With alcohol out of the clubhouse, clubhouse culture changes

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Bob Nightengale has a good article up today talking about the culture of alcohol in the clubhouse:

“I lived a lifestyle like 90% of ballplayers,” Proctor says. “You sat around and had six beers after a game, went to dinner and had another six, and then guys are calling you to a bar where you’re drinking more.

“That wasn’t right. I know it wasn’t right for me. But as far as guys talking about the game over a few beers, I really think baseball misses that.”

That excerpt pretty much groks the entire nature of the thing. An alcoholic noting that the old ways of teams abiding heavy drinking among ballplayers are all but resigned to history, noting that it’s for the best, but also noting that something has been lost as a result.

The article itself doesn’t go into it, but obviously good things are gained too. Things which far outweigh that loss of beery camaraderie. Like fitter athletes who do not drive while drunk at rates that their predecessors likely did. Indeed, Nightegale points out something I hadn’t noticed: we’ve only had one DUI incident this spring training, involving a minor leaguer. Seems like most years we have many more. Perhaps players are starting to get the message.

Something else I like about the story is how Proctor and even Mark Grace, who is currently serving time in jail for drunk driving, don’t make the change in clubhouse drinking culture out to be some stark good vs. evil thing. Rather, they acknowledge that there are tradeoffs involved, even if they are necessary. I know that there are many ways to sobriety and responsible drinking for those who have trouble with alcohol, but sometimes I wonder if casting drinking into a stark good/evil light like some people do make said sobriety and responsibility harder for some folks, especially those who aren’t equipped to handle self-criticism and self-examination that they feel may force them to deny a part of their past was a mixed bag even if they were on a bad path.  I’m sure Scott Proctor has some good memories of his drinking days. It seems healthy to me that he can look back fondly on some of them even if he knows he can’t ever relive them lest he risk everything.

Sorry, I know that was a bit of a tangent. But I tend to like stories where the moral is kind of ambivalent like this. Given how complicated most things in life are, there should be more of them.

Report: Steven Matz has been pitching through pain, may need elbow surgery

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Newsday’s Marc Carig reports that Mets starter Steven Matz has been pitching through pain for most of the season. He may need surgery to fix a nerve issue in his elbow. Matz was sidelined in spring training with an elbow injury and made his regular season debut on June 10.

Matz, 26, has struggled over 13 starts, posting a 6.08 ERA with a 48/19 K/BB ratio in 66 2/3 innings. Many were scrambling for explanations for his pitching woes and now they have it.

According to Carig, the Mets let Matz skip his bullpen sessions to help him pitch through the pain. Given the Mets’ shoddy history of dealing with injuries, that’s not a good look for the club.

Carig noted on Twitter that Jacob deGrom offers some optimism for Matz’s case. deGrom underwent right elbow surgery to repair ulnar nerve damage last September and bounced back to have a great season this year.

Clayton Kershaw’s simulated game went so well he threw an extra inning

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Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw was scheduled to throw three innings in a simulated game on Monday. That simulated game went so well, he threw an extra inning, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports. Kershaw will make a minor league rehab start next and could be activated towards the end of next week.

Kershaw, 29, has been on the disabled list since July 24 with a lower back strain. That put the pause button on another outstanding season. He’s carrying a 15-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and a 168/24 K/BB ratio in 141 1/3 innings.

The 87-35 Dodgers have run away with the NL West, needing some combination of 20 wins and 20 Rockies losses (19 for the third-place Diamondbacks) to officially clinch the division. While the Dodgers are all but mathematically assured of reaching postseason baseball, the club would still like to get Kershaw as ready as possible over the next month-plus.