The arc of a fan’s responses to a serious player injury is probably always something like this:
- Hope that it’s not that bad.
- Sadness that it is that bad.
- Fear for how it will impact the player’s and the team’s performance going forward.
- Hope for a speedy and completely effective return.
When I see what Kyle Schwarber is doing in this World Series, I often find myself thinking about number three there. No, not necessarily because we are seeing the player’s and the team’s performance right now on the highest stage (though I do think about that, of course). Instead, what keeps coming back to me is the feeling of dread I couldn’t shake back in April – the fear that baseball’s cruelty laid this totally freak injury on a young player, a seemingly good dude on the precipice of a huge breakout, and who knows what his future would look like.
It’s easy to forget now, but, although the expectation has always been for a full and healthy recovery eventually, there was always a chance that a knee injury that serious and severe could impact Schwarber in a way from which he would never quite get back to the trajectory he was on. And we might not even have the first whiff of what that was going to look like until Spring Training, some 10 months later.
And yet here we are, watching Schwarber handle big league pitching like he never stepped away. Concerns about how he might look in Spring Training seem so distant, indeed.
Last night, Schwarber twice came through with knocks to drive in runs, continuing his impressive performance from Game One of the World Series:
Even if you can set aside how impressive his physical return has been – that does happen with professional athletes sometimes – you can’t set aside how impressive his hitting return has been. How can it be possible to compete in plate appearances against big league pitching – often excellent big league pitching! – after six and a half months of rehab away from the batter’s box, and then just a bit of batting practice, and two prospect league games? You want to talk about a hitting prodigy? Clearly, this is what it looks like.
No one can say for sure what the future holds for Schwarber, in this series, much less the seasons to come. But what he’s doing right now is already amazing. You would be a fool to foreclose any possibility from his future.
Enjoying his return to big league action in tandem with the Cubs’ World Series run has simply been beyond anything fans could have reasonably expected back in April. And yet here we are.
Maybe that’s the fifth stage I should add to that list up there: Bliss when the player blows your mind.
When Kyle Schwarber just keeps doing the thing. pic.twitter.com/SOotnGTbfg
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) October 27, 2016