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I Feel Bad For Cha Seung Baek

Kirby Arnold lets us know about one minor yet thoroughly depressing development:

A familiar person walked across the parking lot this morning -- former Mariners pitcher Cha Seung Baek. He's here for a tryout in hopes of extending his pro career.

In 2006, Cha Seung Baek missed time with triceps tendinitis. In 2007, he missed time with shoulder inflammation. In 2008, he missed time with triceps tendinitis, again. In 2009, he missed time with an elbow strain. Baek hasn't thrown a Major League pitch since September '08. Doctors say he may require the second Tommy John procedure of his career. Baek opted for rehab instead of surgery, but he's not out of the woods, and as a guy who can't be counted on to stay healthy, this post isn't about how I think he should make the rotation. He's all kinds of fragile, and there's no telling whether or not he still has his stuff.

No, this post is about how the world isn't fair, because when Cha Baek's actually been on a mound, he's pitched pretty well. Granted, he's never been the most thrilling pitcher in this world or in a hypothetical world where all pitchers are Braden Looper, but he's been average across the board, and average is valuable. Cha Baek was as good as pre-Mariners Carlos Silva. Maybe better. Cha Baek didn't have any one good pitch, but he had four decent ones, and he used them to get guys to chase. When you're Rich Harden and you have the best changeup in the history of a sport where all records of Pedro Martinez have been erased for some reason, it's easy to get hitters to go fishing. There's no challenge, no achievement. When you're Cha Baek, and you have whatever the hell Cha Baek throws, getting hitters to chase is a testament to your trickery. When he was healthy and on the mound, Cha Baek was tricky, and he was effective.

But Cha Baek hasn't been able to stay healthy, and because of that a decent right-handed starting pitcher has barely made any money. I know it's weird to feel bad for a professional athlete, especially a professional athlete who got a $1.3m signing bonus, but Cha Baek was a teammate of Carlos Silva. He was a teammate of Jeff Weaver, of Horacio Ramirez, of Miguel Batista and the sad version of Joel Pineiro. He was a teammate of worse pitchers making millions more dollars, all because they could stay healthy enough to throw their shit while he had trouble getting loose.

That sucks. And though I suppose you could argue that it's Baek's own fault for choosing a profession for which he's not physically cut out, how was he supposed to know what lied ahead? Staying healthy as a pitcher is as much about luck as it is about preparation, and you can't know if you can do it until you try it. Carlos Silva can do it. Cha Baek can't do it. And though Silva has run into some injury trouble, he didn't get the serious stuff until he made his millions. Baek didn't get that far, and he likely never will.

It's one thing to be injury-prone while possessing an electric arm. If you have enough talent, you'll always get your chances. But Baek is injury-prone and average, and that's just miserable, because when you're average, your health is the difference between having to find another line of work and being able to support your family for the rest of your life. Barring some miracle, before too long Cha Baek will be just another working stiff. And though there's nothing wrong with being a working stiff, Baek had the ability to be more, and he's had that ability taken away too many times.

All the best to you, Chuckles.