Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Disabled List: It's Not Just For Visiting Anymore -- You Can Live There Too!

Something is hurting Juan again

Can you imagine the deep doo-doo the Tigers would be swimming in if Juan Gonzalez had taken them up on their contract offer of 2000?

Juan Gone is gone again.

The Indians' Gonzalez, in his first big league at-bat in almost a year, swung and hit a tapper in the infield and started to run it out and -- oops! -- his right hamstring gave out on him again. It was the same hammy that caused him to miss the last 11 months. His comeback lasted three pitches. He was like a boy on his first date -- he didn't even make it to first base.

Shortly after the Tigers traded for Gonzalez before the 2000 season, it was painfully -- no pun intended -- obvious that Juan had no intention of staying in Detroit beyond the length of his contract, which had a year to go. To say he didn't warm up to the Motor City would be like saying Lisa Marie Presley didn't warm up to Michael Jackson's kiss at the MTV Music Awards that time. Watching Tigers GM Randy Smith trying to woo Juan to sign a long-term deal was like watching a train wreck -- you didn't want to look, yet you couldn't stop. It seemed as if the only person in Detroit who couldn't see that Gonzalez wanted no part of Detroit or the Tigers was Smith himself. What would you think if you offered a player well over $100 million over seven years, and he told you to go stuff some baseballs up your backstop?

But the Tigers were blessed by Gonzalez's snub. Never one to stay healthy, Juan has visited the disabled list since that 2000 season more than "Refrigerator" Perry has visited an all-you-can-eat buffet. Gonzalez doesn't just visit the DL, by the way -- he pitches a tent and sets up camp.

Supposedly the Indians feel comforted by the act that they "only" owe Juan about $600,000, whether he plays or not. Such is the world of baseball finance these days. But beyond the money aspect, they're getting absolutely nothing from Gonzalez on the field, which is what many teams who have employed him have gotten. What's worse, this is Gonzalez's second tour of wounded duty with the Indians. He also has nabbed the Rangers twice in his career. Some teams never learn, I guess.

The sad thing is, had Gonzalez stayed healthy, he would almost certainly be in the 500 home run club by now (he has 434), with a shot at 600. When he was on, he was that good.

It's always a tough call to get annoyed with athletes who are injury-prone, because some guys are simply snakebitten. But then you look at players who put themselves through hell and then some, and you think of Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, and then it becomes easier to get annoyed with dudes like Gonzalez. I mean, he irritates me and he hasn't played for the Tigers in five years.

Right now the scuttlebutt is that the Tribe might not activate Gonzalez again and may just say "Adios" because his hamstring might never really get better.

Ya think?

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