AP writer Howie Rumbergap — which is a FANTASTIC sportswriter name, by the way — talks to a number of former big baseball names who are now the marginal types in spring training camps across Florida and Arizona. The Mark Prior/Mike Hampton/Bartolo Colon/Eric Chavez types. After noting that, despite the fact that many of them had either quit or said they would quit before, they’re all still plugging away, Eric Chavez explains it:
“This is what I was born to do. I’m a baseball player. I’m not going to be able to do it a lot longer in life and I just want enjoy it and try to finish it out as best as I can.”
This puts a slightly different spin on the “he’s a ballplayer” stuff from the other day. One that suggests commitment, be it quixotic or otherwise.
These guys have way more of their identity tied up in what they do than the vast majority of us who sit in front of computers and crack wise all day. That’s both good and bad, of course, depending on how extreme the commitment and whether it’s a motivating force or one that skews perspective and leads one to make bad life choices.
But it’s one of the many things that draws me to baseball. These guys are just wired differently than you and I. And I find it fascinating.
Phil Hughes was officially designated for assignment by the Twins on Tuesday, the culmination of multiple injury-plagued seasons and poor performance.
Things couldn’t have started out much better for Hughes in Minnesota. The former Yankees hurler joined the Twins on a three-year, $24 million contract in December of 2013 and reeled off a 3.52 ERA over 32 starts during his first season with the club. He set the MLB record (which still stands, by the way) for single season strikeout-to-walk ratio and even received some downballot Cy Young Award consideration. The big year resulted in the two sides ripping up their previous agreement with a new five-year, $58 million deal, but it was all downhill after that.
Hughes took a step back with a 4.40 ERA in 2015 and struggled with a 5.95 ERA over 11 starts and one relief appearance in 2016 before undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He wasn’t any better upon his return last year, putting up a 5.87 ERA in nine starts and five relief appearances. Hughes missed time with a biceps issue and required a thoracic outlet revision surgery in August. He began this year on the disabled list with an oblique injury, only to put up a 6.75 ERA over two starts and five relief appearances before the Twins decided to turn the page this week.
Hughes is still owed the remainder of his $13.2 million salary for this year and another $13.2 million next year. The deal didn’t work out as anyone would have hoped, but unfortunately this is another case of health just not cooperating.