Let's take a hypothetical look at Ace Pitch-a-Lot, the number one starter on a hypothetical team that had great success in a hypothetical professional baseball league in 2008 and has recently made news for having arm problems. Let's say that Ace has had inflammation in his pitching elbow for a few weeks but got an MRI exam that showed no structural damage. So when asked by a hypothetical beat reporter, Ace said he didn't feel tightness anymore and, with a little bit of rest, should be ready to make his start on Opening Day.
Well of course he's not going to go out there and tell a beat reporter looking for a break that he's lost velocity because his tendons have become about as durable as a piece of braised lamb shank. Of course, I'm talking about Cole Hamels, and of course, his tendons are (probably) A-OK. Who am I to judge whether or not Hamels is going to make 35 starts in 2009? And does it really matter?
He's a professional pitcher; throwing baseballs is how he makes a living. I don't begrudge him for keeping the truth about his various pains under his hat. I don't even begrudge the beat writers for reprinting the truths and would-be untruths. I blame people like me who make a big deal out of rumors and speculation surrounding very specific ligaments and muscles for the benefits of my fandom or (even worse) my fantasy team. If Cole Hamels wants to pay lip service to appease beat writers who are scrounging for a break just to appease readers like me, so be it. Aaron Harang, too, who says this when asked if he's hurting:
"Not at all," he said. "It's spring training. I'm working on things. You've got to fine tune all your pitches. I'm going to keeping throwing a pitch no matter the results."
I pity Aaron. If any pitcher has an excuse for arm soreness, it's Harang, who memorably came into relieve an extra innings game last May and threw 63 pitches. On two days rest. He spent the rest of the season stinking up Cincinnati, which is pretty hard to do considering the town's reputation, and ended 2008 with an ERA a full run higher than that of his previous two seasons. Is Harang broken? I don't know. And now, I don't care if he keeps his hurts under his hat because it's no longer my business to know the truth. I'm ready to forgive pitchers for playing coy; it's time for me to be cool with what should remain a private sekrit between an employee and his employer, and expounded on only by experts.
(picture courtesy of Flickr use nelgdev)