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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Livan In America... Dun, Dunna-dunna    

Got to have an operation! [DONE-DONE-DONE-DA-DONE] Feel so oooooooooold... HEH!(Apologies to Weird Al and James Brown.)

Livan Hernandez made news last night by threatening to have season-ending surgery on his knee... except his knee feels fine. He failed to specify what it was that had him so pissed off, saying "After the season, I'm going to tell you something. Don't worry about it." Sounds like something or someone really got his goat and he's threatening to quit, right? Sure, except that a few moments later he said, "I love my teammates. I love this team. You know I would never quit. Never. Because I am not a quitter. Everybody knows me. I go over there and do my best." Okay... so what's going on?

ESPN did their usual tabloid-level job with the crisis. They conveniently excluded the team-love comments that, to me, are at the heart of the matter. Of course, this is no surprise coming from an organization whose journalistic integrity is so thin you can see through it. Fortunately, both the Washington Post and MLB.com offered informative news articles on the controversy, so huzzah to them. Seeing that Livan was lucid enough to think about his teammates, and that he at least acknowledged what his comments might sound like, changes the situation pretty substantially for me. After ESPN's piece I merely suspected that he was overreacting... now I'm convinced.

Unless the organization has been covering up a much more serious knee problem than we suspect (which as a Pats fan would not surprise me at all), he will probably come out today and apologize, recommit himself to the team and so forth, and deflate everything he said last night. Only those of us who care to empathize with humans will acknowledge his apology, though... everyone else will just figure he's another primadonna. That's not right. People have a right to vent. They have a need to vent. Livan didn't verbally attack anybody in specific... he didn't throw his teammates under the bus, and he didn't attack or embarrass his superiors in any way. He just expressed how frustrated he was, in the aftermath of losing 2 of 3 games to the worst team in baseball. What's the problem? People will give him grief, like he's a whiny quitter or whatever, but in actuality I think his comments display the exact opposite... we now know just how much he does care.

Cryptic anti-organization comments aside, and ignoring for a moment the 99.9% figure he threw around last night, he seems genuinely conflicted about whether to have the surgery or give his team a push into the playoffs. It's not as simple as saying yes or no, quitting versus giving yourself to your team... do you protect yourself (and your team's investment in you, by the way) for the future, or do you sacrifice future health and success in order to win in the present? Is DC's situation urgent enough to justify it? Do they need to win this season more than they need to be competitive over the next three? It's all unclear. But the fact that Livan is struggling with this is exactly what we should want out of our athletes. This season I've watched Curt Schilling, who won us a World Series last year despite a seriously injured ankle, pay the price for playing through injury... he rushed back from surgery, and his performance has been appropriately horrendous. Schilling may not recover from this, we don't know. This, depending on the injury's severity, is the decision Livan faces. I don't envy him.

This is way more thought than the issue deserves, especially given that the story has barely unfolded yet. But it pisses me off when little stuff like this gets turned into anti-player fuel by the dominant corporations (MLB, ESPN, publishers et al) in baseball. And I certainly resent it when said corporations tell me what I should be thinking. And I definitely hate that so many people obey them. So that's enough for a while on this one.

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