Yu Darvish Says ‘Stupid Things’ on Twitter, How Brailyn Marquez Got Stupid Good, Booing Andrew Luck Was Stupid
Does anyone else remember that book series called The Stupids, in which the titular family was so incompetent that the only only actor capable of portraying the patriarch in the subsequent movie adaptation was Tom Arnold? If you weren’t around for the heady days of the early 80’s, just know that a children’s book called The Stupids Die was not immediately considered too objectionable for elementary schools.
What’s that got to do with the rest of this post? Why, nothing at all, though the word “stupid” is included and I’m sure several of the people shaking their fists at clouds and yelling at kids to get off their lawns as they lament the pervasive cultural softness that led to smoke-free air, safety nets, and shorter starts would likewise decry the scourge of political correctness that took awful books out of circulation.
Any readers out there whose dander is raised by millennial shenanigans may want to go ahead and pop an extra low dose Bayer aspirin or some beta-blockers just in case.
Yu Darvish has long been reviled by those who lament the lack of intestinal fortitude so evident among today’s professional athletes. You can almost smell the erosion of testosterone as manly men like Stubby “Stud Daddy” Tanner give way to Jonathan Moxon (this Varsity Blues reference probably missed the mark, but I don’t care) and players of his ilk, to the extent that athletes are now forced to augment their low-T with gas-station boner pills.
After signing with the Cubs, Darvish was perceived as weak because he kept being shut down with what for a long time was viewed as a phantom injury. That’s still the case in some circles even, since public perception is hard to change. It doesn’t help that the overdue diagnosis of a stress reaction, which can also be referred to as a bone bruise, led many to draw incorrect conclusions about the severity of an issue that required surgery.
Those things are now well behind him, but that doesn’t mean Darvish is perceived as being any tougher. He’s not gone deep into games on a regular basis, either because he hasn’t been efficient enough or hasn’t been allowed to push his limits, and no lead is considered safe when he’s out there. All of which led to a start last week in which he surrendered four homers and then sparred with David Kaplan on Twitter.
“It’s just if I want to tweet, I’m going to tweet,” Darvish told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. “Sometimes I get in trouble, especially with my wife. Sometimes I post stupid things.
“I did that the whole time (in Japan),” he said. “Some media wrote stupid things, and I always responded to them. I always did that.”
Something else Darvish has always done is experiment with a wide variety of different pitch types, showcasing as many as 11 different offerings in his repertoire. He can even throw multiple pitches left-handed, not that he’d ever bust that out in a game like the knuckle curve he decided to implement last week after trying it out shortly before.
“He felt it in the bullpen and broke it out in the game,” Joe Maddon told Jesse Rogers and other media members when asked about Darvish’s walk-free streak. “And it was great. He’s able to manipulate his hand and his arm in ways most guys cannot. He’s just a different level of talent. That’s why.”
The real key is the confidence that has come from being truly pain-free for the first time in over a year. Though his elbow was fully healthy at the start of the season, Darvish was not mentally prepared to really cut his fastball loose and he struggled with his command as a result. That pattern of learned helplessness can be difficult to break, but Darvish was finally able to do so after a couple months.
Now it may be a matter of being confident enough to not throw strikes and to realize that walks aren’t always bad. The best pitchers can still beat hitters even when they know what’s coming, and Darvish has that kind of stuff. He just needs to get comfortable with the idea that walks are okay when you’re executing your pitches. If that happens, hoooo, buddy.
As impressive as Darvish’s transformation has been this year, it’s rivaled or surpassed by what Brailyn Marquez has done with Low-A South Bend and High-A Myrtle Beach. There have been some forgettable trash-can games, like giving up a season-high eight hits Monday night, but the 20-year-old lefty has really taken off after incorporating all of his instruction from the past few years.
“There were some changes to his natural arm stroke over time in the Dominican and it got really short and took his delivery out of sync,” Cubs minor-league pitching coordinator Brendan Sagara told Sahadev Sharma ($) of The Athetic. “So we built his arm stroke back to what it was as an amateur when we signed him. We got his body to sync up and it created all this easy power.
“Last year he averaged 95 and this year with that plus some added physical development, he’s averaging 98-99 and touching 102 pretty regularly.”
