The wrong lesson to take away from the Steven Matz injury

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Steven Matz’s diagnosis of a partial tear of his left lat muscle is an extreme bummer. Any serious injury to a promising young pitcher is. We see so many of them.

But here is what Matz’s injury is NOT:

This is back-in-my-day malarky which ignores a couple of pretty important facts. Fact 1:

So, Matz was complaining of soreness to the place he was injured following his previous start? And the Mets started him anyway? Perhaps a “bubble boy” approach would be more warranted, not less. Indeed, if Matz was truly suffering from some soreness, the Mets knew it and threw him out there anyway, someone with the Mets should say why they thought that was such a good idea.

But more generally than that, the notion that “coddling” pitchers today is meaningless is a simple logical fallacy. It’s born, no doubt, from the belief that “back in the day” pitchers didn’t tear their lats or their UCLs and stuff. That everyone was Tom Seaver and Fergie Jenkins and look how good THEY did without innings limits! Such a mindset, clearly on display from our friend Kevin Kernan here, ignores a couple of things, however.

It ignores the fact that at lot of those pitchers did tear their lats and UCLs and stuff and that no one really noticed because sports medicine was comparatively prehistoric and the mindset of players back then was to never talk about injuries because they feared they’d lose their jobs.

It ignores the fact that for every Tom Seaver and Fergie Jenkins, there were scores if not hundreds of promising young arms who blew out due to overuse, pitching while injured and the like. We don’t see those data points, of course, as they are hidden in history and obscured by those who survived the meat grinder that was 1960s-70s pitcher usage patterns.

We’re seeing some of this, by the way, in the remembrances of Ken Stabler, too. Admiring and even romantic anecdotes about an era when a quarterback could drink a 12-pack the morning of a big game, still pass for 300 yards and hit the town that night, all while marching his charges to the Super Bowl. It’s definitely a good story with respect to Ken Stabler — the guy was an absolute beast — but it ignores the fact that he was something of a super human and that for every one like him back in the outlaw NFL of the 1970s, there were a dozen promising college quarterbacks who flamed out and found themselves in AA meetings.

If I ran a sports journalism program I’d make every would-be scribe take a crash course in survivor’s bias and make sure that any “today’s coddled athletes are soft!” claptrap they turn in to the copy desk has been checked for ignoring such an important concept.

Dodgers clinch NL’s top seed, West title with win over A’s

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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Wrapping up an NL West title has become routine for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in a year in which no one was sure three months ago if there would be a baseball season, manager Dave Roberts wanted his team to still savor the moment.

The Dodgers clinched the NL’s top postseason seed and eighth straight division title Tuesday night with a 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. They are third team to win at least eight straight division titles, joining the Atlanta Braves (14 straight from 1991-2005) and New York Yankees (nine straight from 1998-2006).

“To fast forward a couple months and be crowned NL West champs is a credit to everyone. It should never be taken for granted,” Roberts said. “Truth be told a lot of guys didn’t know we could clinch. We were responsible but I let it know that it has to be appreciated.”

The Dodgers, who own the best record in the majors at 39-16, were the first team in the majors to clinch a playoff berth on Sept. 16. They will open postseason play on Sept. 30 by hosting every game in a best-of-three series against the No. 8 seed.

Los Angeles came into the day with a magic number of two and got help with the Angels’ 4-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

Instead of a wild celebration on the mound after Jake McGee struck out Sean Murphy for the final out, players briskly walked out of the dugout to celebrate with teammates. Everyone grabbed a division clinching shirt and cap before heading to the mound for a group photo.

The clubhouse celebration was also muted. Champagne was still involved, but it was players toasting each other with a glass instead of being showered in it.

“We talked about it instead of dumping stuff on people. It’s a moment you need to celebrate and we did,” said Corey Seager, who had three hits and one of Los Angeles’ four home runs, “It stinks not being able to do champagne and beer showers because some of the younger guys haven’t been able to experience that.”

Max Muncy, Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock also went deep for Los Angeles, which leads the majors with 104 home runs.

“This whole year has been weird. There’s no other way to describe it,” Muncy said. “It’s sad not to be celebrate as usual but we know there is a lot more at stake.”

Dustin May (2-1) went five innings and allowed two runs on three hits. The 22-year-old red-headed righty set a team record by not allowing more than three earned runs in his first 13 career starts, which include 10 this season.

Robbie Grossman homered for Oakland, which clinched its first AL West crown in seven years on Monday during a day off. The Athletics, in the postseason for the third straight year, currently are the AL’s No. 3 seed.

Mark Canha had two of Oakland’s five hits.

Seager tied it at 1 in the first with an RBI single and then led off the fifth with a drive to center off T.J. McFarland to extend LA’s lead to 6-2.

Muncy gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the third inning with a two-run homer. Taylor and Pollock extended it with solo shots in the fourth off Oakland starter Frankie Montas (3-5).

Grossman quickly gave Oakland a 1-0 lead when he homered off the left-field pole in the first inning. Sean Murphy briefly gave the Athletics a 2-1 advantage when he led off the third with a walk and scored on a wild pitch by May with two outs.

Montas, who allowed only four home runs in his first seven starts, has given up six in his past three. The right-hander went four innings and yielded five runs on seven hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

“They’re a pretty good team that when you make mistakes, they make you pay,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “They’re pretty good laying off and making you throw it over the plate. They made Montas pay, unfortunately.”

Cody Bellinger added two hits for the Dodgers, including an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh.

ATHLETICS ADVANCE

The A’s have a team text thread they used to celebrate clinching their first AL West title since 2013 during their off day Monday, when the Mariners beat Houston.

“We didn’t really celebrate too much yet. It’s exciting,” Chad Pinder said. “We wanted to do it on our own terms. We still won the division and that was our goal. It’s nice to know we’ll be playing home for the series.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Athletics: INF/OF Pinder (strained right hamstring) planned to run at Dodger Stadium and test his leg with hopes of still playing before the conclusion of the regular season. …. RHP Daniel Mengden has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Las Vegas. He was designated for assignment after being medically cleared and reinstated from the COVID-19 injured list following a positive test from Aug. 28.

Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner was scratched from the lineup less than an hour before first pitch due to left hamstring discomfort He came off the injured list on Sept. 15 and has not played in the field since Aug. 28. … Joc Pederson was in the lineup at DH after missing five games while on the family emergency medical list. Roberts said before the game that he wasn’t sure if Pederson will remain with the team during the entire postseason.

UP NEXT

Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 4.50) is 4-1 with a 2.25 ERA over his last five starts dating to Aug. 20.

Dodgers: LHP Julio Urias (3-0, 3.49) will make his team-leading 11th start.

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this story.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports