After signing the richest free agent contract in franchise history, itís no secret that Ricky Nolasco has been a huge disappointment. His 5.90 ERA is more than 1.5 runs higher than his career mark entering 2014. He is striking out fewer batters, walking more, and giving up more home runs than his track record would suggest that he should. Heís leading the league in hits allowed. His deal has been one of the biggest disappointments from free agency this past winter.
After seeing these facts or simply watching him pitch a few times, itís evident heís not the same guy heís been for the majority of his solid big league career. No one should be overly surprised that heís been pitching hurt.
Ok, so heís hurt, and that sucks, but at least thereís an explanation of why heís been so underwhelming. Seems like a pretty straightforward story, right? Thatís where this starts to get interesting. Pioneer Press Twins beat reporter Mike Berardino, who does great work covering the Twins night in night out, tweeted this out not long after his story was posted:
Mauerís soft, Nolascoís soft. Theyíre all soft these days! Unless youíre really hurt, you go out there when you see your name on that galdang lineup card! Every time. Period. Gotta try to go the distance and get the win! Bartender, gimme another Busch Light!
Seriously, this kind of tough guy, suck it up, youíre not injured youíre hurt BS is so outdated in todayís game. What exactly is that ďcertain levelĒ Gardy? Because itís evident to me that Nolasco reached that certain arbitrary level of injured a while ago.
If this is the kind of mindset that Gardy wants his players to have, a 1980s bite-the-bullet, grit it out approach, then he is no longer a viable option. Berardinoís article says explicitly that only after some coaxing could the Twins brass get Nolasco to admit his arm has been tight since spring training and that he hasnít been right all year.
I have never set foot in the Twins clubhouse, so I donít feel comfortable making these broad generalizations about a company I have no internal knowledge of, but it certainly screams cultural problem to me. Why else would Nolasco, a very good and most durable pitcher whom the Twins have a lot invested in, feel compelled to hide an injury and pitch ineffectively for months on end rather than feel comfortable admitting he isnít right and needs some time before heíll be able to get out on the mound and pitch to his talent level and perform up to the expectations of his contract?
There is no point to playing injured or feeling like you should have to hide an injury. I realize that itís a long season and no one is 100% as the season wears on, but there is a difference between sore/hurt and injured. And as it stands, Ricky Nolasco at whatever percent he was pitching at isnít a very good pitcher. Had he felt comfortable going to Gardy and saying, ďHey, Iím not right, I need some time, put me on the DL,Ē the Twins could have easily gone to the minor leagues and gotten someone who could have helped the team more than an injured Nolasco has for the past couple months. Trevor May or Alex Meyer potentially could have come up and helped the club. I have no knowledge of the internal workings of any other clubs either (again, shocker), but I imagine smart teams do their best to make sure their players feel more than comfortable disclosing injuries and getting treatment.
Instead of that approach, the Twins Twinsíd and Nolasco toughed it out for more than a handful of starts, being ineffective and possibly further injuring himself and hurting the clubís investment in him. I do realize this is a culture problem with layers upon layers upon layers. I ripped up my shoulder in high school and didnít tell a soul until months after it happened, afraid of what answer I would get. Who knows if I hurt it worse by continuing to play baseball while eating Advil like they were Skittles.
No one wants to admit theyíre hurt or to miss any time. Itís incredibly frustrating. So I get that this is not all the Twinsí fault. Nolasco has probably been conditioned to go out there every fifth day, no matter how he feels, for upwards of a couple decades. That being said, Iíve become less and less enamored over the past few years with how the Twins do business. I hope Iím wrong, but Iím pretty sure Iím not.
Originally posted at troywilliamsonshands.blogspot.com