Sunday, August 07, 2005

A Weekend Rant on Randy

After Saturday’s calamity, my first thought was, “well, at least it was a weekend game, so I won’t be dedicating 700 words to it.” The issue could be put to rest until Monday morning, when I wake up, sip my cup of coffee, and pen my daily thoughts about the Bronx Bombers.

Funny thing, though. I woke up on this pleasant but cloudy Sunday morning, and I felt the need to write about Randy Johnson. This is an anomaly, mainly because I haven’t been lacking words for the Big Unit in the recent past (7/27/05 – Not Sold On Randy, and 8/01/05 -- Randy Just Being Randy). You'd think I'd be sick of it by now.

What’s eating me most about Randy is his constant excuse making. From the New York Daily News:

"Every year I'm going to have a couple of bad games," Johnson said. "But this year has been a year where I'm very frustrated. ... I can't put my finger on it. I'm disappointed and I'm frustrated.”

I’m no shrink, so pardon me if I’m out of line, but could his mounting frustration be part of the problem? I know that when I was behind the plate in my high school days, if I let a passed ball hit the backstop, I became frustrated. And my frustration would manifest itself while I was in the batter’s box in subsequent innings. Let’s suffice it to say that I was perpetually on the on-ramp to the interstate.

But the frustration has to come from somewhere, and I don’t believe that a bad game or two earlier in the year clouded Randy’s head to the point that it’s affecting him in August. No, there’s more of a grand scheme to this frustration, and today I’m playing the part of Freud.

No matter what excuse he comes up with following a poor start, there is one constant with Randy Johnson: questions concerning his health. From the New York Daily News:

Johnson says his back isn't a concern and noted "that's not why I came out of the game. I came out because I wasn't effective."

I’d offer more Johnson injury-related quotes for evidence, but 1) you have to pay for online newspaper archives and 2) all such quotes are more or less the same.

So is his frustration centered on the New York media prodding him incessantly about health problems that he doesn’t have? It could be, but if the media is the source of his frustration, he should attempt to find employment elsewhere, as the media isn’t going to relent.

The problem with finding employment elsewhere, though, is that it’s not very possible. Even if Randy waived his no-trade clause, what team is going to trade anything of value for a 41-year-old coming off a mediocre year? I know it’s cynical, but think about it like this: we traded away viable pieces (Vazquez, Halsey, Navarro) for a guy with no resale value. Even if the Yanks ate 100% of his remaining contract, there would be no buyers willing to ship a 21-year-old for him.

But I digress. I now offer this idea (and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has come up with it): Randy’s frustration stems from his injuries this season. Every start, it’s either his back or his groin, and I believe that the injuries are beginning to mount, which is affecting his physical ability to pitch effectively, which is in turn leading to heightened frustration, thus equating to even more disappointing starts.

Randy has too much pride to admit being injured, though. Remember earlier in the season, when he expressed displeasure about being scratched from a scheduled start because of an aggravated groin? The guy refuses to admit injury, and it’s becoming detrimental to the team.

As the cliché goes, Randy was brought in for dominance, and he’s never going to provide said dominance if he’s not healthy. And if that means sending him to the DL for some rest, then that’s the move the team should be making. But Randy would never allow that to happen. A trip to the DL, to him, would be an admission that his body is breaking down, thus confirming concerns that have been mounting all year.

If this is the scenario, then in all likelihood, Randy is trying to shrug off his injures, thinking that his innate talent will be able to carry him through games. But I don’t care if your name is Randy Johnson or Bob Gibson, if you’re pitching injured, it is going to affect your, well, effectiveness.

This is my plea to Randy Johnson: go get some rest! You’re 41 years old, and your body is going to be feeling the effects of 19 years in the bigs. And the way you’re pitching now, you’re not going to be helping anyone down the stretch. Yes, I realize that Randy will never read this address personally.

Seriously, if 15 days off will help heal these injuries, there is no reason for the team to not explore that option. Randy was brought in to push the team over the top in the playoffs, but if the season ended today we wouldn’t even make it. And with Randy pitching like he has been lately, he’s not going to help us battle back into a spot. So why not cut your losses, get some rest, and come back when you can be of use to the team?

Too bad pride is too much of an issue.

Update

From ESPN.com:

Randy Johnson's next start with the New York Yankees is in doubt because of a bad back.

"He's really uncomfortable," manager Joe Torre said. "If it was like this yesterday, he wouldn't have pitched."


Later in the article:

"It's real tight right now. It's hard to move," Johnson said. "I'm going to continue to get treatment. Hopefully, it will be day to day."

Quite a divergence from his quote in the Daily News that I cited earlier. So let me get this straight. He DID come out of the game because of his back? So he brushed the issue aside to the media, but once Joe starts breathing down his neck about the injuries, he makes an admission.

Hopefully it won't be day to day. Hopefully he hits the DL. But I've exhausted myself on that topic.