Kicking Rocks: The "Birth" of a Quitter
The return of Howard Benders Kicking Rocks series looks at league damage in the aftermath of injuries
When the reports broke about Jose Fernandez’ elbow strain, you knew that was it. There was no way he wasn’t going to be the 92nd pitcher to have Tommy John surgery this season and you just knew it would be the last straw for many fantasy owners. Between the multitudes of pitchers lost for the season already, including non-Tommy John candidates like Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale and Alex Cobb, fantasy owners have endured or are currently enduring DL stints from the likes of Ryan Braun, Chris Davis, Bryce Harper, Jay Bruce, Jason Kipnis, and Ryan Zimmerman, just to name a few. To say that’s it’s been brutal would be an understatement. It’s beyond brutal. It’s like one of the baseball gods repeatedly kicked you in the fantasy groin while the others just stood there and laughed at you, all the while tossing hamstring and oblique injuries to all your role players for good measure.
Now when the injury bug starts flying around and takes a big bite out of, well, everybody’s ass, two things happen. One is that it brings out the will to fight. Experienced, savvy owners who understand how to play this game and know how to roll with the punches rise to the occasion and fight their way through their injuries and do what they have to do to continue competing for a championship. The other, though, is when the injury bug digests what is eaten and craps out a bunch of quitters.
You know who I’m talking about. Every league has them. When injuries pile up, the whining begins. Cries of team demise and an inability to compete become louder than the sound of the shrieking eels and the white flag gets raised faster than a new closer du jour gets plucked off the waiver wire. The smack talk that we endured from these “Lay-Down Larry’s” at the beginning of the year is replaced by inaudible whimpers of a season lost and suddenly it’s all about a mid-May exit strategy rather than a will to press on.
The bellyachers in re-draft leagues start talking about the importance of the NFL draft and the excitement of the NBA/NHL playoffs while their lineups become overridden with weeds in a garden of neglect. There’s no proper DL management, waiver selection deadlines are missed and suddenly you’ve got teams that are almost-dead with not even a thought of trying Miracle Max’s pill, no matter how much the chocolate coating helps it go down. The season isn’t even a third of the way through and they’re done. Sure, you can sift through their pockets and look for loose change but that opens up a whole other can of worms that’s usually met with some idiot’s cries of collusion.
The quitters in keeper leagues create an even bigger problem. With a foundation of “I’m now playing for next year,” these crybabies lay down….or bend over, really…to open the door for thieves and looters looking to steal away the top, and sometimes overpriced talent. The value of rookies who have yet to play a single inning in the majors suddenly becomes equal to that of a 2014 first-round pick and even guys who have yet to play above the Double-A level are now worth productive, everyday major-league talent. Trades made are beyond lopsided and suddenly the league winner is determined, not by knowledge and skill, but by who can make the most egregious dump deal. More cries of collusion are declared, email wars begin and suddenly your league is filled with strife and mass threats of a post-season league exodus. That league you were so excited about just two months ago is now an internet headache ruining your enjoyment of the MLB season.
Listen, we all get hit with injuries. Do they happen to some more than others? Not really. A strained oblique or a dislocated finger isn’t a personal attack on you. The baseball gods may be vindictive at times, but we are all treated equally in their eyes. Everyone feels their wrath at some point during a season. It’s one of those certainties like death and taxes. But it’s up to you to stand and fight. Cowering in a corner like some little, helpless wuss isn’t the answer. You grow a pair. You do the necessary work to press on. I can sit here and spew the old adage that says “winners never quit and quitters never win,” but that’s not enough. You need to rub some dirt on it, Johnny. Stand tall and show us what you’re made of. No one ever respects the guy who becomes a festering turd left at the bottom of the standings after the injury bug has relieved itself.