San Diego Padres v Cincinnati Reds - Game Two

Paul Daugherty wants Joey Votto to play hurt

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When people say things like, “I’m not a doctor, but…” it’s usually followed up by medical advice you should 100 percent never follow. That’s applicable in Paul Daugherty’s latest column for the Cincinnati Enquirer in which he criticizes Votto for taking too long to recuperate from his strained quadriceps.

Slagging Votto isn’t new for Daugherty. Just on this site, we have covered him slagging reliever Aroldis Chapman, starter Homer Bailey, and Votto on multiple occasions, even going so far as to say Brandon Phillips is better. So what’s the offense this time? Daugherty writes:

We outsiders don’t know much. We who aren’t doctors aren’t qualified to comment on the extent of an injury, or on anyone’s pain or ability to withstand it. That’s speculation, and that’s not fair.

[…]

We only know what we see. Here’s what I see:

Daugherty then recounts Mike Leake and Jay Bruce playing through injuries. Likely as a result of his stiff neck, Leake has been ineffective as of late, allowing five runs to the Giants on Thursday, and four to the Diamondbacks in his previous start. Bruce entered this afternoon’s game against the Phillies with a .440 OPS in 46 plate appearances since returning from the disabled list after undergoing knee surgery. Who cares about effectiveness as long as you’re toughing it out like a true Team Player?

Daugherty goes on:

To be clear: Votto didn’t want to go on the disabled list. Price says he’s the one responsible for keeping Votto on the mend, instead of in the lineup. And Votto’s durability isn’t suspect: He played in all 162 last year, and in 161 two years before that. But how healthy is healthy enough, and when does Votto get there?

Believe what you want. I believe if Votto insisted on playing, he would be playing. Superstars call shots everywhere, even in little places like Cincinnati. A manager is not going to say no to that guy, nor should he. Especially when the guy in question is as valuable as Votto is.

At least Daugherty has changed his tune on Votto’s value, having called Phillips the Reds’ MVP instead of Votto last July, citing RBI and batting average with runners in scoring position. Daugherty essentially calls both Votto and manager Bryan Price liars based on a gut feeling.

Lastly:

Like it or not, the sports ethos is to play with pain. Teammates respect it, owners expect it. It’s almost a given. Pain is in the contract. Even in early June, few players are in perfect health. By August, no one is.

Categorically incorrect on multiple levels. Where is this ethos? Why is there a disabled list? If Votto played hurt and was consequently ineffective — like teammate Bruce — Daugherty would be the first penning a column complaining that Votto was selfish and caring only about his individual stats, and that he should have thought about the team first by going on the disabled list.

Playing through an injury is almost always a bad idea. Athletes will overcompensate for their weakness in one area by over-exerting in another area, which puts them at an increased risk of further injuring themselves. Their performance declines. Opponents know how to take advantage of an injured player. For instance, with a quadriceps injury, Votto won’t be able to generate as much power with his legs, so pitchers will be much more willing to pitch him inside and over the plate than usual.

It’s not clear what Daugherty’s motive is for all of these hit pieces against Votto. Maybe Votto was rude to him once, or he’s playing to the lowest common denominators in the Reds fan base. What is clear is that his criticism of Votto over the last few years has been almost entirely baseless and at this point it seems obsessive. Also, as a rule of thumb, writers or fans who criticize an athlete’s pain threshold should be required to present a history of all the times they called out of work or missed school due to a tummy ache.

James McCann is in The Best Shape of His Life

Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann blows a bubble while warming up during a spring training baseball workout, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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As I note every spring, “Best Shape of His Life” stories aren’t really about players being in The Best Shape of Their Lives. They’re about players and agents seeking to create positive stories.

We know this because the vast majority of Best Shape of His Life claims are about guys who were either injured the season before, guys who had subpar years the season before or players whose conditioning was a point of controversy the season before. These folks, or their agents + reporters who have little if nothing to write about in the offseason = BSOHL.

James McCann hurt his ankle last season and had a subpar year at the plate. So not only is he a perfect BSOHL candidate, he went old school with the claim and hit it right on the money, verbatim:

Spring training is less than a month away, folks!

Bo Jackson is not gonna change kids’ minds

1989:  Bo Jackson #16 of the Kansas City Royals practices his swing as he prepares to bat during a game in the 1989 season.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Last week Bo Jackson said that, if he had it to do all over again, he would have never played professional football and that he would never let his kids play. The sport is too violent, he said. “I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.’”

Fair enough. Thom Loverro of the Washington Times, however, thinks that Bo could do more than simply give his opinion on the matter. He thinks Bo should become an official ambassador for Major League Baseball:

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, pick up the phone right now and call Bo Jackson. Tell him you have a job for him — vice president of something, whatever you would call the man in charge of converting a generation of young athletes to baseball. And pay him what he wants.

You won’t find a better symbol of the differences between the two sports than Bo Jackson. After all, he was an All-Star in both. Bo knows football. Bo knows baseball.

Bo, tell the children — baseball over football.

The Children: “Who is Bo Jackson?”

Yeah, I’m being a bit flip here, but dude: Jackson is 54 years-old. He last played baseball 23 years ago. I’d personally run through a wall for Bo Jackson, but I’m 43. I was 12 when he won the Heisman trophy. While he may loom large to middle aged sports writers, a teenager contemplating what sport to play is not going to listen to someone a decade or more older than his parents.

This isn’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s indicative of how most columnists process the world through their own experiences and assume they apply universally. It’s probably the biggest trap most sports opinion folks fall into.