Here’s some good news: Pirates pitcher Chris Jakubauskas was released from from the hospital yesterday and was able to fly with his team from Houston to Milwaukee. He’s on the 15-day disabled list, however, diagnosed with a concussion and head contusion.
In case you missed it, Jakubauskas was nailed in the side of the head with a line drive off the bat of Lance Berkman during Saturday’s Pirates-Astros game. To me the scariest part is that it hit behind his ear. You don’t want to take a ball to the skull, but at least your skull is there to provide some protection. A line shot off someone’s bat can cause serious damage no matter where it hits, as was evidenced by the death of Mike Coolbaugh, who was hit in the neck behind and below the ear, causing a
ruptured artery that proved fatal.
There’s not much you can do about such things. After Coolbaugh died baseball put all of its base coaches in helmets, but that’s silly given that a helmet wouldn’t have likely saved Coolbaugh given where the ball hit. A helmet maybe could have helped Jakubauskas, but given the precise bodily mechanics in involved in pitching there is no way anyone would support putting them on pitchers. And to be sure, batters suffer concussions after being hit on the helmet fairly frequently, so it’s not like such a thing would be a cure-all.
No, we just need to realize that throwing a ball close to 100 miles per hour is a dangerous activity, that standing in front of a guy hitting it almost as hard back at you is dangerous as well, and thank our lucky stars that we don’t see serious injuries as a result far more often than we do.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