Manny madness: Let the hype begin

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Manny Ramirez isn’t eligible to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers until
July 3, but the hype is already kicking into high gear as the tainted
slugger begins his minor league warm-up on Tuesday in Albuquerque.

No matter what you think of the slugger and his pending return, you’re bound to have an opinion about it. Everyone does.

One writer thinks it’s a sham
that he gets to play in the minors before his 50-game suspension for
failing a drug test has been completed. Another scribe wonders why that’s even an issue.
It’s not like he’s getting special treatment. All suspended players are
allowed to find their rhythm in the minors before their eligible to
return.

And for what it’s worth, my Uncle Frank thinks Ramirez, and anyone else
caught doping, should be sent somewhere far, far away. Like Mars,
maybe. I have a feeling many people feel the same way.

Regardless of where you fall on the Ramirez issue, it will be hard
not to follow his movements over the next week or so. Whether you’re
thrilled or disgusted, you won’t be able to turn your eyes away.

As one fan said “He’s a cheater, but I still want to see him play.” He’s not alone.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes, who average 7,000 fans per game, have already sold an extra 11,000 tickets in two days.

And the San Bernardino 66ers — a single-A Dodgers farm team — have already sold out Sunday’s game, even though the Dodgers have yet to even confirm Ramirez will play there.

Fans can watch Ramirez play on Tuesday – for a fee – as the game will be broadcast on MiLB.TV.

And if you’re expecting the slugger to need some time to shake off
the rust, you might be surprised. The man who’s been throwing him
batting practice says Ramirez is already locked in.

“I can tell just by watching how the balls carry,” said Flippo. “You
can tell — the way his rhythm is going when he has it together. You
can tell if he looks comfortable. You can tell when a guy is fighting
it. Everything is looking easy for him, as easy as when he came to us.

“One thing I can tell, when I throw a good pitch down the middle, I
expect that to be hit. With him, even when I don’t give him a good
pitch, he still drives it. In Spring Training, if he got one of those
bad pitches, he didn’t hit it that good. Last year, when he joined us,
no matter where the pitch was, he hit it hard. And right now, it’s the
same thing with him.”

Let the hype begin.

Ron Darling rips Mets trainers after yet another player goes down with an injury

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Last night starter Robert Gsellman became the latest Mets player to go down with an injury when he strained his hamstring while running out a ground ball. He’s certain to go on the disabled list, making him the sixth Mets starter to go down this year. He’ll join Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Juan Lagares, Neil Walker, Matt Harvey, David Wright, Jeurys Familia and many, many other Mets on the DL.

Mets broadcaster Ron Darling is fed up with it. Last night, after Gsellman went down, he went off on the Mets trainers, who he believes to be enabling all of this:

“[These] trainers, get them in a room with some of the old trainers and people that took care of baseball players and how to keep them healthy. And get them in a room and try to tap into their knowledge on how you train baseball players — not weightlifters, not six-pack wearers — baseball players. They’re doing a disservice to their million-dollar athletes that they’re paying. It’s a joke to watch this happen each and every night.”

Here’s video of his rant:

Darling is certainly tapping into a frustration a lot of Mets fans feel. For years the Mets injury issues have vexed the fanbase, less so for the sheer number of them — other teams have had more DL trips for their players — than for the manner in which they were handled and/or discussed by the team. They’ve often been loathe to use the disabled list even when it makes sense to and have, at times, run guys out to play despite there being serious red flags which would counsel most teams from doing so.

But is he right about why the players are getting injured? It’s a commonly held bit of conventional wisdom that players using weight training and being muscular makes them more brittle, but I’m unaware of any science that backs that up (if you have some, please pass it along, I’d genuinely be interested in reading it). Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t, but Darling seems so certain about it.

He could be right. But I also suspect that Darling may be falling prey to some back-in-my-dayism that retired players often exhibit. Are players getting injured more or are they merely being diagnosed better? Are they getting more seriously injured, or are they just taken out of action more quickly rather than be left to play through injuries like so many old timers have claimed they had to back in the 50s, 60s and 70s? Fireballers used to try to hang on as junkballers after suffering elbow injuries that today would send a guy to surgery. There was a much greater tolerance for lumbering slow dudes who might take it easy with a bad hammy as opposed to getting shut down now.

None of which is to say that Darling is wrong, necessarily. Like I said, maybe there is something to the idea that weight training and musculature makes a player more brittle. But I am always loathe to nod along with an old player who says the science and medicine surrounding sports has regressed compared to where it was back in his day. It may be true, but it’s counterintuitive given how science and medicine usually work. And when you offer a counterintuitive take like that, I think you need more evidence than your frustration at an injury occurring in front of you in real time.

Bryce Harper is pretty clearly messing with people

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Not too long ago some rumors popped up about Bryce Harper wanting to sign with the Cubs when he hits free agency following the 2018 season. Such rumors are sort of silly this far out — and they almost always tend to be non-predictive of where the player eventually goes — but they tend to get folks excited or concerned, depending on who they root for.

With the Cubs in town to face the Nationals, Harper was asked about those rumors again. He wisely dismissed them, saying he had no idea where that stuff comes from. Which is what someone in his position should say.

Not that he’s not going to have some fun with it. Check out his Instagram post with friend Kris Bryant. Specifically, check out the hashtag:

#Back2BackOneDay is, of course, an implication that he’d be hitting behind Bryant in the same batting order.

Harper is no idiot. He’s not going to use social media, in the middle of a season, two seasons before he could even potentially play elsewhere, to send genuine signals about wanting to leave the Nationals and join the Cubs. He’s just messing with the rumormongers. As he TOTALLY SHOULD by the way, because rumormongers deserve to be messed with.

Not that the rumormongers won’t take this a genuine evidence of his intent. The rumormongers aren’t big on subtle humor.