So now we know: Alex Gordon could miss three to four weeks because of a fractured wrist. Gordon hurt himself when he and Mike Moustakas collided while chasing a pop fly in foul territory Sunday.
The actual diagnosis is a “non-displaced fracture of the scaphoid bone” and since I had no idea where the scaphoid bone is located, I looked it up on the Internet and found this:
The scaphoid bone is one of the carpal bones in your hand around the area of your wrist. It is the most common carpal bone to break (fracture). A scaphoid fracture is usually caused by a fall on to an outstretched hand. Symptoms can include pain and swelling around the wrist.
(And if you now want to know what a “carpal bone” is, you’re on your own.)
Basically, Gordon hurt his wrist when he collided with Moustakas and fell, and that gets us to today’s subject: all-out play and whether it’s smart or even possible to go full-speed for 162 games.
We love the idea of someone giving 110 percent on every play. We also love the idea of Nigerian princes who just need our bank account number so they can dump millions of dollars in our laps.
None of these things are real, but that doesn’t stop us from wishing they were.
The guys who run baseball keep adding on games because more games means more money. Players then have to figure out how to get through a 162-game schedule and, if they’re lucky enough to make it to the World Series, an extra month. Players started taking “greenies” (amphetamines) because they were tired and needed a pick-me-up. Some performance-enhancing drug use is about increasing strength, but some of it is about recovery time. As one former player put it to me, if baseball wants to schedule that many games, players will find a way to get through it.
And one of the ways players get though it is by pacing themselves.
When I started covering baseball in 2010 I believed that players should run into walls, go over railings and knock catchers on their backsides if that’s what it took to win a ballgame.
I’m in my seventh season of covering baseball and I now think you do those things when it matters; play all out on every play and you’re going to get hurt and then you won’t be much use to the team at all.
Teams don’t like to talk about players pacing themselves because it sounds bad; but if the Royals want Salvador Perez to catch 140 games a season, sometimes he gets to jog down to first base. He shouldn’t do it when it matters, but pulling a hammy in the ninth inning of game you’re losing by six runs isn’t smart baseball.
I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth repeating for those of you who only recently became Royals fans: Rusty Kuntz says when a player starts playing professionally, at some point in that first year the player will probably admit he’s exhausted. High school and college players don’t play nearly as many games as pros do and a rookie needs to figure out how to make it through a pro season.
Rusty tells the young players they need to play the game at 80 percent.
Run down to first base at 80 percent, go after fly balls at 80 percent; do everything at 80 percent. And then — when you need it — when you see you have a chance to beat out that grounder for a hit or you’re going to have to get on your horse to catch that ball in the gap, adrenaline will kick in and that 100 percent effort will be there when you need it.
Baseball purists love Alex Gordon because he plays the game hard; Gordon has shown he’ll run into a wall or dive head-first into the stands to make a catch. He’ll also stand at the plate and take a fastball in the ribs if that’s what needs doing.
On Sunday, Gordon was going all out to catch a Melky Cabrera pop fly in foul territory. The White Sox led by a run, it was the seventh inning, there were two outs and a runner in scoring position. Cabrera had driven in two runs in his previous at-bat, so if the pop fly was caught, he wouldn’t get a chance to drive in a third run.
Trying to make the catch was the right thing to do; but was it worth losing Gordon for three to four weeks?
We might like the idea of player charging around like a madman, but the truth is you don’t want Gordon doing that stuff all the time because he’s going to hurt himself and over the long run that might not be worth making a single catch.
Now if you’re thinking ballplayers didn’t pace themselves back in the day, I’ve talked to guys who played back then and they admit they jogged some balls out just like everybody else — but but they also say they didn’t do it when it mattered.
So next time someone crashes into a wall, or dives over a railing or breaks up a double play with a hard slide, pay attention to the situation and ask yourself if that player got hurt doing those things, was it worth it?