I have two recurring injuries. The first is achilles tendonitis. In college, I ran every day on a treadmill. One day, the back of my ankle felt weird. A physical therapist pointed it out and a doctor confirmed it was tendonitis. The other is a congenital hip impingement, another thing I found out in college when I began feeling a bizarre tearing pain in my hip doing running and sit-ups and a doctor’s X-ray showed the result. I’ve been able to run consistently in spite of both injuries, but when I took a break from running three years ago, it took years for me to get back into a steady regimen.
Baseball players have a lot of ways to deal with and overcome pain and injuries. Cortisone, a limitless supply of pain killers, medical professionals with PhDs in sports injuries, personal trainers and millions of dollars in state-of-the-art medical and training equipment.
Despite this, a lot are able to overcome injuries physically and mentally. We’ve seen players come back from serious ligament surgery and a two-year absence and dominate. We’ve seen players get hit with a pitch on the hand, breaking a few bones in there, and then come back to hit at even better than before.
We’ve also seen, though, players get hit in the hand and never come back again. We’ve also seen batters get hit in the head and never return to their level of production. And pitchers get labrum injuries only to never be heard from again.
I have friends who see a trend in a baseball player and project emotions or find some excuse for a player’s production. “He gets so tense in high pressure situations;” “he’s clutch;” “he’s a clubhouse cancer;” “he’s the reason for the team’s chemistry.”
I also have friends who believe baseball players have had experiences enough that all baseball players are capable of ignoring personal feelings and overcoming mental duress.
Should we really be projecting either on baseball players? I think the best we can say about either is we have no idea what’s going through any player’s head. Should we even trust a player’s own words? If he were theoretically affected mentally, would he not stand to benefit from lying to the media and saying he wasn’t affected in a given situation? And what about vice versa? Would a player who was unaffected mentally and yet made an error not stand to benefit by saying he was distracted by the sun or the fans or the waving towels?
Those two links are the first two I could think of. Both are excuses, both may be accurate, but they can both be inaccurate. Listen the next time a player says something and try to figure out what he gains by saying it. So why bother? Why not take a player’s on-the-field production and evaluate him with that? How about not getting upset over a simple error or a prospect struggling at first or a veteran playing poorly in a small sample size or trying to explain things when its not necessary? Yeesh.