Doug Glanville, the graceful former outfielder and Ivy Leaguer who retired in 2004 following a nine-year career in the big leagues, wrote about a fear that drives ballplayers -- sometimes the wrong way -- in an op-ed article published in the New York Times.
01/18/2008 10:09 AM ET
Doug Glanville: Fear is part of the game
"Yes, baseball players are afraid," Glanville wrote in the newspaper's opinion section on Sunday. "Not just on opening day and not just because of the 400-page Mitchell report and not just because of a Congressional hearing on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball -- like the one that took place Tuesday -- but because they always have been afraid. A player's career is always a blink in a stare. I retired at the ripe old age of 34 following a season of sunflower seeds and only 162 at-bats. I had been a starter the year before. In this game, change happens fast.
"Human nature wants to put the brakes on that rate of change. While your clock is ticking, faster, stronger and younger players are setting up their lockers next to yours. They usually have better sound bites and lower salaries, too. In 1998, I was the new kid in Philadelphia, battling Lenny Dysktra for the center field job. Five years later, I was mentoring another new kid, Marlon Byrd, so he could replace me. Faced with that rate of career atrophy, players are capable of rash, self-serving and often irresponsible decisions. Enter steroids."
"There is a tipping point in a player's career where he goes from chasing the dream to running from a nightmare. At that point, ambition is replaced with anxiety, passion is replaced with survival. It is a downhill run and it spares no one."
Glanville, whose articles have been published by a number of media outlets before and since his retirement, added perspective to the current controversy.
"We're scared of failure, aging, vulnerability, leaving too soon, being passed up -- and in the quest to conquer these fears, we are inspired by those who do whatever it takes to rise above and beat these odds. We call it "drive" or "ambition," but when doing "whatever it takes" leads us down the wrong road, it can erode our humanity. The game ends up playing us."
Iwamura to switch from third to second base: The Tampa Bay Rays will have a familiar face at second base this season, but that player isn't very familiar with the position. Akinori Iwamura is moving from third base to second base.
"With Aki, there is certainly a risk element, shifting a guy from third base to second base," Andrew Friedman, the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations, told raysbaseball.com. "But the idea when we signed him was to play third base until the time Evan Longoria was ready. We didn't know if it would be one year, two years, three years, but we felt like Aki had the actions to play second base. He has the willingness and the work ethic. While it's a risk, we feel pretty confident that not only will he be able to do it, but he'll be pretty good at it as well."
Although Iwamura is a solid fielder at third base, the club wants more offense at third base than the numbers -- .285, seven home runs and 34 RBIs -- he posted in 2007. Even if Longoria struggles at third, there are no plans to move Iwamura away from second base this season.
"Our conventional wisdom is to put [Iwamura] at second base, leave him there even if we don't feel Evan is ready to start the season, and go try to make a match at third base so we're not bumping Aki all over the place," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Samardzija could be on a trek to Wrigley: Despite having just one year's experience in professional baseball, those in the know around the Chicago Cubs believe that pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who stand 6-foot-5-inches and weighs 220 pounds, might be able to make his way to the Major Leagues as soon as this season.
A former Notre Dame All-American wide receiver, Samardzija plans to be in camp well before the Feb. 14 deadline.
"I'm going down there on [Jan.] 24. My birthday is the 23rd, so I figured that would be my 'goodbye' to the family and then I'll head out," Samardzija told the Chicago Tribune.
Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild says that while it may not be a likely scenario, he could definitely see Samardzija spending time in Wrigley Field in 2008.
"Right now it would be a push. But I would love to see him compete and have us start thinking that maybe he can do it," said Rothschild. "There is a learning curve and he is still in the middle of it. But all the pieces are there: the ability, the makeup, the competitiveness, so it's just a matter of time.
"If that time is now, that would be great. If it's not, that's OK."
Last year a Class-A Daytona, Samardzija won three games in 20 starts. He then moved to Double-A and was 3-3 in six starts with an ERA of 3.41.
