Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune writes an overview of the Brewers. He devotes much of it to arguing that the Ryan Braun contract was a terrible move by the Brewers, and even compares it unfavorably to Alex Rodriguez’s original $250 million deal with the Rangers.
Yes, the contract that will never pay him more than $20 million in a season and, compared to lots of other superstar deals, actually seems somewhat reasonable on the cash even if the length carries some risk. Hey, it’s his column, he can write what he wants.
But the most interesting thing about it is that he seems to blame the contract for Ryan Braun’s positive drug test in October. And, unlike the folks who have reported on the test, does not believe that it was inadvertent or the result of a tainted supplement or something. No, Rogers believes that it was Braun “amping up” his game in order to justify what, in the grand scheme of things, pretty reasonable contract:
Braun would have been a fool to say no to the deal, but it puts the onus on him to perform. So the guy who led the National League in slugging as a rookie amped up his game to again lead the NL in slugging and to compile a .994 OPS last season, earning an MVP award — and then he tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance.
So great it is that Rogers can see past everything else being reported about Braun’s test, capture his true motivation — a desperate desire to justify his insane contract — and determine his specific transgression, which was to “amp up his game” and perform.
Thank you, Detective Rogers. Your services here are invaluable.
MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that starter Clay Buchholz is at Citizens Bank Park for Wednesday night’s game against the Marlins. The right-hander recently underwent surgery to repair a partial tear of his flexor pronator mass. The timetable for his recovery is three to five months, but most are expecting him to miss the rest of the season since the Phillies aren’t legitimate contenders.
According to Zolecki, Buchholz apologized to GM Matt Klentak “and others” — presumably other front office staff and/or his teammates — for getting injured. Buchholz hopes to return to pitch in September.
It’s saddening to me, and indicative of the general anti-labor culture in sports, that a player feels obligated to apologize for getting injured on the job. Injuries are nothing new for Buchholz, which might have factored into his decision to apologize. Red Sox fans got on his case quite a bit over the years for his propensity to land on the disabled list. But it wasn’t like Buchholz was taking unnecessary risks; he simply did his job, which entails doing a lot of unhealthy movement with his arm. Buchholz owes no one an apology.
Buchholz isn’t the only player to have apologized for getting injured. Outfielder Hideki Matsui apologized to the Yankees in 2006. Starter Masahiro Tanaka apologized in 2014. Twins reliever Glen Perkins apologized last year. Even Madison Bumgarner sort of apologized for suffering injuries riding a dirt bike on an off-day, saying “It’s definitely not the most responsible decision I’ve made.” Because god forbid an athlete has interests and hobbies outside of his vocation.
Players are brought up in a sports culture that allows exorbitantly wealthy owners to bilk the players — laborers — at every possible turn. They’re mostly underpaid and poorly taken care of in the minors. If and when they reach the major leagues, their salaries are intentionally depressed for six years and their service time is toyed with (just ask Kris Bryant). Buchholz endured that and then endured the criticism that comes with having been a hyped prospect who mostly failed to live up to expectations. He’s gone above and beyond what he needed to do to have a successful career as a professional baseball player, even if it wasn’t as much as fans or front office personnel would have liked.
Update (5:22 PM ET): Thames is dealing with left hamstring tightness. Manager Craig Counsell says it’s “not a big deal,” Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
Brewers first baseman Eric Thames left Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Reds in the top of the eighth inning with an apparent injury. Thames took his position to start the inning, but was replaced by Jesus Aguilar. Thames had flied out weakly to center field to end the previous inning, so perhaps something happened while he ran that out.
The Brewers should provide an update shortly on the exact nature of Thames’ early exit. Needless to say, losing Thames to the disabled list would be a huge blow to the 11-11 Brewers, as he entered Wednesday leading all of baseball in runs (25), home runs (11), slugging percentage (.929), and OPS (1.411). Thames was 1-for-3 with a single, a pair of walks, and two runs scored before leaving.