Saturday, September 8, 2012
Brandon McCarthy - Get Well / Take Your Time...View on Injuries and the Hobby
Injuries have always been a part of sports, knees, elbows, ankles, but injuries to the head is a whole different ball game. Speaking as someone who has had five concussions in life, things are not as easy as a simple break, or putting ice on it. A promising player can be "struck" down in or before their prime, and there is nothing they can do to stop it. Pitchers are defenseless players left open by the fact they are following through a pitch. Fielders are in the ready defensive position, glove and focus is on the batter. The batter is open for injuries, but most head shots are deflected or softened by the helmet. A smash up the middle can hit or miss by inches from causing life threatening head injuries. Pitchers sometimes look like a hockey goaltender just doing anything to deflect the ball from hitting anything vital, doing whatever to deflect, or get lucky and catch it. My senior year in high school I was hit in the head by a line drive during a practice. The rest of the year in game situations I rarely was able to hit my spots. I found myself during my follow through putting my glove and pitching arm near my head afraid of another line drive. It became a mental paranoia that caused what once was a pitcher normal pitching motion to a pitcher throwing scared for his life.
Who knows right now if Brandon McCarthy will ever pitch again in the Majors again. There are two different aspects of point of views, one as a fan, one as a collector. As a fan of the game you never want to see a player or fan at a game severally hurt by a line drive, but what if that player is a top prospect, or an all-star with a bright future? How would the hobby react to this type of injury? If Brandon McCarthy's rookie card above was worth $5 after just a few years in the big leagues, if he never comes back to pitch again, his card would be thrown in the dime boxes. We in the hobby tend to quickly call players a bust for various reasons, low averages, no power, and so on. Then there are issues with injuries that I do not consider busts. Most of these are fluke injuries, a career long nagging issue, or it could be an injury that 9 out of 10 pitchers would be helpless to avoid such as a line drive to the head.
Now lets switch to Strasburg...
As we see today the Nationals Strasburg has been shut down for the year. As a fan you think, WTF? But think about all the injuries, how many bright young pitchers get a injury such as Tommy John surgery and never come back the same. Strasburg showed he can still dominate, but as a fan wouldn't you rather have a dominate Strasburg for a decade or a possibility of overworking him into another shoulder injury. Yes there were dozens of pitchers in the early 1900s into the days of Bob Gibson that pitched every game 9 innings, but the game isn't the same game today as it was in the past. Both hitters and pitchers are stronger, trying to make their bodies do even more, causing more possibility of career ending injury. In the hobby, if you are invested in Strasburg cards you welcome a team making sure they are keeping their pitcher as healthy as possible. Just think of some of top rookie pitchers who were injured early in their career and never were the same. Gregg Olson, the 4th overall pick in 1988, a top rookie, and Rookie of the Year in 1989 AL. A fireball throwing closing pitcher started developing arm problems, and after averaging 33 saves his first five years, averaged only around 7 saves a year for the next eight years until his retirement in 2001.
Most players tend to play through pain in order to give their team another out, inning, or game, but is it actually better for a pitcher to sit out some starts to save an arm for another full year? I read fans calling for the Nationals manager's head for the shut down, though fans are the first people to point fingers at a manger for a players injury. Funny how us fans can act! In the hobby (not fantasy) we have no problem with sitting Strasburg. If I owned a Strasburg 1/1 autograph card worth $1,000, I have no problems sitting him healthy. You are invested in that card or cards, and the Nationals have invested their money also in him wanting him to pitch for many years and not just one. He has a 15-6 for 2012, and unless a spring training injury, he will now start 2013 healthy, even stronger.
Remember everyone, these guys are professionals, but they are still people, they are husbands, brothers, fathers, and friends, they aren't machines to be ran for our enjoyment or for fantasy leagues. You can boo someone for not hustling, or lack of paying attention, but don't boo or call out a player for an injury or performance because of injuries.
I am sorry it was not exactly a card blog, but just a rant of feelings of reading arm chair people calling Strasburg a sissy, or people in the media asking questions about when they expect McCarthy to be back. MCCarthy's first goal is to stay alive, any talk about him playing baseball shouldn't even be relevant until he has completed his recovery from his head trauma and leave it at that!