Hendrickson goes back to starting with Marlins: The Marlins signed free-agent pitcher Mark Hendrickson to a one-year contract. Hendrickson is expected to join Florida's starting rotation, giving the Marlins three lefty starters. Last year with the Dodgers, Hendrickson shifted back and forth between starting and relieving and went 4-8 but struck out 92 batters in 122 2/3 innings.
"He had so many different roles," Joe Urbon, Hendrickson's Seattle-based agent, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "It wasn't even as if he had a defining role as a reliever. He never knew what he was going to do from day to day. Over the course of a season, particularly in an environment and a club like the Dodgers, it weighs on you, and he never did get traction and his statistics showed that."
Several clubs expressed interest in Hendrickson, but he chose the Marlins because of the chance to be a full-time starter.
"Mark wanted to get back to his roots really and get back to being the starter he was when he left Tampa Bay," Urbon said. "The way it was presented to us by the front office and the coaching staff is they were going to give him the ball every fifth day and take some pressure off the younger guys. ... [The Marlins] did it right. They were on him from the beginning."
Robertson proud to be in Detroit for extended stay: Nate Robertson is happy in Detroit, and the Detroit Tigers like having him around. To that end, Robertson and the Tigers have agreed on a new deal that will keep him as a member of the Tigers for three more seasons.
Since coming over in a trade with the Florida Marlins in January of 2003, Robertson and his wife, Krisstin, have called Detroit their home.
"We just kind of came on up, and we planted roots," Robertson told the Detroit Free Press. "This has been home. We've grown to love it."
With Krisstin expecting their first child soon, Robertson could not be more pleased. "The timing," he said, "is perfect."
The Tigers are also excited.
"A great competitor," said assistant general manager Al Avila, who drafted Robertson as Florida's scouting director in 1999. "I think his better days are in the future."
Botts to get time at first base for Rangers: When the Texas Rangers head to Spring Training, Jason Botts will have to remember to bring his first baseman's glove since the team plans to give him a look at the position and use him in a possible platoon with Ben Broussard.
Botts is a switch-hitter while Broussard is a left-handed hitter.
"We had a decision to make with Chris (Shelton), and we elected to designate him," general manager Jon Daniels told Texasrangers.com. "Jason is our own guy. The biggest advantage Shelton had was he had more experience in at first base. Jason has the ability but in the past we wanted him to focus on one position, and we asked him to work in the outfield because we had Mark Teixeira here. Jason made pretty good strides out there, and if he can make the same strides at first base, he has a chance to help us."
Botts has played first base before, playing 127 games at the position at Double-A Frisco in 2004. However, he has only played in the outfield while in the Majors.
Matsui a solid choice at second for Astros: With the retirement of Craig Biggio after the 2007 season, the Houston Astros were in the market for a second baseman. During the past offseason, they addressed that need by signing Kazuo Matsui to a three-year contract.
The Astros brought in Matsui because he is a solid defender and can provide a spark at the top of the order after hitting .288 with 24 doubles, six triples, four home runs and 37 RBIs for the Rockies in 104 games last season.
"The feedback that I've gotten back is he's an excellent second baseman with excellent range and plenty of arm," general manager Ed Wade told Astros.com. "I don't see us having any defensive issues at all."
Manager Cecil Cooper expects to hit Matsui second in the lineup, a slot Wade believes is a good fit for Matsui.
"He moves the ball around, he runs pretty well, he's a patient hitter, he bunts for hits," Wade said. "He's the ideal fit for second spot in lineup, but Coop will determine that."
Lieber can earn a spot in Cubs' rotation: Looking to add an experienced arm to their starting rotation, the Chicago Cubs have brought Jon Lieber back into the fold for the 2008 season.
"It gives us more depth with our starting pitching," manager Lou Piniella told the Chicago Tribune. "He's experienced, a really good competitor, a good guy in the clubhouse and well respected. He can come to camp and earn a spot in the rotation."
As recently as 2005, Lieber won 17 games as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
"We're really happy to bring back Jon Lieber," said general manager Jim Hendry. "It makes a lot of sense. We're trying to get as much volume as we can, depth-wise, into the rotation to make it more competitive in camp. ... You like to have seven or eight starters available [in Spring Training]."