There’s much more to the process in Sharma’s piece, including why the Cubs changed Marquez’s fastball grip and how they went about dialing in his breaking ball, but it’s all about confidence in the end. That can be a fickle thing at any stage of the sport, let alone with a young player who’s still filling out and learning just what his body can do. In Marquez, the Cubs have a pitcher who can almost single-handedly reverse their developmental fortunes, now they just need to shepherd him to Chicago.
Though it’s not related to the Cubs in general, the idea of playing through injury and being called soft naturally brings us to former Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. The heir to Peyton Manning’s throne in a city that had converted from basketball to football under No. 18’s guidance, Luck was saddled with expectations he never really wanted and probably didn’t fully understand until recently.
A worthy competitor who always had bigger aspirations than getting beat up on the football field, he had the air of a guy who’d get out before his health had a chance to betray him. But the when and how of his departure ambushed the city of Indianapolis and the sports world beyond. The timing of his decision to walk away while he could still do so without a noticeable limp may not have been shocking in a vacuum, but it sucked the air out of a stadium that actually had its roof open for once.
“I am going to retire,” Luck said in a hurriedly arranged presser necessitated by ESPN’s Adam Schefter’s report during Saturday’s preseason game. “This is not an easy decision. It’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me.”
“I’m in pain, I’m still in pain. It’s been four years of this pain, rehab cycle,” he said. “It’s a myriad of issues — calf strain, posterior ankle impingement, high ankle sprain. Part of my journey going forward will be figuring out how to feel better.”
As Darvish could certainly attest, those weren’t “Yuuuuuus” being rained down from the Colts faithful who’d managed to stick out the game long enough to watch Luck leave the sideline. To call the reaction surprising would be to give too much credit to human nature, and perhaps to an organization that has readily hidden health issues in an effort to pimp season tickets, but the subsequent lambasting of Luck’s decision by local and national pundits has been regrettably tone-deaf.
This notion that athletes are circus animals or just a legion of golems given life for the purpose of our entertainment leads to a cognitive dissonance in which we forget that they’re actually human beings with their own feelings. Crazy, I know. Our desire to see them performing in our team’s uniform to serve our best interest overrides their best interests, or so the thought seems to go.
And hey, they’re getting paid a crap-ton of money for being able to do what millions of normal Joes would do for a fraction of the cost, or for free, so they need to suck it up and quit whining. But no amount of money can purchase peace of mind and even the shiniest trophy loses it’s luster when you can no longer muster the strength to lift it off the shelf. No one would care if Jeff Bezos walked away from Amazon, but a football player quits and people lose their damn minds.
Now, I will say that it’s at least a little fishy that Luck was out there playing catch on the sidelines as though nothing was amiss. Then you’ve got the public discourse of the organization and from Luck himself downplaying the severity of his latest injury. Some people felt misled, understandably so.
Colts fans took to social media with videos of themselves burning their No. 12 jerseys, and some may have even used them as torches when the angry mob descended upon Colts HQ to demand ticket refunds. Okay, so hordes of Hoosiers didn’t actually show up at the West 56th St. location, but there were a lot of angry phone calls.
The vitriol will fade soon enough, just as it always does, and Luck will probably be remembered fondly in the end. After all, semi-disgraced Colts coach Chuck Pagano received a standing ovation when he was shown on the Bears sideline — he’s Chicago’s defensive coordinator, for those who don’t follow the NFL — well before the drama ensued.
It’s funny how people tend to have more reasonable responses when time and context temper their emotions, isn’t it? Or maybe that never happens and Luck remains a pariah, forced to live out his existence in exile from the city that loved him up until he made a decision based on his own well-being.
Listen, I get that many of us have invested far too much time, effort, and money into our fandom to easily react to things properly in real time. Landfills are littered with broken household items that had the poor fortune of being within reach when a bad beat led to an emotional response. Stuff happens. But that doesn’t mean it’s not stupid to break things, or to boo a player for wanting to regain what he felt was an acceptable quality of life.
I’ve already dragged on further than I ever intended to with this, so it’s entirely possible no one’s even reading at this point. Probably for the best, all things considered. If you are, however, I’d welcome you comment below. That probably goes without saying and I may well regret encouraging it, but constructive conversations are actually possible and can help our understanding of complex matters.
In other words, don’t say anything stupid if you choose to comment.