Last night when the Tigers were already down by 6 or so and Jim Leyland decided to put Jose Valverde in to pitch, Dan and I agreed that it seemed like a good time to try this experiment. If he does great, he gets some confidence back and you can feel okay about using him again later in the Series. If he does terribly, at the least the damage is already done. He can’t really make the game any worse and you get to confirm what those of us on our couches already knew: he just doesn’t have it.
He didn’t have it. He was awful. When he was finally allowed to slink off the mound and into the dugout, I commented that “professional athlete” is such a weird job. It must be so strange and disarming to be really amazing at your job one year, like Valverde was in 2011, and then be absolute shit at the exact same job the next year. And in even more extreme cases, you can be seriously great one day and ridiculously awful the next.
Sure, no matter what you do for a living you’re going to have good and bad days. Things will go wrong, or factors outside of your control will make work extra hard on you. We all feel tired and sick sometimes. We all rush to make deadlines, let our minds wander, allow ourselves the freedom to half-ass it when we need to. But it would be so weird to just show up one day and be actually incapable of doing your job.
Great hitters will go into slumps all the time. That’s a thing that baseball fans understand and accept. We don’t really question it because what is there to question? Slumps happen. But then when I get to thinking about the fact that a really great hitter gets paid millions of dollars to hit and that is why he is employed by a team, suddenly a slump is not just this thing that happens because, hey, slumps happen. A slump happens because someone effectively becomes incapable of performing the basic functions of his job. That is so hard for me to wrap my head around.
All I’m saying is, I really need the Tigers to be topnotch employees tonight.