If Yu Darvish doesn’t watch what he says, he could become the next Derrick Rose
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I was a Derrick Rose supporter when he was a Bull. Not all the time. Not through thick and thin. But most of the time, especially when it came to his unfortunate run of injuries.
What drove me insane was his lack of public-relations savvy and the fact that no one on his team of advisers seemed to see it as a problem. To put it bluntly, he said a lot of dumb things, and no one connected to him made him stop. He sounded much more concerned about his physical state and his future after basketball than he did about winning games. That didn’t go over well in Chicago.
Yu Darvish is not Derrick Rose. The Cubs pitcher hasn’t been here long enough, hasn’t had Rose’s sad injury history and has the chance to turn fans’ frowns upside down with a strong second half.
But after a rehab start Monday with the Cubs’ Class A team in South Bend, Indiana, he sounded uncomfortably like Rose. One moment, he said he felt like ‘‘a 12’’ on a scale of 10; the next, he couldn’t ‘‘say for sure there’s nothing going on’’ with his right triceps. Triceps inflammation is what put him in a South Bend Cubs uniform and why he was facing the West Michigan Whitecaps instead of the Dodgers, as his big-league teammates were that day. ‘‘Great news’’ quickly turned to an uneasy, ‘‘What the heck did he just say?’’
‘‘I want to come back as soon as possible and help out the team,’’ he said. ‘‘I obviously want the team to win. Then again, my body has to feel right and healthy. So in that sense, there’s nothing I can do right now.’’
Some people have turned on Darvish because that’s what some people do. It has been both premature and disproportionate — all this anger over three months of injury, sickness and ineffective pitching? It’s like ordering a missile attack in response to a traffic violation.
Words matter. They can make or break an athlete in Chicago. For all the parts of Rose’s body that betrayed him, it was his tongue that did him in. Instead of saying nothing would stop him from getting back on the floor for the Bulls, Rose invariably would talk about the importance of making sure he was completely healthy. You’d listen to him and walk away thinking his holistic health balanced on a toothpick.
In words that would haunt him, he had this to say in 2014 after missing four games with sprained ankles:
‘‘I think a lot of people don’t understand that when I sit out, it’s not because of this year. I’m thinking about the long term. I’m thinking about after I’m done with basketball, having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to.
‘‘I don’t want to be in my meetings all sore or be at my son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past.’’
Darvish is not Rose, but he took a few steps down a bad public-relations path the other day. He needs to stop himself, and the Cubs need to help him stop himself. It’s hard to tell if there’s a filter problem here (he speaks to reporters through an interpreter) or if he purposely is being unclear. He has been known to toy with the media, and perhaps his seemingly conflicting statements were meant to do that.
Whatever it is, enough.
If the Cubs announce publicly that their doctors have cleared Darvish to pitch at the big-league level but he says his arm still doesn’t feel right, it’ll be all over for him in Chicago, PR-wise. It won’t matter what the circumstances are. He’ll be viewed as soft — or softer than he already is viewed by a segment of the fan base.
The Cubs would be wise to learn a lesson from the Bulls, who imprudently let everyone know that Rose’s doctors deemed his surgically repaired knee ready for the rigors of NBA games when Rose didn’t feel that way. To be clear: Rose did much of the damage to his reputation, but the Bulls didn’t do him any favors. If the Cubs care about Darvish, they won’t tell the world he is healthy if he doesn’t think he is.
Darvish is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Thursday, and the Cubs are expected to decide afterward if he’ll make a weekend start against the Twins at Wrigley Field. The best-case scenario is that he comes back immediately, has success and feels great for the long term. The worst-case scenario is that we’re subjected to week after endless week of medical updates and thoroughly mixed messages.
Chicago can’t go through D-Rose, Part II. One soap opera was enough. It was called ‘‘General Hospital.’’
Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their candid, amusing takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts and Google Play, or via RSS feed.