Some Hong-Chih Kuo On A Lazy Afternoon

Breaking the fourth wall

It was really fun to not give two shits about the Super Bowl when I lived in San Diego, because everybody else in San Diego gave some shits about the Super Bowl, so the roads were empty and places of business were wide open. It's less fun to not give two shits about the Super Bowl here in Portland, because nobody in Portland gives any shits about the Super Bowl, so everything is pretty much exactly the same. We had to wait to be seated at brunch! I have now successfully made this post in part about food I ate again.

I saw a rumor come by last night. I didn't feel like hitting it then, but I'm going to hit it now because it's an absolutely beautiful day outside so it's not like I have anything better to do. It's a Mariners rumor! The Seattle Mariners! Many have been dissatisfied with the Mariners apparently cutting payroll but look out because those wallets might yet spill open.

Not long ago, Nick Cafardo reported that three West Coast teams had interest in free agent reliever Hong-Chih Kuo. Here's Geoff Baker, yesterday:

Mariners looking closely at LH reliever Hong Chih Kuo. Signing close? FA from Dodgers.

So the Mariners seem to be one of the three West Coast teams. That's not a huge surprise. There are only so many baseball teams on the West Coast. The Angels are probably one of them, since they've expressed an interest in adding one more reliever. I don't know who the third team is, but, again, there are only so many options. I suspect Kuo will make a decision very soon.

Maybe he'll pick the Mariners. Maybe he won't. The Mariners might give him the best shot at making the team. The Angels might give him the best shot at making the playoffs. He might prefer the Angels because he's familiar with the general area. He might prefer Safeco's pitcher-friendliness. He might think anything. Think about all the weird shit you think about. All the weird shit nobody would think that you think about. Everybody thinks about weird shit. Hong-Chih Kuo probably thinks about weird shit, and good luck ever cracking that brain open. Kuo will choose something and until he chooses something, we can only guess based on what we think the average player would think.

The thing about Kuo is that he's extraordinarily interesting. He's probably going to have to settle for a minor league contract, but he's a lot more interesting than most of the other guys who settle for minor league contracts. A year ago, he was an All-Star. Granted, a year ago, Matt Capps and Ty Wigginton were All-Stars, but Kuo allowed 29 hits in 60 innings, with 73 strikeouts. It was his third consecutive year of excellent relief. Then, in 2011, he was bad. He wasn't just bad - he was bad, and he missed significant time due to anxiety. It was referred to as "the yips" by people with no regard for the severity of mental unhealth. It was the second time in three years Kuo had been sidelined with anxiety. He came back, but he wound up with more runs allowed than innings pitched.

Kuo also had offseason surgery on his elbow. It was minor surgery, but Kuo's elbow has been through a lot over the years. It probably wears one of those veteran trucker hats.

In Kuo, we have a 30-year-old lefty reliever with a track record of outstanding success. And in Kuo, we have a 30-year-old lefty reliever with a track record of elbow and anxiety problems. I love that Kuo's FanGraphs page includes 2012 stat projections, as if Kuo were just another normal guy.

There's no telling what Kuo could be next season. Maybe he'll be healthy. Maybe he won't be healthy and this will happen again.

[Kuo] went to the Dodgers' spring-training facility, where he once misfired a pitch during a bullpen session and hit a trainer in the neck. The trainer was walking across an adjacent practice field.

Kuo's no guarantee to be good. If he were, he would've signed by now for money. He's not even a guarantee to be not bad. We don't know how he's going to bounce back, if he bounces back. It's encouraging that Kuo had the season he had in 2010 after fighting anxiety in 2009. He's come back from that issue before, at least temporarily. But stuff like this is a black box. Every person is different, and every experience is different. It's always embarrassing when media members ask coaches about players battling psychological problems, as if the coaches have any idea what's going on.

So Kuo's a mystery. The Mariners don't need him, since (A) no team ever needs any one individual player, (B) the Mariners already have George Sherrill, and (C) the Mariners probably aren't contending for the playoffs in 2012. If the Mariners don't sign Hong-Chih Kuo, things'll continue along, pretty much like they were always going to.

But if the Mariners do sign Hong-Chih Kuo, that'll be neat, because he's interesting, and, man, he was good not long ago. It has to be noted that players with mental concerns are more unpredictable than players with physical concerns. Physical concerns can be evaluated and addressed more readily. But if Kuo were to sign, and if Kuo were to work out, hey, fantastic. That's value for cheap. Not many things better in baseball than value for cheap.

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