Doyle’s knee torn, future uncertain

DMZ · August 17, 2005 at 2:14 am · Filed Under Mariners 

From the PI:

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.


74 Responses to “Doyle’s knee torn, future uncertain”

  1. Pete on August 17th, 2005 12:41 pm

    #45 I agree. Just looking at his compact swing, quick bat, good eye, professional approach, I was betting on at least .310 and 20 HRs. A younger, more exciting Ibanez with more power and an actual personality – somebody who could inspire others on the team.

    As for filling left field in the offseason, I’m really not sure what’s out there that’s worth it as far as outfielders. Barring a blockbuster trade, here’s a rough list, and it doesn’t look appetizing:

    Bernie Williams (switch)
    Kenny Lofton
    Johnny Damon
    Matt Stairs
    Jose Cruz Jr. (switch)
    Matt Lawton
    Brian Giles

    Raul Mondesi
    Reggie Sanders
    Rondell White
    Craig Biggio
    Juan Encarnacion
    Gabe Kapler
    Richard Hidalgo
    Juan Gonzalez
    Brian Jordan

    Good gosh, none of those names are really interesting to me. A left-handed power guy would sure help the line-up, but it doesn’t look too promising.

    Anybody have any ideas?

    Here’s hoping Doyle makes a strong comeback. He’s a pleasure to watch.

  2. Andy James on August 17th, 2005 12:42 pm

    #44 — Again, you got some serious straw-man arguments there. Next time you want to argue with the non-existent opponent, remember you don’t have to come into a public forum to do so. A blank wall or mirror will work as well.

  3. Bernard Aboba on August 17th, 2005 12:50 pm

    Part of the reason why I think that we want Chris Snelling to come back is because of his respect for the game. In that regard, he reminds me of another great player who suffered many injuries during his carreer: Pete Reiser.

    Pete, who won the batting title with the Dodgers in 1941, was carried off the field in a stretcher 11 times and was even given his last rites on the field on one occasion. When asked why he gave his all on every play, constantly risking injury, he said “If I hadn’t played that way, how good would I have been?”

    For some background on Pete Reiser, who died in 1981, see:

  4. John in L.A. on August 17th, 2005 12:51 pm

    Andy…. there isn’t a sigle strawman in my argument. Perhaps you don’t know the defintions of your fallacies?

    If you are still confused, read post #5…

    “I think too many genuinely tragic things happen to take Doyle’s fate so hard”

    “Hopefully you are exaggerating, but it’s nothing for you to be depressed about.”

    “It’s not child oncology, or genocide in Africa, or a pointless war.”

    Since those statements are EXACTLY what I was responding to… there can’t be much of a strawman involved, can there?

    I find it insufferably self-righteous that someone would tell someone else what they should not be depressed about.

  5. deleted for moral reasons on August 17th, 2005 12:53 pm

    It’s a luxury to be depressed or saddened by a game. I give thanks for living in this society.

  6. Ralph Malph on August 17th, 2005 1:03 pm

    “Miserable people”? Whether you intended this to describe personality traits or simply their living conditions, this broad statement is extremely insulting.

    “Miserable” is not the opposite of “great”. Miserable people are people living in misery. The word does not imply moral failing.

    The dictionary defines “tragedy” as: A drama or literary work in which the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow, especially as a consequence of a tragic flaw, moral weakness, or inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances.

    While I’m not sure this applies either to Snelling or African poverty, I suppose you could say Snelling has a “tragic flaw” in his tendency to injury.

  7. John in L.A. on August 17th, 2005 1:05 pm

    Deleted…. I too often give thanks for where I was born and to whom.

    But I think it can also be said that it is universal. In fact, often the worse of a society is as a whole, the more important things like games are. Soccer fans in the most devastated of countries care passionately about their teams, for example.

    I would just say that if we WEREN’T able to be depressed or saddened or angry or joyous about the game… then what would be the point of the game to begin with?

    Sports are all about caring to me. It’s why Joey Cora’s crying touched people. Or Cal Ripken retiring. Or Lou Gehrig. Or Magic Johnson. It’s about triumphs and tragedy.

