It’s ironic that two players—one legitimate star and one would-be star—whose fathers are inextricably attached to their sons’ careers had opposite results on father’s day.
Colby Rasmus’s father Tony was portrayed as an unrepentant meddler in his son’s career. So much so that there was open verbal warfare between former Cardinals’ manager Tony LaRussa and Tony Rasmus that led to Colby Rasmus asking to be traded and being publicly chastised by Albert Pujols. Eventually Colby was traded to the Blue Jays in a deal that was widely credited with galvanizing the Cardinals’ clubhouse and bringing in pieces—Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski—that helped them rally to win the World Series.
Of course it’s simplistic to hold Colby responsible for the Cardinals’ woes up until the trading deadline, but for both parties it was best in the long and short-term to get him out of St. Louis.
Colby had a big day on Sunday—father’s day—going 3 for 4 with a double and homer in the Blue Jays’ win.
Tony Rasmus is still cryptically sniping at the Cardinals and LaRussa in interviews while simultaneously removing himself from the equation—link. He’s a stage father who’s gotten the blame for his son’s struggles. If that’s the case, shouldn’t he get the credit for when his son does well?
Is it fair? Is it accurate? Did Tony Rasmus’s involvement sabotage the Cardinals’ handling of his son? And did that same involvement create the player that was drafted in the 1st round?
Before you answer, think about this: across cross the continent in San Francisco another player whose father was an integral part in his career is slumping horribly.
Tim Lincecum started yesterday and again got shelled. The 2-time National League Cy Young Award winner allowed 5 earned runs and 2 homers in a loss. His record is now 2-8. His ERA is 6.19. He’s walking 4.8 batters per 9 innings whereas last season it was 3.6 and in his best season of 2007 it was 2.7. He’s pitched in some bad luck with a .336 BAbip, but that doesn’t assuage the worries about his lost velocity, control and command.
His once intractable confidence appears shot; no one is saying definitively what may be wrong with him; and the Giants hands-off approach with Lincecum is backfiring because he’s pitching badly.
It was a badge of honor for Lincecum and his dad Chris that the pitcher’s mechanics were honed and perfected by his father’s innovative techniques; that the team that drafted him was told in no uncertain terms that his motion was not to be tweaked; that he wasn’t babied with pitch counts and innings limits. These orders and his diminutive size scared off a great many clubs from selecting him, but the Giants took him 10th in the 2006 draft and were rewarded with a cult hero and superstar whose style and stamina belied the fears that permeated his story.
He didn’t ice his arm; the Giants’ coaches (including respected big league pitching coach Dave Righetti) weren’t permitted to alter him; he did things his way.
And his dad’s way.
The critics were waiting for this and using the Lincecum rules as validation that what the Giants did was wrong; that Lincecum’s red flags are now glowing brightly.
Can Righetti and manager Bruce Bochy make suggestions to Lincecum or is it still hands off? Is Chris Lincecum trying to make adjustments to fix what ails his son? Is Tim hurt and they’re not saying so?
Are there any answers?
Amid all the chortling about Colby Rasmus and how the Blue Jays and their fans are pleased that he didn’t work out in St. Louis for reasons on-field and off, it’s ignored that his numbers are eerily similar to those that he posted with the Cardinals even when he was playing well. He has a slash line of .255/.312/.464 and 10 homers. He’s been good defensively in centerfield. He’s a 1.8 WAR player. It’s not bad, but it’s not great. He’s a cog, not the key. That’s better than being a pawn in the ongoing war between LaRussa, Tony Rasmus and the “draft guru” who had usurped much of LaRussa’s power with the Cardinals, Jeff Luhnow, before LaRussa won the turf war.
With the Cardinals, it was impossible to judge Colby on his merits.
That’s not the case in Toronto. He’s in a town where the fans are cheering for him; his teammates aren’t hounding him; the press isn’t baiting him; and the Blue Jays are going to need him to perform to take the next step into contention as a team. There’s not the historical expectation of winning nor the short-tempered, impatient manager with sway that there was with the Cardinals.
In San Francisco what was once viewed as a positive is now a negative and Lincecum is in limbo with rampant questions about hidden injuries and a possible shift to the bullpen.
In Toronto a father’s involvement isn’t taken as interloping, in part, because the Blue Jays have so much riding on Colby Rasmus’s success.
But what works? And what doesn’t?
A father’s influence is judged based on whether it’s working or it’s not; whether it’s a positive or negative in results and perception.
Lincecum is a mess. Rasmus is what he is.
Fathers and sons were celebrated yesterday. It’s a fabric in baseball.
Sometimes that’s good.
Sometimes it’s not.
And sometimes we don’t know.