would be better off either passing up on a talent such as Strasburg in the interests of avoiding such an increasingly prevalent eventuality of an arm throwing a baseball 100 mph giving way to the stress.

They can't place him in a stone sarcophagus and release him to pitch every fifth day; it doesn't work that way. The only proper thing to do with such a talent is to use it. Like power, it's pointless unless it's deployed----rightly or wrongly. There's nothing more useless than an unloaded gun; Strasburg's gun is loaded; and he has to use it.

There's a difference between overprotection and abuse, but it's apparently yielding the same result with Strasburg. And it's happened before. The best thing to do is to let a Strasburg work within guidelines and not think about the worst case scenario aside from the planning terms of "just in case".

Strasburg's season is likely over; the same thing is going to happen next year as the Nationals wonder whether each pitch is going to be the one where the pressure----literally and figuratively----causes the inevitable break. He'll be examined; exercises and medication will be prescribed; they'll do their best to keep him from hurting himself----and it won't do much good for the mental and physical duress that's attached to this 22-year-old man.

With the greatness that Strasburg could attain, is the maximizing of his abilities in a short burst better than having him limited? People don't want to admit that negatives can create a positive. Aerosmith's music was a thousand times better when they were all on drugs; alcohol and nicotine have been the cause of death and stimulants of some of the greatest poetry and prose we've ever seen; creativity has been buoyed by indulgence.

How would Sandy Koufax be treated today if he were a 22-year-old with a golden arm, money and ancillary aspects of promotion surrounding him? Would it be the same if he lasted 20 years, was okay, healthy and a cog who never achieved true greatness? He'd have been good, but not what he might have been had he been allowed to pitch, pitch and pitch some more.

The last four Koufax seasons went as follows: 25-5; 19-5; 26-8; and 27-9. You can click on the link to see the utter ridiculousness of his ERA, strikeouts, hits per innings pitched and other numbers. He was unhittable. The Dodgers, in those years from 1963-1966, won three pennants and two World Series. Koufax is in the Hall of Fame.

Would it have been better to have above-average performance, but not history; not hardware; not legendary status?

It's a question that has to be asked because the care---understandable as it is----isn't working.

Strasburg got hurt anyway.

  • Placating the sheep for the greater good(?):

There's a great article about Lance Armstrong in today's NY Times----link.

Armstrong has done so much good work for cancer in winning his battle against the disease; by inspiring others to do the same with his comeback; and the donations of time and money based on his dogged determination and compelling story.

He's also a power-hungry, attention-seeking, womanizing, bullying egomaniac.

I have no issue with any of that. Some would say I have certain aspects the above adjectives in my own personality----believe it or not. (I'm no bully though; I loathe bullies.)

But do the good things he's done----made for public consumption and glossed over or embellished----outweigh the negatives? Because something positive is the end result, does that assuage the way in which it was accomplished? And do the sheep want the truth?

In the article, the Roger Clemens situation is mentioned in the first sentence as his "fall from grace" is still ongoing. Eventually, one would assume, the same thing is going to happen to Armstrong. As I said the other day, perhaps it would be a cleansing process for Armstrong as it could be for Clemens; but they're never, ever going to admit it until there's no other choice.

This is what truly angers the public----the hypocrisy.

In my posting about Clemens, I mentioned Mark McGwire and Pete Rose as only having admitted guilt to achieve another end. McGwire wanted to become the Cardinals hitting coach, so he was left with no option but to confess or deal with the questions all year long, distract the team leaving him unable to do his job. Rose refused to acknowledge betting on baseball until a few years ago when he was pushing a book and it suited him in the moment to "confess".

It's not a real admission seeking absolution; it's another hustle; another lie hidden in the truth. "Yeah, I did it, and I'm, whatever, sorry, y'know. The Hall of Fame ceremony celebrating my induction is when?"

There will always be a segment of the public that lives with the false code as a beacon. Clemens was the all-American hero, refusing to compromise to the limits of age and persecution of powers-that-be; Armstrong, overcoming a dreaded disease, returned to prominence in his chosen sport and is a generous spokesman for cancer awareness and magnet for money.

If you have a brain and an ounce of common sense, you'll know the non-existent likelihood of Clemens's and Armstrong's innocence. That doesn't diminish the kindness they've shown in donating time and money; but the image is so entrenched in their psyches that they may actually have convinced themselves that they did nothing wrong; nor will they ever back away from the cover story----at least until they're forced to.

