You have heard the phrase get thrown around — a player on your team goes down with an injury or perhaps the team is on a losing streak, and you need somebody to step up.
We have heard it plenty over the past week. Garrett Richards is out for the year, C.J. Wilson needs to step up. Anibal Sanchez might miss the rest of the season, Justin Verlander needs to step up.
There’s a problem with asking a player to suddenly be better than he has been because of extenuating circumstances: It’s impossible.
Wilson has been giving the same effort this year that he has every other year of his career. It hasn’t been his best season, his WHIP and FIP are his highest since 2008. There is no light bulb that goes off in Wilson’s head that tells him that since his team’s ace is down, he suddenly needs to pitch better. He’s already been trying to pitch better. This new, unfortunate news does not mean he’ll start really trying now.
As Major League Baseball players, we are always adjusting and tweaking and trying to stay on top of our game. There is no "on" switch. As a professional athlete, you always try to be on. Sometimes you fail, sometimes you succeed. The results, however, are not a choice, but rather a byproduct of your ability, your preparation and, quite often, the uncontrollable circumstances surrounding you.
So let’s save the silly cliches for Wilson, Verlander and whomever will be filling in for Manny Machado. Yeah, that guy can’t suddenly step it up, either.