    Doyle’s little tragedy, for those who care, can move them every bit as much as anything else and for equally valid reasons. A dream being crushed is worth our empathy. Believe me, I live in Los Angeles and I see it every day. It’s worth sympathy.

  8. DMZ on August 17th, 2005 1:08 pm

    I would say that this comment thread is pretty tragic.

    And dudes… everybody be cool, please.

  9. Andy James on August 17th, 2005 1:10 pm


    Ehh. That’s the farthest in the direction that anyone goes on this thread, and he still prefaces it by saying “I have a different view of it.” I would imagine that we’re all resilient enough that someone can appear on this forum and say that.

    But okay, I’ll grant you Itea’s post if you like. My larger point is that whenever I’ve gone through a big disappointment — didn’t get that job interview, car breaks down, whatever — I spend some time alternating between feeling crappy about it and reminding myself: “My life must be very good if this is what I have to feel crappy about.” It is, I think, healthy to have both in mind and think about both.

    So if there’s a dialogue among seemingly sane people with both perspectives voiced, I see that as healthy. I’d rather not have either view shouted down or driven on pikes because it’s threatening. I just assume that we all get both ways of looking. It’s sports; it matters, it doesn’t matter, and it’s nice to be reminded of both.

  10. deleted for economic reasons on August 17th, 2005 1:13 pm

    Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that with in you, what you do not have within you [will] destroy you.”

    What Doyle has within him – those personal qualities that makes him a great athlete – will be the same qualities that he will use to overcome his injuries.

  11. Pete on August 17th, 2005 1:17 pm

    John in L.A.-

    I love your thoughts. I’ve made the same arguments to people who think my passion for sports – both participating and observing – is silly and unintellectual. As for it being stupid to empathize with Doyle, the world would a lot better place if everyone would consider and try to understand what strangers (even well-off athletes) are going through.

    Thanks for voicing your ideas.

    Side note: I can’t help getting choked up during any championship celebration, even when it’s not my team doing the celebrating. Does that happen to anyone else?

  12. John in L.A. on August 17th, 2005 1:20 pm

    Andy… I see your point. And I should have been clear what specifically I was referring to.

    Since I agree with everything you wrote, I’ll just say this… there is a fine line between mitigating and minimizing. The first is what you are talking about and not only ok, but noble. The second, to me, is small and uncalled for.

    But I apologize for any and all harshness and will proceed to “be cool”.

  13. John in L.A. on August 17th, 2005 1:24 pm

    Pete. Thanks. I do that, too. (as long as it isn’t the Yankees – then I’m back to tragedy) And I’m feeling tremendous empathy for Mike Cameron these days.

  14. Andy James on August 17th, 2005 1:37 pm

    Thanks, John. It’s very hard to find gracious behavior online, but that was one example. My own comments were quite harsh as well, so I apologize for spiking the general blood pressure.

    It may be an esoteric point, but I do find that I don’t just enjoy feeling the emotions that following sports produces, but also knowing that it is, on some level, a put-on. I remember feeling really dismal after the 2001 M’s crapped out against the Yankees, even as I could laugh about feeling dismal about it. I wasn’t trying to laugh the dismal feeling away. It felt good, or at least satisfying in some way, to be able to laugh and feel dismal.

    I think that’s the same delight that art or literature gives us — we can feel it and not-feel it in equally strong degrees. It’s a kind of play.

    (It’s also one reason I don’t enjoy the particular blood-sport entertainment that is politics these days, because it is, in the end, about the fate of real human beings; things that actually matter. It feels better to get serious about unserious things than vice versa.)

    Anyway, I’m guessing we’re all basically on the same level this way. Those that aren’t we can ignore.

  15. Jim Thomsen on August 17th, 2005 1:46 pm

    If Chris Snelling wasn’t as young as he was, I’d see a chance of him packing it in. But he could still have many, many good years in front of him. I think of Jim Eisenreich, who lost most of his twenties to his nervous disorder — and was set back by premature comeback attempts several times — but overcame it in time to have a fine 10-year major league career. (They’re very similar as talents, as well — line-drive lefthanded hitters with good plate discipline.)

    To me, the biggest Mariner “tragedy” of all time is Roger Salkeld. He could have been Roger Clemens. Dude had upside, and I’m grateful I got to see him pitch a few times before injuries robbed him of his promise.

