Regardless of whether baseball is still “America’s Game,” it still shares in common with the nation one very important characterization that mostly separates it from other North American professional sports leagues: second chances.
In the game of baseball, no ballplayer is finished until he says so. This season, as in every season, several players illustrate this point perfectly. Whether it’s a player returning from an injury or hanging on by a thread in the minors, baseball always seems to give its past members another shot.
Now, that isn’t to say the results are always positive. Baseball isn’t a movie. There’s no scripted happy ending for these players. Some make the most if it while others fail.
Still, it’s not completely about the end-result. It’s about the journey.
Take for example Dustin McGowan, a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. McGowan went 12-10 with a solid 4.08 ERA in 2007 before missing most of 2009-2012 before throwing only 25 2/3 innings last season. This season, he turned the corner, pitching well enough for the hard-lucked Blue Jays to plant him in the starting rotation. However, as of now, McGowan has faltered. After only eight starts and an ERA hovering near 5, he’s been moved to the bullpen.
But should his current results matter? He’s only 31, and has already battled a torn labrum, a torn ACL and a torn rotator cuff. For any 31-year-old, that’s quite a feat. When people think about McGowan, maybe the first thing they think of is talent destroyed by injury. Yet, a close second should be a success story: a man who battled back thanks, partly, to a game that continued giving him chances.
McGowan is far from alone. Today, former stars such as Miguel Tejada and Jeff Francoeur still hold hope of returning to the majors, the former battling age and suspension; the latter, depleted skill.
Yet perhaps the most memorable is Rick Ankiel, a pitcher-turned-outfielder who played for several teams, most notably the St. Louis Cardinals. After beginning his pitching career promisingly, he inexplicably lost his ability to pitch. Still, baseball offered him another chance, and he returned to the Cardinals, followed by the Royals, Braves, Nationals, Astros and Mets, as an outfielder, carving out another seven seasons.
It wouldn’t have happened in any other sport.
Dustin McGowan’s Career Statistics
A report on McGowan’s injuries from 2011
Miguel Tejada Signs Minor-League Deal with Marlins
Francoeur Hangs in With Padres Affiliate
Rick Ankiel Goes From Pitcher to Outfielder