Doyle’s knee torn, future uncertain
In a grim, honest assessment of his baseball health, Snelling acknowledged that there is “definitely a tear” in his left knee, which he reinjured one week ago at Safeco Field.
“Right now, I’m thinking very irrationally,” he said. “I just thought, ‘You know what? I’m tired of this.’ I did everything they told me to do. I was smart about it. I worked hard.”
If you’ve been around reading USSM for a while, you know there’s probably not a bigger booster of his than me. This season I winced early, got so paranoid about injuries that I started to call him by his middle name in public for entirely irrational reasons. And then things started to happen, and I got more and more excited as he hit everything the Pacific Coast League could throw at him, seemingly finally healthy and given the chance, showing that his talent could overcome. When he got the first call, I was overjoyed.
And now even a day after I watched a dominant Felix Hernandez start, I feel some fraction of the disappointment — the despair — that Chris must face. It’s like I’ve been punched in the gut and don’t know what to do. I have, through long and what must look like irrational fandom, become too familiar with these trials, and become more emotionally vested in his career than pure talent or performance or risk analysis would justify.
Much of this comes from my appreciation of his unearthly dedication. Many prospects don’t achieve their projected greatness because they don’t care enough to listen to their coaches, or follow a conditioning program, many of them at the same time cultivating a kind of strange arrogance that sours teams on them. Some of them disappoint us with their off-field conduct.
That’s not Chris, though. Setback after setback, he’s come back the same humble, kinda-weird-in-a-cool way guy. He has a personality, and it comes through that he’s a nice guy, he’s humble but driven, he’s scrappy and tenacious, and maybe he’s even a little weird (or dorky, or whatever you want to call it) and that comes along with his sense of humor.
But this isn’t funny, and I don’t envy him the choice ahead. It’s easy for us to say that he’s going to get over it and get back on the comeback trail, but that’s got nothing to do with it. Just as I dismiss people who mock Rick Ankiel, say, as a head case, having no more idea what kind of immense pressure he’s labored under than they know what went wrong, no one but Chris knows how hard all of this has been on him. The breaks, the tears, what must seem like endless, painful physical therapy, all the time away from his family, the brief stretches of success brought to a close by Fate noticing and coming back around to put him back in rehab again (“Okay, now lift that… does that hurt?” “Yes!” “Good. Do that nine more times.”) and now he faces the same decision he’s made over and over again.
Each time it must be harder to make that same choice to go back to baseball. What’s the point, after all, if the body can’t take it? If his obvious gifts for baseball are paired with a fragility that prevents him from ever fufilling that talent? He’s young, certainly, but he must worry about whether another couple years of this will reduce his ability to live normally the rest of his years, and that’s a decision not to be made lightly either.
I haven’t ever been more depressed about anything in Mariner history, and I’ve talked to other fans who aren’t as huge Cult of Doyle members as I am and they’ve agreed this was a huge blow. These last two seasons it’s been hard to be a fan and carry the torch. The promotion and promise of Doyle and King Felix were more than interesting transactions, or even the ascension of future contributors. It was first light in the morning. If Chris Snelling could come back from everything he’d faced and overcome to make it back to the major leagues after three years of fighting his way back, if Felix Hernandez could stay healthy and step over the corpses of all the pitching prospects who’d fallen before him, then things had to be turning around. I wonder how the universe can apportions karma so unjustly, what kind of a God torments a good dude like that, whether this is some Greek epic where it’s going to take a ten-year journey to get back and stay in the majors, and the next time he heads back to Australia to visit his family his plane’ll be diverted by Sirens.
As a Mariner fan and a Doyle cultist, I hope after the knee surgery he decides to come back and he’s able to become the player I have always had faith he could be.
As a Snelling fan, I’ll understand whatever decision he makes, and I wish him good health and all the best in whatever he chooses to go on and do from this point.