La Velle E. Neal of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported today that closer Glen Perkins, who dominated in the first half of 2015, but has only pitched twice this year, is going to miss the rest of the season with a torn labrum and rotator cuff. The injury will likely require surgery that could even delay the start of his 2017.
Perkins dominated at the start of 2015, saving 28 games with a 1.21 ERA before the All Star Break. Everything fell apart afterward for him, as he suffered from reduced velocity and was far more hittable. He finished the second half with a 7.32 ERA, spent time on the disabled list, and ceded the closing role to Kevin Jepsen.
This doesn’t change much with the Twins’ troubled bullpen. They were counting on Perkins coming into the year, but the lefty simply hasn’t been available. In his absence, the bullpen has exploded with a 4.58 ERA, Jepsen has been a disaster as the closer, and the club has begun rotating through minor league free agents and waiver claim pickups to find anybody who can give them a consistently decent inning.
The announcement about his injury comes less than a month after Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan ripped Perkins for “not sound[ing] like a franchise leader eager to push himself to return to the active roster, or to help his team.” Souhan continued, “You’d like to see a little more enthusiasm from your big-money players about taking the ball, and the mound.”
He also criticized the “bad optics” of the situation, said that Perkins showed up to training camp in 2015 out of shape, and implied that his time off was to build up strength that he otherwise should have had following a rigorous offseason throwing program. He also scoffed that the idea Perkins could be out for the year “is probably more indicative of the pessimism Perkins has inspired in the organization than a reflection of reality.”
Today’s diagnosis reminds us of how buffoonish it is to criticize players who get hurt. Souhan was using his soapbox to advocate that Perkins push through a torn labrum and rotator cuff, and probably do greater (perhaps irreversible) damage to his shoulder. There simply is no excuse for being so cavalier about and so dismissive of the health of another person. Shame on him.
While this kind of mindset is a particular problem in Minnesota, and to Souhan (who has criticized Joe Mauer for the results of the head injury that almost destroyed his career), it’s far from the wellspring of this poisonous mindset. Every year, players get ripped by tough-guy columnists for not playing through pain. For not “rubbing some dirt on it.” For missing games for head injuries. It plays well to the casual fan who can’t wait to get angry about some “big-money player” who won’t perform up to expectations (leaving aside the fact that Perkins has consistently been underpaid in his career). This attitude then gets filtered down to loyal readers who parrot back that criticism, sometimes to the player himself. It’s inexcusable trolling from awful people who don’t deserve the platform their given.
Yes, ballplayers make good money. They are also human beings, not robots. They have families and they feel pain and they need to worry about the long term implications of pushing through what they know are real injuries. Certainly, those players and the teams who employ them know more than we do when a player goes down, and they deserve far sympathy, rather than criticism, while they work their way back to 100 percent. Screw any half-witted columnist or pundit who tries to tell you otherwise.