Common sense insisted the Mariners weren’t going to participate in an injury-free spring camp. A baseball training complex is not an especially dangerous place, but it’s not to be confused with Shangri La. Accidents occur.
Still, the news Wednesday that first baseman Ryon Healy would be evaluated for discomfort in his right hand became a buzz-harsher for fans exhausted by the very narrative that dominated the 2017 season.
Healy’s hand problem revived the suspicion some nefarious underworld force has put a curse on a team that can’t stay out of the trainer’s room, aka The Temple of Doom.
In his classic essay “Green Fields of the Mind,” the late commissioner Bart Giamatti wrote this about baseball: “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.”
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If you’re under contract with the Seattle Mariners, baseball breaks more than hearts. Baseball breaks toes and fingers and ribs and elbows, then sprains whatever body part it doesn’t break.
That’s what I was thinking when the celebratory occasion of pitchers and catchers reporting found manager Scott Servais acknowledging his newly acquired first baseman “had an issue” requiring “serious tests.”
The tests revealed a bone spur, a not-so-serious ailment that figures to be alleviated by the surgery Healy already has undergone in Philadelphia. He’ll be out of action between four to six weeks of the exhibition season, but shouldn’t miss much more than a handful of real games.
“Absolutely the best-case scenario,” Servais said Thursday, “he’s shooting for probably even before the six weeks is up.”
In other words, I overreacted. Anybody else who grumbled “here we go again” overreacted. The timing wasn’t ideal — there are better ways to begin Day 1 of spring training than announcing the starting first baseman is hurt – but could have been worse.
If hand surgery shuts down Healy for several weeks in, say, the middle of May, general manager Jerry Dipoto might be tempted to arrange a trade for a proven first baseman. Hand surgery for Healy in the middle of February?
No trades are necessary. There’s a glut of veteran first basemen on the free-agent market, but Dipoto doesn’t need to take that route, either. More prudent will be giving left-handed minor-league prospects Mike Ford and Daniel Vogelbach a chance to prove themselves in Arizona.
Servais’ reference to a “best-case scenario” regarding Healy, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound University of Oregon product with light-tower power from the right side — he hit 38 homers during a season and a half with the Athletics – brings to mind the definition of a worst-case scenario.
That would be Babe Ruth, in his Bambino prime, showing up for the 1925 Yankees spring camp ailing with symptoms of, uh, something. After camp broke and the team boarded a northbound train from Florida, Ruth collapsed in North Carolina.
His illness kept him in a New York City hospital for six weeks, and was serious to the point some British newspapers reported George Herman Ruth’s death at the age of 30.
It was fake news compounded by more fake news, when San Francisco sportswriter W.O. McGeehan traced Ruth’s health issues to a diet principally consisting of hot dogs.
Upon recovering from “The Bellyache Heard ’Round The World,” Ruth struggled through a season limited to 98 games. He hit .290, with 25 homers — solid numbers for any Mariners first baseman, not so solid for Babe Ruth – as the Yankees finished 69-85 in 1925. They went 40 years, until 1965, before posting their next losing record.
Whatever ailment that hospitalized Ruth for six weeks remains a mystery, but when he got to Florida for camp, he wasn’t in shape to swing a bat, or throw a ball, or walk around the block.
The ultimate worst-case spring training scenario, right there.
As for Ryon Healy and the bone spur in his right hand, it took a mere 24 hours before anxiety was replaced by relief. He’ll be healthy soon, perhaps as soon as the season opener on March 29, silencing any silly talk about how the Seattle Mariners are cursed.
John McGrath: @TNTMcGrath