Ah, spring. When our idle thoughts turn to minor injuries and blow them all out of proportion as we descend into an irrational mad panic and begin plotting ways to steal away various players and store them in bubble wrap and padded rooms until they can promise to listen to their mothers and their trainers, to look both ways crossing the street, to wait at least one hour after eating before getting into a swimming pool, and to always stretch extensively before games.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Most of the problems are the kinds of things any reasonable cat would expect after a long offseason: sore quads (Cabrera), balky shoulders (Renteria), long recoveries (Wilson), elusive recapture of “the feel” of pitches (Rogers), crippling fear of first innings (Bonderman), simmering resentment (Inge), etc. Even though the days when ballplayers spent all winter sitting on their couches drinking beer and watching football are gone, and most of these guys spend the winter training in one way or another, there’s still going to be a transition from offseason training to baseball almost every day in Lakeland. Guys are gonna get stiff and sore.
Jim Leyland understands this and is sitting the older/more problematic Tigers a little more often this spring. Which is good! I am totally on board with this plan. It’s kind of like the reasonable, managerial version of me ambushing Kenny Rogers when he gets back to Detroit and cocooning his entire upper body in styrofoam and fear.
If guys really ARE running into trouble from overuse, this is a fine way to start combating it. Maybe a tighter reign on Bondo’s pitch count, for instance, will keep him from falling to pieces late in the season (you’d think that at this point we wouldn’t need to have him on a pitch count anymore, but we’ve gotta do SOMETHING to solve The Great Enigma That Is Jeremy Bonderman). And I’m sure most of our elderly Tigers, like Pudge, would benefit from some more time off (although he’ll hate every second of it, because in his own mind Pudge is 21 years old and a hot piece of catching meat).
Still, there’s only so much the team can do with this approach, which brings me to Gary Sheffield and Gary Sheffield’s stiff legs.
Namely, he has them. They’re stiff and sore and crankypants. Now, if you’ll recall, Sheffield had shoulder surgery this past October, so presumably his offseason workout wasn’t as strenuous as normal. It’s not like some soreness in his legs is unexpected, or even necessarily something to worry ourselves over.
(You knew there was a ‘but’ coming.)
Sheffield’s old. I know this keeps being said, and even from my relatively youthful perspective I know that 40 isn’t exactly graveyard-bound. But you have to remember that while Gary Sheffield is (in November going to be) 40, the tendons/ligaments/etc. in his body are probably a good deal ‘older’ than that.
We’re all well aware of how unnatural a motion pitching is, but watch these guys batting sometime. Do you see how their knees bend and twist sharply around? Does that seem like a fun, natural motion to put your knee tendons through a bazillion times a year? On top of that… well, I’m loathe to bring up the S word, but I think it’s pretty clear by now that Sheff DID take something or other (even if he thinks it didn’t count because he didn’t stick anything in his butt), and steroids are bad bad BAD for your connective tissue.
I don’t know how much resting Sheffield is going to help out here. Well. What does Sheff himself have to say about all this?
He knows that with his 40th birthday coming up in November, people will say that his body is showing his age as well as wear and tear. That, he admits, helps keep him motivated.
“Once you get to this age,” he said, “that comes with the territory.”
“I feed off when people say you can’t do something, and then you do it,” Sheffield said. “That’s the only thing that bothered me. I didn’t get a chance to do it [over a full season].”
Oh, well, in that case…
HEY GARY SHEFFIELD WHY ARE YOU SO OLD YOU CRAZY OLDSTER! YOU COULDN’T HIT JOE TORRE’S NOSE IF IT WAS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU! MAN YOU DON’T HAVE ANYTHING LEFT EXCEPT FOR CRUSTY JOCKSTRAPS AND SAD OLD DREAMS! YOU’RE A BROKE-DOWN OLD LEGLESS SKINK! A SKINK I SAY!!
I hope that helps.