Lieber is likely to compete for a spot in the starting rotation, but says he will do whatever it takes to help the Cubs.
"The bottom line is I'm going to do whatever it takes to help the Chicago Cubs win," he said. "If that takes pitching out of the bullpen, so be it. I know you probably saw reports that I was a little unhappy last year, and a lot of it had to do with it being thrown upon me in Spring Training. I had no idea I'd be possibly pitching out of the bullpen.
"I'm more prepared for a situation like that this year because they do have five quality starters. I just want to be a part of this organization and help them win some ballgames."
Buchholz bulks up, strengthens shoulder: Boston pitcher Clay Buchholz is only a rookie, but he already has thrown a no-hitter in his Major League career and is always one of the first players other teams inquire about when talking trades with the Boston Red Sox.
But what Buchholz has done in the past doesn't mean much when it comes to 2008.
"We don't put too much stock in those things," farm director Mike Hazen told the Boston Globe. "We know our job is to continue to push forward and help each guy maximize his potential."
Buchholz is one of the players Hazen says needs to be pushed a little more.
"Even though he's pitched a no-hitter in the Major Leagues, he hasn't established himself over time yet," Hazen said. "Not like the Schillings, Becketts, Lowells, Ortizes - that's the next level we're shooting for.
"He's had a really good winter. We tested him the other day. He went to the API [Athletes' Performance Institute] in Florida and he's been making gradual progress. He's up to 190 pounds and he looks as though he's grown an inch. Physically, he's put on some weight in his shoulders and his chest."
Buchholz was shut down in September last year by the Red Sox medical staff after his shoulder had tested for weakness. But as Spring Training approaches, Buchholz said everything is feeling good.
"My shoulder feels great," said Buchholz. "I don't feel the fatigue anymore. I know what it's going to take for me to stay on the team this year. A lot of hard work and dedication goes into being prepared for 162 games, and that was my offseason this year, that was [what] I put all the dedication toward. I think I'm right at 191 [pounds] right now, actually. It's better than the 178 I was last year."
Odds are in LaRoche's favor for roster spot: Andy LaRoche has been to Spring Training two previous times with the Dodgers, but didn't really have an opportunity to stick with the club either year. This year, LaRoche figures not only to make the team, but depending how he does in Spring Training, he could win the starting third baseman's job.
"He's almost going to have to not make the club," general manager Ned Colletti told the Los Angeles Times. "It's a pretty good spot to be in."
LaRoche will battle Nomar Garciaparra for the starting job.
"I think right now they're in limbo with who to go with," LaRoche said, "so I'm going in hopefully in top shape and good form and good baseball shape, and I'll just try to show the new coaching staff what I can do and hopefully leave them with a tough decision."
The Dodgers think LaRoche will be useful off the bench, so he will make the club even if he does not win the starting job.
"If Andy can produce power, even if it's once in a while, or if Nomar takes the job, that's OK, too," Colletti said.
Zumaya on target for throwing again: Detroit Tigers fireball throwing pitcher Joel Zumaya wants to get back on the mound as soon as possible.
As he recovers from reconstructive surgery to his right shoulder, Zumaya hopes to be throwing sometime this month. After Zumaya appeared for a recent interview on XM Radio's MLB Home Plate, the Detroit News quoted some of what was said.
"I'm actually doing real well, therapy's going great, I got 95 percent of my range of motion back and by the end of this month I'll start throwing the baseball," he said.
And throwing is something he's anxious to do as he tries to recover from not only the physical aspects of the injury, but the mental aspects as well.
"It's been a heartbreaking thing for me, it's been tough for me, it's been something that I've had to bear down and actually be strong and hopefully recover well and hopefully come out and help the team, said Zumaya. "I believe in myself and I know I'm young still, and I do have 95 percent of my range of motion back and it's just going to be a matter of time and it's going to be a real tough effort for me to push and fight through to get to that point."
-- Red Line Editorial