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Breakfast & Baseball: Unpremeditated Injury Rant, No Expanded Replay, Vetoed Trades, and More

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After sustaining an injury of my own, I start off today's B&B post with a calm rant about injuries and our unreasonable expectations for players to fight through them while still performing at a high level. I also look at Joe Torre telling us that there will be no expanded replay for 2013, Willie Mays' famed catch is now in color, a series at FanGraphs on vetoed trades and how they could have affected the teams involved, and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro being unimpressed with prospect rankings.

Drew Storen recently admitted that he had "excruciating back pain" during the 2013 NLDS. Him blowing a save in Game 5 against the Cardinals was likely related to that injury. If the pain was excruciating, why was he playing?
Drew Storen recently admitted that he had "excruciating back pain" during the 2013 NLDS. Him blowing a save in Game 5 against the Cardinals was likely related to that injury. If the pain was excruciating, why was he playing?
Rob Carr

I'd like to preface this intro to today's B&B post by saying that this is not in response to any particular person or recent event. This is more a thought that I've written about in the past on my personal blog, which comes back into my consciousness after I sustained an injury at the beginning of the week.

I find it interesting whenever fans demand that an athlete plays through an injury or illness. We've seen players dig deep to find success in spite of their handicap, such as Michael Jordan having the flu in the 1997 NBA Finals, or Kirk Gibson's pinch-hit home run in the 1988 World Series on two bad knees. Many of us think it's admirable to play through the pain, even if it actually is detrimental to the on-field performance. For example, I can mention the words "bilateral leg weakness" and there will be Twins fans that instantly transform into the Blame Mauer Bot. How dare he not play while being paid $23 million because of a little leg soreness!

I bring this up because I absolutely wrecked my lower back driving to work on Tuesday. I've had back problems ever since I was in high school and I sat in my desk chair with quite possibly the worst posture known to man. Since then, my back flares up a few times at random throughout the year, or will be stiff and sore after some moderate exercise. One of those times was while I was sitting in traffic on Tuesday morning. I get in the car and I'm feeling just fine. I get out, and I just happen to straighten up at the wrong angle, and suddenly my back is on fire. I can't even pick up a pencil of the ground now without pain shooting through the lumbar vertebrae.

It's always amusing to me whenever a person justifies the need for a player to fight through the injury by using the "I still go to work when I'm hurt/sick" excuse. Yes, you (and I) usually have to keep doing our job despite a migraine headache or in my case, shooting back pain. However, we also are paid far less for a job that is most likely less physical than what a professional athlete endures. Us versus them is simply not a fair comparison.

Finally, it's frustrating whenever a person seems to completely ignore or is unaware of what it's like to have a concussion or back spasms. Concussion symptoms can include dizziness and nausea; seems perfect to go running around for a couple hours. How about those back spasms, which can be so painful that I once was clawing at the carpet while I waited for the pain to subside just enough that I could pull myself off the floor? Certainly it seems like fielding a couple grounders wouldn't be too much of a hassle.

My whole point of this calm rant is to offer a reminder that when one of your favorite Twins players inevitably gets hurt, whether it's in Spring Training, June, or a couple years from now, keep in mind that taking a few weeks off will be necessary at times. More often than not, a player cannot sustain his level of performance while having a nagging injury. Adrian Peterson rushing for over 2000 yards with a hernia for the second half the season, Jordan's Flu Game, Gibson's home run, etc. are the exceptions, not the norm. Playing 100 games at 85% strength sounds far more appealing than 130 games at 60%.

  • In the middle of October, Bud Selig told fans after months (years?) of denial that expanded instant reply "better" happen for the 2013 season. He added in that "they" (whoever "they" are) were already "working on cameras in all the ballparks." So we'll have expanded instant replay now, right? Nope! Joe Torre, executive vice president of baseball operations of MLB, says that there will be no expanded replay for 2013, but there will for 2014. He added that the reason for the delay is due to the blown call in the ALCS where Omar Infante retreated to 2nd base safely, but actually had been tagged out. That call convinced the brass at MLB that expanded replay needs to cover everything, rather than move forward in baby steps. However, I'm still not fully convinced that MLB is seriously attempting to finish this project, and it would not surprise me if this time next year we're being told that no instant replay changes will be made to the 2014 season either.
  • Due to my age, I really did not grow up with black and white video or pictures, with the exception of Leave It To Beaver reruns being shown on TV until I was about 7. Thus, whenever I do encounter media in black and white, I have difficulty reminding myself that the people, their clothing, their surroundings, etc. were actually colorized. One of those things is "The Catch" by Willie Mays, that great over-the-shoulder catch about 460 feet from home plate with his back facing the infield. Thanks to Hardball Talk, and Uni Watch, they discovered an artist's rendering of Willie Mays' catch that has now been colorized. I honestly sat at my computer with both pictures open in separate tabs, flipping back and forth between them for a few minutes.
  • Paul Swydan of FanGraphs is doing an interesting series on vetoed trades, where he looks at what could have happened had the trade been pulled off, and how the vetoed trade compared to the actual successful trade if one did happen. For example, Phil Nevin of the Padres was almost traded for Ken Griffey, Jr. in 2002, and then was nearly swapped for Sidney Ponson in 2005. Eventually, the Padres finally traded Nevin for Chan Ho Park, and Swydan points out that none of these trades would have or did work out for them. While we know Griffey had one of the purest swings of all time, his time with the Reds in the middle of the 2000s was injury-plagued and we can't assume that he would have stayed healthy in San Diego. We also know that Ponson wasn't much of a pitcher, and Park didn't do much for the Padres. However, Nevin being sent to Texas led to the Rangers later trading a prospect named Adrian Gonzalez back to those same Padres. So yeah, Nevin for Park wasn't a great swap for either team, but it seemingly worked out just fine when Adrian Gonzalez came back just a short time later. Here are Parts One, Two, Three, and Four of Swydan's series.
  • Finally, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. is not impressed by your prospect rankings, as he says that, "It's all a bunch of crap." His reason for saying that is because many people have the Phillies rated near the bottom in terms of prospects, including which does not list a single Phillie minor leaguer in their Top 100 (for reference, the Twins have 6). While this article that quoted Amaro does not provide more information, I almost wonder if he's not trying to hint that the Phillies organization believes in their prospects more than the outsiders do. Either that, or he just wasn't in the mood to discuss the lack of future major leaguers in his system right now.