  • The Rays way:

The Tampa Bay Rays would never admit this publicly, but they're ruthlessly coldblooded in how they're using their young pitchers. This is in direct contrast to the way Strasburg was handled by the Nationals and how Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes have been limited by the Yankees.

David Price is an example of how the Rays have used this reasoning and objectivity to maximize him. He's allowed to pitch; is watched but not babied; and will be maximized for club purposes and discarded when the time is right.

Price has pitched 157 innings up to this point and will reach the 200 mark easily; he's regularly been pushed into the 110-120 pitch range and is a linchpin for a team heading for the playoffs----2010 Gamelogs. At age 24, he's far ahead of chronologically similar prospects like Chamberlain.

Is this "outside the box" thinking or calm reasoning that is leading the Rays to use their young pitchers in this manner?

Without any inside knowledge of their thinking, I'd be willing to bet it goes something like this: "We'll use and keep him while he's effective and affordable; when he's too expensive or is petering out, we'll either trade him or let him leave as a free agent; when he gets hurt, it'll be as he's wearing the uniform of the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets or another big market club. Let them pay him for sitting on the disabled list as we continually bring in young pitchers who are fresher and cheaper."

There's a freedom that comes from lack of fan interest and a scarcity of money. The expectations are limited and the team is allowed to do what they need to do to win now. This is why the Marlins and Rays are able to do win under a budget. The Red Sox have had a history of doing what needs to be done regardless of public perception, but they can never have the options the Rays and Marlins do. Ambivalence isn't always a bad thing and the Rays capitalize on it brilliantly.

  • Viewer Mail 8.22.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Roger Clemens and Suzyn Waldman:

Funny you mention the Suzyn reference in my book. I'm listening to her now during the game and was wondering what she's thinking about Clemens. Does she wish she could take back her overheated celebration when he rejoined the team? Probably not.

Is Suzyn capable of such regret? I doubt it. My guess is that she probably believes Clemens in some blind, brainless way----somewhat similar to her baseball analysis (or lack thereof).

You had to do it, didn't you? You had to bring up the celebration at Clemens's return. Now I have to post it. See what you started? Glass will be shattering; women will be shrieking; children will be crying; dogs will be wailing at the mere echo of.....THIS:

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger (Brooklyn Capo) writes RE a comment yesterday and Congress:

YankeeMaster ~ Here's the problem, Congress affords Baseball anti-trust exemption. Therefore Baseball enjoys the benefit of being an insulated entity. When Gov't (probably prodded by Jim Bunning and a few others) decides to check in on the NATIONAL Pastime from time to time, they are justified. They aren't going after Rocket because he did steroids. He like Martha Stewart lied to Congress. Congress has always gone after those who lied to them; from all walks of life. Outside of that little detail, I don't like a meddlesome government either and what you say speaks loud and clear to me. But excuse Congress for doing what Fay Vincent wanted to do over 20 years ago but whom the owners stopped cold in his tracks. The instituting of Selig as C'mish was all part of a greater plan by the owners to alleviate themselves of Good C'mishes who really did have the best interests of Baseball foremost on their mind.

Everyone had their own interests in the use of PEDs and now the supposed effort to expose the use and "clean" the game up. It's all a ploy and a sham. They knew about and tacitly encouraged the use of said drugs to drum up interest after the 1994 strike. It'd be nice if they admitted it once.

The government had their own agenda to jump in. Clemens's big mistake was responding to the allegations at all----he should've kept his mouth shut as he was advised to do.

The most glaring part of this came from the union's failure to destroy the list of players who failed the test----something they should've done as soon as possible, but didn't.

I was a guest on Thursday with Sal at SportsFan Buzz. You can click the link to Sal's site to download the Podcast or listen directly here. Also, check Sal's Facebook page here.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.


Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Rays Way ~ They may be in for a little trouble next year. But they are in damn good hands. It starts from the top with Sternberg.
Andrew Friedman and Gerry Hunsicker are very good Baseball executives. Joe Maddon has proven himself to be a good manager (if a little quirky) and is on the complete same page of music with his hierarchy as they are with him.
That formula works. Add in Don Zimmer and Mike Cubbage, and you have some very smart background voices. If next year presents a rough road for the Rays, I trust they'll smooth it out smartly and consistently with the ruthlessness you described.

She-Fan said...

You posted the "celebration" and now my ears are bleeding!!!!!

Jeff said...

That Waldman clip is the audio equivalent of George H. W. Bush throwing up on himself and his Japanese hosts.

It's embarrassingly sick.

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