Obviously there is still a lot of baseball left to play. And if I had to bet, I’d bet that the Detroit Tigers are going to be just fine. But the past two weeks has to convince Tigers fans that, yes, there are Baseball Gods. And that they are not benevolent. Indeed, they’re like the gods of Greek mythology who seem to enjoy toying with mortals.
Less than two weeks ago the Tigers traded for David Price, giving them a rotation consisting of the last three Cy Young Award winners, last year’s ERA champion and a kid in Rick Porcello who is having as good or better a season than all of them. The big question on everyone’s mind was how to fit all of those starters into the Tigers’ playoff rotation, with said playoffs being inevitable.
Flash forward: the Tigers started Robbie Ray last night. They are starting a guy named “Buck Farmer” today. If you had said “Buck Farmer” to me a couple of days ago I would have said it was either the name of a second tier porn star or the name Justin Verlander uses to check into hotels without being noticed. Meanwhile, two starters the Tigers considered superfluous — Doug Fister and Drew Smyly — spun gems for their new teams in the past 48 hours.
This isn’t an indictment of any move the Tigers have made. No one would choose Smyly over Price and not having Fister around did not hurt the Tigers until very recently. And obviously no one can predict injuries. It’s merely to note how damn fast everything can change in baseball and how things you thought were sure things one moment become something far less than sure the next.
It sucks to be reminded of this when it happens to your team. And no one wants injuries to happen. But in a cosmic sense, the quick turn of fortune that can happen in this game is one of baseball’s most exciting phenomenons.
Back during the 2015 playoffs the sorts of New York media types who love to find reasons to criticize players for petty reasons decided to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for playing golf the day of a playoff game. The Mets won the series with the Cubs during which the controversy, such as it was, occurred and it was soon dropped.
It was picked back up again in 2016 when Cespedes, while on the disabled list with a strained quad, was seen playing golf. Despite the fact that everyone involved said that golf did not contribute to his injury and that golf would have no impact on his injured quad, it was deemed “a bad look” by a columnist looking to get some mileage out of bashing Cespedes for having a hobby that probably half of all ballplayers share. They did it when he showed off his fancy cars too, by the way, even though just about every ballplayer has a fancy car or three. When you’re a superstar in New York — especially when you’re one with whom the media is not particularly close for various reasons — you’re going to catch hell for seemingly nothing.
Now there’s a new twist to the Cespedes golf saga. Yoenis himself says that his poor start — he’s hitting .195/.258/.354 and leads the league in strikeouts — is due to . . . not enough golf! From the New York Times:
He gave a possible reason for the poor start this weekend: not playing enough golf, a hobby beloved by many baseball players. And, yes, he is serious.
“In previous seasons, one of the things I did when I wasn’t going well was to play golf,” he said after a game on Friday in which he struck out four times but still drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning. “This year, I’m not playing golf.”
The story says Cespedes quit golf last summer because he worried that it was contributing to hamstring problems. He’s thinking about going back to it soon, as he thinks it’ll help his swing. Given that he’ll catch hell either way, he may as well do what he wants.