Josh Beckett the Latest of Many Pitchers to Hurt Themselves While Swinging
In MLB, there is one main difference between the American League and the National League. In the AL, designated hitters are allowed but in the NL they’re not. That means pitchers don’t have to bat in the AL so their only job is to pitch. In the NL, more is asked of the pitchers because they have to bat too. Does the AL have it right? Should pitchers only be concerned about throwing the ball and not hitting it?
This idea has been debated for years and has been sparked by the injury to Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett who was placed on the DL because of a back injury. Beckett of course hurt his back while swinging in preparation for interleague play where he’d be forced to hit. Now if this isn’t downright pathetic, I’m not quite sure what is. When you play baseball at a professional level, you should have a certain level of athleticism. Unfortunately Beckett isn’t the only pitcher who’s been hurt swinging a bat (or trying to) over the last few years. Let’s take a look at some of the pitchers who need to stay on the mound and out of the batter’s box:
1. Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox – Beckett injured himself before the start of May 10th’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays by taking practice swings. Let’s examine this a little more closely shall we? Beckett was swinging the bat before a game against who? The Blue Jays? Ah, another American League team that he doesn’t have to hit against anyways. This makes my head hurt. The Red Sox said this was because the pitchers are getting ready for interleague play. The Red Sox’s first interleague game is on Sunday at Philadelphia. So, Beckett was practice swinging for a game that was 13 days away at that point? And now he’s on the DL. That is just plain dumb.
2. Bartolo Colon, Boston Red Sox – Before you say anything, I know that Colon is currently a free agent. But during his 2008 season, he was placed on the DL while in a Red Sox uniform. And guess what for? That’s right– the big boy was hurt swinging the bat. Yes, Mr. Colon injured himself just like Beckett did. Is it really that much of a strain for pitchers in Boston to pick up a bat without hurting themselves? It’s looking that way. Maybe Colon should just stick to listening to Michael Jackson that to trying to hit a ball.
3. Chien-Ming Wang, New York Yankees – Now let’s give pitchers a little credit — some of them can actually swing the bat without hurting themselves. For others, they have problems attempting to run the bases (that’s when things go south). That’s what happened to Wang in his 2008 season — he injured his foot running the bases during interleague play, angering Hank Steinbrenner to the max. I’m sorry but you can’t even run 90 feet without hurting your foot? Jeez, that’s pretty terrible.
4. Scott Downs, Toronto Blue Jays – Starting pitchers aren’t the only ones who shouldn’t be swinging a bat. Jays closer Scott Downs hurt his left foot during interleague play in 2009 by pushing out of the batter’s box. Jays manager Cito Gaston said that he only allowed Downs to hit because the only player left on his bench was the backup catcher. Frustrated with the outcome, Gaston suggested that a DH be used in all games. I have another suggestion: maybe pitchers should just be a little more athletic? I mean hurting your foot leaving the batter’s box is a pretty clear sign that athleticism is lacking in those legs.
5. Pedro Martinez, Philadelphia Phillies – It wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t mention some of the NL pitchers who apparently can’t swing a bat without hurting themselves either — like Pedro Martinez. Martinez injured himself in September 2009 by simply swinging at a pitch. This caused a stiff neck for Martinez but he continued to give the Phillies their money’s worth and pitch the next two innings. Hey, I’ll give him credit for that — at least he tried to stay in the game.
6. Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs – It’s no secret that Big Z loves to hit the ball. In fact, he loves showing off the fact that he can hit the ball out of the park. But in 2005, Zambrano’s love of swinging the bat is what led him to miss a start. The Cubs said that he suffered a “non-pitching” injury that was caused by his swing. Big Z said he “takes too many batting practices,” well maybe he should focus more on what he’s paid to do instead of swinging the bat and maybe he can get out of the bullpen.
7. Randy Johnson, San Francisco Giants – Last but not least we have Randy Johnson. Johnson hurt himself in 2009 in a game against the Houston Astros. Johnson experienced a left shoulder strain after taking a bad swing. Apparently Johnson felt fine after the swing but then agitated his shoulder more when he committed a throwing error. Again, I’ll give the guy credit for staying in the game after hurting himself but it seems like he made it worse for doing so.
So, what’s the solution? Do we just not let pitchers hit? Should the NL adapt AL rules? Or should managers and coaches just be a little tougher on their pitchers so that they don’t hurt themselves by swinging a bat? I don’t know that I have the answer, but this is just plain sad that many pitchers can’t swing a bat or run the bases without getting hurt.