We tend to only pay attention to player-umpire conversations when they’re contentious. When a call is blown or, at the very least, the player thinks a call is blown, and the parties get to shouting at one another. Last night, however, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo had a conversation with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez that was pretty sweet as far as these things go.
Rizzo had assumed a ball four earlier in the game and started to head toward first base. It was called a strike, however, and it was one of those situations where an umpire could have, if he wanted to, assumed that Rizzo was showing him up or whatever it is that umpires get cranky about in those instances. When Rizzo came up later in the game he started to apologize to Hernandez for that, but Hernandez wasn’t having any of it:
Hernandez tells Rizzo that he totally understood, that Rizzo was just in the heat of competition and such things happen. He said, speaking for his umpiring crew, that Rizzo was “awesome with us.”
Hernandez blew a call at home plate last night and, at many points in his career has caused players, managers and fans to tear their hair out because, well, he has blown some other calls as well. It’s good to see, however, that for whatever faults he has an ump, holding grudges and perceiving slights and disrespect on the part of players is not one of them. In that respect he seems pretty chill. Far more chill than a lot of older umps who seem to look for signs of disrespect at every turn.
Bobby Jenks was a key part of the 2005 world champion White Sox. By 2010, his effectiveness as a closer fell off and he signed with the Boston Red Sox for the 2011 season. He’d pitch in only 19 games that year, suffer a back injury and would never pitch again.
In the year or so after that, we heard that Jenks was arrested for driving under the influence. And then we heard that his back surgery was botched, and his baseball career was over. Then, after years of silence, we learned last spring that Jenks won $5.1 million in a medical malpractice suit against the doctor who performed his surgery.
We did not, however, know all the details until Bobby Jenks wrote about them at the Players’ Tribune this morning. This is must-click link stuff, folks.
Jenks talks about how a seemingly innocuous pitch to Jorge Posada in an early-season Red Sox-Yankees game in 2011 was the last pitch he’d ever throw. He talks about the presumably simple surgery that would supposedly get him back on the field. And then the scary complications in which he almost died due to leaking spinal fluid resulting from the botched surgery. Then, after using painkillers to deal with back pain, Jenks’ fell into drug addiction, all of which culminated in him finding himself half-naked and crazed in a car that didn’t belong to him with police and rescue workers surrounding him.
Jenks got clean but his wife left him. And then he mounted a multi-year lawsuit during which he learned that the reason his back surgery was screwed up was because the surgeon was performing two surgeries at one time, which is an apparently common practice called “concurrent surgery,” that sounds like it totally should NOT be a common practice.
Yet Jenks has survived. He’s been sober for over seven years and he seems to be in a good place. But boy did he have to go through something harrowing to get there. Definitely take the time to read it.