Oakland Athletics Open a Window into the Reality of Major League Baseball
During his pregame session with the media, before the Oakland Athletics took on the Texas Rangers, manager Bob Geren revealed that Justin Duchscherer "had an MRI and it said there's just some inflation" in his left hip.
So it goes in the mental and physical siege known as the Major League Baseball season.
You'll forgive Geren if one conversation bleeds into another, even if it is only May and the 162-game slate is less than 20 percent complete. I mean, can you really blame his subconscious for transposing the American economic plight with that of his charges?
You'll also have to forgive him if your initial reaction to his handling of the Show's external forces is similar to mine. That is, this guy isn't exactly warm and cuddly.
Baseball can be a grind in the best of times and the A's are currently experiencing the gloomier of the Dickensian options.
With player after player coming up with bumps and bruises ranging from day-to-day hot spots all the way through certified tickets to the disabled list, the 2-6 mark in the club's last eight games is really the least of Oakland's worries.
Tuesday's hard-fought victory over the first place Texas shows the A's have enough firepower to stay the course.
However, if Duke, Kurt Suzuki, and Brett Anderson don't hurry back from the shelf, the 2010 season could be in danger of flying out the window. After all, the old diamond adage is that pennants can't be won in April and May, but they most certainly can be lost in the early going.
Often, that's exactly where a team derails—classic September meltdowns notwithstanding.
So there is the onrushing precipice gnawing at Geren and his White Elephants, which can weigh on your mind and wear on your patience.
Consequently, it's no surprise that warm-ups prior to Monday's date with the Rangers had a noticeably more subdued feel than those I witnessed during my previous trip to the Oakland Coliseum (a game against the Cleveland Indians with the team sitting in first at 10-7).
Losing guys and games can have that effect.
Complicating matters is the standard tedium.
It's nobody's fault because the demand for information—any information—drives the sports journalism industry. Plus, there's no real penalty for failing to pose a genuinely useful question.
Frankly, half the battle seems to be just getting the target talking.
Nevertheless, I've now been a part of several Ultimate Fighting Championship press conferences, a couple similar sessions hosted by MLB, and a few other Q & A's with persons paid to compete.
From what I can tell, most of the questions asked of professional athletes are underwhelming to say the least. They often require the responder to provide the substance by asking yes/no questions in a setting where a simple yes/no reflects unflatteringly on the utterer.
For example, here are some of the queries faced by the A's manager (including all of the good ones):
—Did he have a chance to talk to Duchscherer after his doctor visit?
—Will how Duke responds to treatment determine whether he goes on the DL?
—How is Suzuki coming along and what kind of exercises is he doing?
—Will his injury affect him as a backstop more than it would, say, an outfielder?
—When Gio Gonzalez is on, is he as good as anybody in the game?
—When a pitcher faces a team he's been a part of, who has the advantage (the team was facing ex-Athletic Rich Harden)?
—Is the pitching depth nice to have with all the injuries?
—Have you seen anyone giving Dallas Braden a hard time over the pitcher's mound incident?
Again, I'm not trying to clown the reporters looking for the info; that's their directive and the majority of the worthwhile probes will be dodged anyway. In other words, the options—go with the canned stuff or keep quiet until inspiration strikes, if it strikes—aren't terribly attractive.
Still, it's gotta be frustrating to have to craft interesting replies to uninteresting prompts. Especially when you have to do it day after day after day for five months.
Sooner or later, you'll get a curt comeback and, voila, there's the villain for the day.
Which is something to keep in mind when one of those scandalous remarks gets ripped out of context and slathered across the front page.
I'm not suggesting anyone have unblinking sympathy for these men (a few of which are still boys) or that they constantly deserve the benefit of the doubt.
The Major League minimum is now $400,000.
I'd wager that maybe one of my Stanford friends is making that sum and we've been out of school for almost a decade. Several of us have been to and graduated from one prestigious law/business school or another.
Meanwhile, a lot of these kids are new to the whole legally drinking thing and never stepped foot inside a classroom beyond high schoool.
Furthermore, they're getting these absurd paychecks to roam the country and play baseball.
As Geren understated it, in response to the travel question, "the way the team travels is a pretty nice set-up." Or as Johnny Damon said recently , "even our tough times are so much better than what other people have going on out there.”
Nope, the "woe is me" card is one perk in which the pros do NOT get to partake.
But it's still important to remember that the Milton Bradleys of Major League Baseball are the exceptions, not the rule. Most of these men are perfectly decent, but they're human.
Their mythical powers don't exist unless they've got leather or lumber in hand.
And, sometimes, they prove it.
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