Comment of the Day: Baseball faces, baseball heels

22 Comments

On both the blog and on Twitter (@craigcalcaterra if you’re into that sort of thing), I’ve made a zillion professional wrestling references this week. I don’t know why. Something in the air I guess. The fact is that I was huge wrestling fan from, oh, age 9 to age 15, so mid-80s wrestling is just burned into my head like the iron claw of Kerry Von Erich.

My recent obsession — especially this morning’s reference to Nyjer Morgan’s “heel turn” — inspired some readers as well.  Notably reader Wings, who tried to cast modern baseball players in either face or heel roles a la pro wrestling. It’s long so I won’t use annoying block quote fontage, but all that follows until the mention of Ozzie Guillen’s name is Wings talking:

As one of the few “legitimate” sports fans willing to admit that I also enjoy the illegitimate spectacle that is pro wrestling, I have often found many heel (bad guy) and face (good guy) qualities among my favorite baseballers. I submit to you this line-up of possible MLB heels/faces:

Faces:

C-Joe Mauer
1B-Gabby Sanchez
2B-Orlando Hudson
3B-Pablo Sandoval (Maybe a stretch, but with a nickname like his, how could he not be a George “the Animal” Steele type kid-friendly fan favorite?)
SS-Derek Jeter
OF- Josh Hamilton/Torii Hunter/Ichiro
DH-David Ortiz
SP-Dallas Braden
Closer-Mariano Rivera
MGR-Bobby Cox

Heels:

C-A.J.Pierzynski
1B-Miguel Cabrerra
2B-Brandon Phillips
3B-Alex Rodriguez
SS-Hanley Ramirez
OF-Nyjer Morgan/Manny Ramirez/Milton Bradley
DH-Hideki Matsui (another nickname-stretch thing)
SP-JohnnyCueto
Closer-Francisco Rodriguez
MGR-Ozzie Guillen

Not a bad list. I’ll take issue with Cox as the face manager. I mean, he did hit his wife once. I think Jeter is way more likely to be a Ric Flair kind of a guy who goes back and forth from popularity to villainy, and is often popular because he’s a villain.*  Torii Hunter has to be a heel in the Roddy Piper mode, no? I mean he’s a lot of fun, I realize, but he says some pretty outrageous stuff (but nothing as outrageous as “just when they think they have all the answers, I CHANGE THE QUESTIONS!!”  Piper was the best, man).

The heels list is better, though I think Matsui would be a face jobber in the S.D. Jones/Sam Houston mode. Likable. Enough moves to make people think he has some chops, but really there to get beat up by a bad guy. Ozzie Guillen as Jimmy Hart is pretty damn perfect.

Um, OK, this post is getting a little out of control now.  I had better get back to baseball.

*I am forced to admit that I once subscribed to “Pro Wrestling Illustrated.” In the back were wrestler rankings, including “Most Popular” and “Most Hated.”  I recall one month — in the mid 80s, when Hulkamania was still running wild — that Ric Flair simultaneously topped both lists.  Woo!

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

Getty Images
3 Comments

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

Getty Images
6 Comments

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.