Thursday, April 23, 2009

Doug Mientkiewicz Is My New Favorite Player

A few nights ago, I found myself surfing the channels looking for something interesting to watch (preferably sports-related) in the hopes it would kill a half hour before heading to bed. I climbed the channel tiers and wound up in the 700's of my digital cable package. I rarely venture to these extremes, but as you can tell, I wasn't noticing anything too worthwhile.

Much to my delight, "MLB Extra Innings", cable's subscription package for out-of-market baseball games, was offering up a few preview. It was late here on the East Coast, and the first game I went to was San Francisco at Los Angeles. I rarely get to see the Dodgers on TV and with their potent lineup, I was looking forward to my first real glimpse at the NL West leaders.

It's the sixth inning, and in steps utility-infielder Doug Mientkiewicz for the Twins Red Sox Royals Yankees Pirates Dodgers to pinch hit. He slaps a single to right field to drive in two runs and makes the hard turn for second. He has the throw easily beat, yet inexplicably dives headfirst into the bag.

If you've played baseball in the past, you know there was always the kid on the team that insisted on diving or sliding whenever possible just to get his jersey dirty. Doug Mientkiewicz is that kid. Pine tar and mud on the helmet. More chewing tobacco than the typical human cheek can handle. No batting gloves. If his jersey is clean after 9 innings, he's probably ticked off and offended.

And if you've played baseball, you know what probably happened when Doug dove headfirst recklessly into second. Yep...he got hurt. At first, I assumed the worst based on him rolling on the ground writhing in pain. I've had shoulder injuries in the past and this had the looks of a dislocation written all over it. Out jogs Manager Joe Torre and trainer Todd Tomczyk. They stabilize his arm and get him onto his back. Four or five minutes pass and now Doug is standing, yet still talking with Tomczyk. Head trainer Stan Conte joins the meeting and Mientkiewicz begins to get animated - for some reason he's arguing with the trainers? After a minute, I realize Mientkiewicz wants to stay in the game! In fact, he's so determined to stay on the field, he thrusts his injured arm in the air and waives it around as if to say, "I'm fine, now get out of here." Conte chuckles, turns away, and the staff heads off the field.

I assume Doug must have gotten lucky and avoided a dislocation. Maybe just a pinched nerve (or a "stinger" as John Madden used to always say) that quickly subsided after a few minutes of rest. Here's a look at a choppy, shortened version of the incident (complete with commentary from Juan Pierre):

The next morning, I see a note that says Doug Mientkiewicz did in fact dislocate his shoulder and will be placed on the 15-day DL. Pretty shocking to think he stayed in the game after least until I stumbled across this post on the Inside the Dodgers blog later that day:
"Knowing (Mientkiewicz), he'll try to come back in four weeks,'' Torre said. "But that isn't going to happen.'' The MRI showed a complete dislocation, and the front part of the labrum was pulled off, along with the capsule, Conte said. Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Dodgers' team physician, will do the surgery on Monday.
Mientkiewicz is expected to miss at least three months and possibly the rest of the season! And to think, I witnessed this guy throw his arm into the air in an effort to convince the team to let him stay in the game to run the bases?? If that doesn't inspire a team, I'm not sure what else will. Let's not forget Doug's polar opposite is also a part of the Dodgers lineup: Manny Ramirez. This is the guy who always seems to have the horrible luck of getting a nagging hamstring injury 72 hours prior to the all-star game.

As a hockey fan, it always amazes me to see athletes fight through pain and compete with injuries that would cripple a normal human for months. I never thought I would witness something like this on a random weeknight on Channel 767, but I can now honestly say...Doug Mientkiewicz is my new favorite player.

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Marc Edelman said...

Great article Mike.

This, however, leads me to the question of whether we should respect a player for staying in the game hurt. Did Mienkiewicz do something heroic? Or did the Dodgers trainer do something stupid (or, if you prefer legal terminology, negligent).

Much of this leads me back to the Ryan Church incident from last year when the Mets trainer allowed him to stay in a game even though Church, in turns out, had just suffered his second concussion in three weeks.

Is Mientkiewicz had injured his head rather than his shoulder, would your take be different?

Brian Doyle said...

Yes, but did he call time out before writhing around in pain?

Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS is the reason why Pedro Martinez should be everyone's favorite pitcher ever. That...and this.

ericpalmer said...

Haha...thats awesome!

Mike Colligan said...


Interesting thought. Whether head or hand, I think a training staff has a responsibility to protect the team's assets (players). But in any competitive sport, injuries will happen and players are paid appropriately for the entertainment value they provide and the injury risks they take on. There are always stories of players (another Dodger Kirk Gibson) playing through pain in big games, but to see this competitiveness from a player in a regular season game in April was what really impressed me.

I guess one idea I didn't touch on was the fact that in baseball, playing with a dislocated shoulder is considered heroic and unheard of, yet in football it is almost commonplace for players (Chad Johnson this year).

Brian, what's funny is he did actually wait and call timeout. You can hardly see it on the clip but he basically had his face on the base until the umpire acknowledged him. By the way, how long until Pedro comes back?

Jesmi said...

Great article Mike.

Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS is the reason why Pedro Martinez should be everyone's favorite pitcher ever.

Lauren said...

I've been a Mientkiewicz fan for almost 10 years now and there's nothing that trainer could haves said to get Doug out of the game. He loves baseball. He's played through countless injuries before, and he's played well. He's just out there to win and do what he's being paid to do. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with his head.