Yu Darvish has been the target of barbs and criticism from the local media since, basically, he arrived in Texas, and despite a solid outing last night, he was on the receiving end of a particularly scathing tweet from the Ticket's Mike Rhyner:
Yu doesn't give a shit about this team...all he cares about is his impending free agency and strikeouts and making hitters look bad— Mike Rhyner (@theoldgreywolf) July 23, 2016
Going through his subsequent responses to folks, his complaint appears to be that the Rangers need Yu to throw fewer pitches per at bat and go deeper into games to save the bullpen, but instead of pitching to contact, he's trying to strike batters out.
Which...I mean, Yu's a strikeout pitcher. That's what he was signed to be, that's what he has always been. Yu talked post-game about trying to get ground balls, and who knows, maybe, as Rhyner suggests, the organization is frustrated by his approach right now.
But I continue to find myself baffled by the amount of flak that one of the best pitchers to ever wear a Ranger uniform continues to get from the local media. In 2013, we heard a lot about how Yu Darvish wasn't a real "ace" because he lost close games. Eric Nadel, of course, hammered Yu on this issue, resulting in a dust-up in which, you may recall, he called out LSB in general, and me and Brad in particular, for criticizing his criticism. There were suggestions that he didn't have the "will to win," or that he was "mentally weak," as exemplified by this famous hashtag:
So just now see Darvish again unable to hold a narrow lead late in game. #acestuffbutnotacetough— Chuck Cooperstein (@coopmavs) August 31, 2013
I ended up writing about this topic in late 2013, talked to Gabe Kapler about the issue, pulled out excerpts of Eric Nadel and Jon Daniels radio interviews, and said at the time the carping about Yu not "performing like an ace" in close games was nonsense, regardless of what Nadel, or Steve Busby, or any of the other folks who don't seem to feel Yu met their standards thought.
I will say, however, that I think some of the blame for this lies with then-manager Ron Washington, who reportedly made a habit, especially in 2013, of comparing Yu unfavorably with Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito, the A's pitchers who were at their peak while Wash was a coach in Oakland. When the manager is criticizing Yu for not pitching like an ace or preserving a one run lead when he has it, the way the manager perceived other top pitchers he played with as doing, is it surprising the media is going to run with that?
Flash forward to 2014, and when Yu was shut down late in a lost season due to elbow soreness, at a time when the question wasn't whether the Rangers would make the playoffs, but whether they'd have the worst record in the league, the howls started up again. Yu wasn't tough, came the complaints. He quit on the team. He didn't care. He chose to give up on the season when his teammates were still out there playing.
Of course, when Yu ended up being diagnosed with a torn UCL in spring training of 2015, costing him all of that season and part of this season, we didn't hear any mea culpas that I can recall.
And now, this. More of the same. Yu is a diva. He doesn't care about the team. He doesn't care about the Texas Rangers. He only cares about himself.
Its frustrating, and its sad, but its an all too common refrain. A really good player doesn't care about "our" team as much as we do. Similar complaints were leveled at Ian Kinsler, and Alex Rodriguez, and Rafael Palmeiro (have we forgotten how harshly Palmeiro was ripped for using his no-trade clause to veto a trade to the Cubs?), and Juan Gonzalez, and Ruben Sierra...apparently, it doesn't matter how good a player is if someone out there perceives them as not "caring" about the team as much as that person thinks they should.
I have no idea about Yu Darvish. I have no idea if he cares about the Rangers, if he's just marking time until he can leave, if he just wants pretty numbers. I do wonder how much of this is about his demeanor, how he carries himself, and the fact that he largely does interviews through translators, making it harder for us to pick up on subtext and emotions, and making it easier to project what we want on him.
But I do find it amazing that, after battling back from Tommy John surgery, after throwing six innings and giving up three runs and striking out 11 batters, Yu is getting ripped, yet again, by someone in the local media for something as vague and indefinable as whether he "cares," much like he was previously ripped for not being "tough" or not having the "will" or whathaveyou...so many complaints that aren't proveable, aren't verifiable, and require one to seemingly be able to divine the mindset and psychology of a player.
I just don't get it. I don't get complaining about Yu striking out too many batters over six innings. And I don't get why a guy who is one of the best pitchers in team history seems to have so many so eager to rip him over stupid, speculative bullshit.