When Will They Ever Learn?

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When you hear of another baseball player injuring a highly valuable part of his anatomy in some stupid  way, if you’re a baseball fan you have to stop and ask why it’s yet another baseball player.  An unemployed Joe or Joan, or somebody with a normal job can damage themselves any way they want, and besides embarrassment and medical bills, that’s usually all of it. Some years ago, unemployed and in a rare moment of frustration over not getting yet another dead end job, I kicked the computer room door in our apartment.  I expected a sore foot. What I got was a foot-shaped hole in the door and a $90.00 bill for damages from the landlord.

There are other professions that pay as much or more than baseball, and you never hear of their stars damaging the part of them that makes their money. Luciano Pavarotti had hip and knee replacements along with serious work done on his neck and back. For all of that, did the Maestro of Modena  do willful damage to  his voice, which earned more money than the annual budget of many small countries?  Not likely. Meg Ryan’s speaking voice is capable of reducing the most level-headed, clear thinking  man to a teenage Mel Tillis. Even though I’ve been blind since birth,   thinking of her voice in “When Harry Met Sally” makes my fingers tremble as I try to write this. Would she baby that voice as a surgeon protects  his fingers? Is the Pope Catholic?

So why do baseball players do what they do-especially this morning’s poster boy,  Drew Storen of the Washington Nationals. Wednesday night, after serving up a meat ball to Yoenis Cespedes and watching the Mets’ slugger launch it towards Jupiter, thus costing the Nats yet another game, Storen slammed the lock box on his locker with all his considerable strength-using his pitching hand! The results? A broken thumb, a pitcher out for the year and,with thanks to Charles Dickens,  “if these shadows remain unaltered by the future I see a locker without an owner.”

It could be as bad as all that. His general manager Mike Rizzo said he “acted inappropriately. It makes it tough on his teammates. It hurts the team.” What Rizzo said next would make me consider my options if I were Storen. “We’ve gone through this a couple years ago with another relief pitcher. We’re not too happy.” Rizzo couldn’t name “another relief pitcher,” but Chelsea Janes did in the Washington Post.  Storen should have learned from Ryan Mattheus, who punched his locker in 2013. The next year, Mattheus who had pitched in 66 games in 2012 pitched in only 7, and when 2014 was done he was released. His last known address was Cincinnati-hardly a high destination on a player’s wish list considering their record of recent years.

I’ve said Storen isn’t the first and won’t be the last baseball player to harm his most valuable merchandise in a moment of rage.  Pitcher Steve Sparks of the Brewers dislocated his shoulder trying to tear a phone book in half. Another embattled reliever, Jason Isringhausen while with Oakland punched a trash can and broke  his hand following … you guessed it, a bad performance. The Mets even have one of these guys in their history. Pat Zachary pitched for them in 1978, the year of Pete Rose’s 44-game hitting streak. Zachary gave up a hit to Rose in the 7th inning of game 37 of the streak and got the hook 4 batters later. You would think Zachary  would understand giving up a  hit to Pete Rose-the guy only had about 4 thousand hits in  his time. But understanding wasn’t what Zachary felt as he unleashed a swift kick at a batting helmet. He missed and kicked a concrete dugout step instead. He spent the rest of the season on crutches. Bad as they were, the Mets forgave if they didn’t forget, and kept him on hand until the end of 1982.

The worst part about Drew Patrick Storen’s injury to me is easy to sum up.  He should be smarter than this. I’ve laid out some players who foolishly injured themselves and left out others (David Cone-bitten by his mother-in-law’s dog, Jeff Kent who after getting kicked off his high school team showed how much he’d learned by crashing his motorcycle and lying about it while with the Giants in 2002. Not one of these ball players went to Stanford, as Storen did. How difficult was it for Storen to get in? Only Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Columbia are harder to gain entry to than Stanford. Only 5% apply and are accepted and the enrollment is some 7000. You do the math or ask Drew to do it-he’s got time. Admittedly he went pro rather than getting a degree, but even two years in what is truly an institute of higher learning should have taught him that if God gave him a pitching hand and arm that could make more millions than this math dunce can imagine, if he must slam it into anything, try a pillow. Billy Crystal suggested that to Robert De Niro in “Analyze This,” and Storen might watch that a few times before he pitches again, for the Nats or whoever his new employer may be. But that’s just baseball as I see it.


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