    To quote the little boy at the end of “Shane”:

    “Doyle! COME BACK! DOYLE!”

  16. Andren on August 17th, 2005 1:47 pm

    At the end of the day, we’re here because of a joint support for our team. Due, in large part, to the fact that I live in Huntington Beach, I don’t have a big fanbase to ‘root’ with. You guys are the last people I feel like arguing with.

  17. Andren on August 17th, 2005 1:49 pm

    Back to the topic…did anyone actually see how he injured his knee? If it was just by running out a routine grounder to first then what’s to stop it from happening again?

  18. Rusty on August 17th, 2005 2:46 pm

    You never know where these threads will lead. This one sure went off into a weird direction.

  19. Itea on August 17th, 2005 4:09 pm

    OK. I will rephrase my opinion into a question that anyone interested can ask themselves:

    “If you were an aspiring professional athlete who’d had multiple injuries interrupt your struggles to succeed, would you want to be written about in the manner that the original poster and many commenters have?”

    My _personal_ answer to that is “no”, because I feel like it’s a strange thing to be said by someone who doesn’t know me personally, and it both exaggerates the importance of this particular incident and does not give full due to the rest of my life beyond sports and personal health.

    When I brought up disease and war and hunger, it was not because I don’t think other people have their priorities. It is to explain why I myself do not regard a torn ACL as a tragedy – because when something bad happens to me or a friend or a family member, that is how I think.

    At the risk of making more people misunderstand me, I’ll reference Alex Zanardi, someone who was truly at the top of his sport, who suffered a far more horrific accident, losing both his legs, and came out of it not feeling sorry for himself, but grateful for the love and support of his family and friends, and not wanting any pity whatsoever. That may meet Aristotle’s definition, but Zanardi has never wanted to be seen as tragic, nor pitied. I respect that want, and I do not pity him nor see him as tragic.

    My apologies to anyone I have offended. That is not my intent.

  20. JoeM on August 17th, 2005 5:27 pm

    Snelling will be back. Even as we speak there’s someone int he M’s office calling around to try and find a surgeon talented enought o think up some sort of new surgery that will repair his knee. in 50 years all the guys will be talking about Chris Snelling Surgery instead of Tommy John….

    Well we can hope at least. Best of luck to our Aussie friend.

  21. Jim Thomsen on August 17th, 2005 5:33 pm

    More on my Eisenreich comparison:

    He suffered from a severe form of Tourette’s Syndrome, which limited him to 138 at-bats between 1982 and 1984 with the Twins and took him out of baseball for all of 1985 and 1986. Moving to Kansas City, he didn’t really find a groove until his age 30 season in 1989, but was a fine almost-but-not-quite full-time outfielder until age 39, ending his career with 1,160 hits.

    Doyle can do this. And better.

  22. msb on August 17th, 2005 6:07 pm

    man, Eisenreich had a hard road, mostly because it took them so long to diagnose him correctly– IIRC he described himself as a “walking pharmacy” during that early time as various ‘experts’ decided that what he had were anxiety disorders and a low tolerance for the pressures of the big leagues…

  23. Rusty on August 17th, 2005 8:06 pm


    Itea, you made your point. As far as my own answer, I say it doesn’t matter. Famous people live with the expectations of others. It goes with the territory. I think the main problem I have with the way you have phrased your argument in this thread is that you’re attempting to guess what Snelling thinks. Whenever you cross that line and attempt to examine what another person thinks, you’re going off into the hinterlands of the unknown. In fact, I believe such activity is somewhat antithetical to the theme of this blog, which is to examine statistics and facts in order to arrive at better conclusions based on analysis. BTW, Dave, JMB and DMZ are free to correct me on my perception of a theme, here. I don’t believe there is a VORP adjustment for various mental states of a ballplayer. It would be too subjective and too unknowable.

    BTW, Itea, this is not a personal attack. In fact, I used to engage in estimating what a friend, acquaintance, or co-worker was thinking, all the time. That is, until a very wise friend pointed this behavior out to me and showed me its ultimate futility. It is not an easy habit to discard.

  24. DMZ on August 18th, 2005 12:22 am

    With great sadness, I’m going to walk this thread out to the shed and kill it. I had hoped for better.