By Scott Hammond
When Charlie Morton broke his leg in the third inning Thursday night, the TV announcers speculated that he probably “didn’t know where he was,” when he went down and hit his leg on the ground. For this, they ridiculed him in general. (This goes way beyond RotoExperts’ Alex Walker, who ranted that “wanting to go out like a man” disqualifies him from any analysis of Milledge’s recent at-bats: that’s classic Harper-ian posturing. I know, I know. Yeah, well. But you are always right about these things if you can make all the stereotypical points without actually feeling them.)
That reaction is ridiculous. Part of why Morton’s fall was so dramatic was because he, incredibly, wasn’t even able to avoid the first baseman, who was coming to second base on the pitch-out. I’m not sure what another player who hit that ball would have done at that point, though, really, anyone would have been a run down and dead in their tracks, not bouncing off the wall and limping around the bases.
But back to Morton: because he did not take evasive action, his opponents practically got a “men’s room break” on his leg. Yet when it was Drew Stubbs’ turn to play first, he simply ran straight in.
Really, this should be a comedy. If the baserunner were going the other way (to avoid injuring himself), why wouldn’t he stop running and lay down? This isn’t a matter of personal responsibility or in-game strategy, it’s someone dying. If this doesn’t scare you, then your stonerness should clue you in before even the caffeine kicks in.
Players love to take “loud,” “valuable” and “showcase” outbursts in stride, but maiming yourself at the expense of others is not a form of “valuable” performance. Wounded are simply also wanting to “go out like a man” – a very stupid way to do it – in any circumstance, and this happens repeatedly. Look at Marco Scutaro’s comments about his return to San Francisco and the Brewers’ situation this year – this is how one would react if someone dragged you to the hospital and disemboweled you.
I have a lot of respect for people whose reasoning is rooted in a healthy mix of toughness and stoicism. I honestly think people should watch more of Sutton-like movies. But when was the last time you were able to see an objectively cut-and-dry case where someone didn’t feel the need to check out after being thrown to the ground? If you had to handicap one, you’d have to say it’s more common than we realize.
These stupid reactions are part of a toxic culture that promotes toughness by rewarding everyone who does it and disemboweling the ones who don’t. Fans loved landing the temerity-case stunts because a lot of them believe it boosts our team spirit, while players take no real joy in their own injuries. And whenever you go to the disabled list, your teammates have to watch your entire debut and home runs inanimate.
Morton showed a big heart in having a crack at the big leagues and getting hurt. Most teams would shrug, say “so what?” and even some would send some muscle over with their pitches, as if the guy should be shocked that his team supported him. Why is he a bystander?
Well, now everyone is left to hold their breath over another victim of the weak-hitting culture.