Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Canadian pitchers are as healthy as a diseased hooker

The following is written by David Kamoe, a life-long sports fan whose sister is a close friend. David is an avid A's fan, wen to to high school with Drew Gooden and can't believe that Giants commentator Mike Krukow used to refer to the right-centerfield expanse at Pac Bell Park as "Finley Alley," referring to Steve Finley who remarkably wore a Giants uniform for a season. David will likely be stopping by these parts a few times a month, so treat him right. And no sister jokes.

Allow me to preface this missive with the following statement: I heart Canada. I grew up watching “You Can’t Do That on Television”, “Kids in the Hall” and re-runs of “SCTV.” I own not only “Strange Brew” on DVD but have the soundtrack on vinyl. Much of this is courtesy of my Dad who was not Canadian but rather Hawaiian-Chinese. I also believe that the toughest sport this side of rugby is hockey. I am of the opinion that hockey players are the toughest, more rugged, and yet nicest guys on the planet. Expect say Sean Avery or Patrick Roy who are red asses. I am also a fan of Canadian baseball players. It slightly bothers me that professional pinch-hitter and former Athletic Matt Stairs is no longer a Blue Jay even though he’s from Fredericton, New Brunswick and not Toronto. I worry, however, about Canadian pitchers.

This was born out a short conversation I was having with a woman sitting behind me at the A’s-Yankees game Monday night. It was a 1-2 count to Melky Cabrera, I believe, and the conversation lasted under a minute. The point was that former A’s pitcher Rich “Vandal of Style” Harden was injury prone. I always took up for Rich when he wore green and gold even though he was on the DL quite a bit. There are, however, other Canadian pitchers out there. Harden’s current team, the Cubs, has Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) who was on the DL this year because he injured himself jumping over the railing of the Cubs dugout. Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.) just had exploratory shoulder surgery and has been a disaster since being traded to the Mariners.

The last two examples are Jeff Francis of the Rockies and Scott Richmond of the Blue Jays. Francis has been on the DL and will probably be out for the whole year. Richmond was on the DL from July 1st to July 28th and then went out and lost to the A’s on August 1st. The question is simple: Why?

Matt Stairs has been a journeyman to be sure but he’s active, Jason Bay has stayed off the DL most of the season for the Sox, Russell Martin has been consistently behind the plate for the Dodgers, and Justin Morneau hasn’t missed much this year if at all.

Now all these men are position players and most of them don’t play every day but pitchers only pitch every five days. Hockey players, on the other hand, roll in shifts that last maybe a minute thirty max. Not every player is a bruiser in the style of a Jody Shelley or a George Parros whose main job title is “fighter.” And they don’t get injured as often as a Rich “Vandal of Style” Harden. Maybe they didn’t play enough backyard hockey growing up. Maybe Gerry Cheevers talk to these guys. Couldn’t hurt, seeing as he used to paint scars on his mask where the puck hit him...IN THE FUCKING FACE.


george1964 said...

Two comments. First, you are hereby anointed an honourary Canadian. I don't have any actual authority to do so, but anyone who enjoys hockey and "Strange Brew" is more than capable of helping me kick the ass of anyone in Ottawa who gives me grief over this.

Second, I am a lifelong Montreal Canadiens fan, and therefore have a burning hatred for anything even remotely connected to the Boston Bruins. But Gerry Cheevers had by far the most awe-inspiringly brilliant mask in sports history. The tape was intended to represent all the stitches he DIDN'T get from getting hit in the face. Just watching him in the net, you knew this was one tough son of a bitch, and you had to respect that, even though he played for a completely douche team.

John said...

gotta think it has to do with the weather. there's a recent article in SI talking about how pitchers are babied now and how they never used to have pitch counts and innings limits and such. it's a different game now, with all the specialization in relievers and starters throwing 100 in the 8th inning (e.g. justin verlander against the red sox a week or so back).

anyway, one argument SI (Verducci, I think) gives is that pitchers in the old days were used to "abuse" and those that weren't weeded out were the ones who made it to the bigs and threw 20 CGs/year. so while young pitchers in america no longer are going through such rigor, it must be even more true for the short-season canadians.

how many innings does a young canadian throw in his formative years? less than the average american. much less than the average dominican. probably not enough to warrant hitting 98 on the gun over and over for 150 innings in high-stress big league games.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for anointing me a honourary Canadian. As someone who owns the book "How to be a Canadian: Even if you already are one," I thank you and humbly accept. Two, I apologize for getting the Cheevers story wrong. I heard him tell it on an old episode of "Don Cherry's Grapevine" a while ago and clearly "mis-remembered." On the pitching strength tip, I concur with the sentiment of "babieing" pictures these days. It seems to be a high-wire act between not letting young kids throw off-speed pitches and older picthers not being able to throw complete games. The litmus test is probably Texas where Nolan Ryan wants Rangers pitchers to throw more innings. Cross your fingers and hope it works. David

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