Let me get this out of the way: Contrary to (semi) popular belief, I do not, in any way whatsoever, hate Lance Lynn.
In contrast, I quite like his particular skill set; I greatly appreciate his competitive intensity; I often laugh at his sarcastic wit and dry humor. I don’t hate Lance Lynn at all.
However, I don’t always like him, either.
I find myself terribly frustrated by his inconsistency, both within a singular game and throughout the course of a complete season, and while it may seem more personal than I have a right to discuss, I sometimes take issue with his perceived approach to the game.
The “Lynning” epidemic has already been covered at length, so I’ll leave that alone. It is what it is.
The reason for those big innings is something we may never know. But, for whatever reason – similar to today’s game – more often than not, something happens in the field behind him, the strike zone isn’t what he thinks it should be, or he becomes concerned about a baserunner over the current batter, and the rest is history.
Today, though, there was another problem: he was injured. With two on and only one out in the first inning, Lynn got Brandon Crawford to ground into a force out. But, as he was covering first base, he appeared to hyperextend his knee. Trainers came out, Lance stayed in. He struggled his way through eight more difficult outs before being removed for Carlos Martinez in the fourth, and finished the day having walked four, and giving up seven runs (granted, only four of which were earned).
So, not his best day. Fine. It’s especially disappointing coming off his complete game shutout Tuesday. But, even the best have a bad day. (See: Adam Wainwright on Friday.)
Here’s the root of my issue, based on Lynn’s own comments after the game:
“It’s hard to pitch with one leg.”
“The only way I’m gonna tell someone I’m coming out of the game is if I can’t get the ball to home plate.”
Now, wait a second.
I know I’m probably supposed to be impressed by his grit, his tenacity, his determination to stay in the game. I should respect his competitive fire and his will to win, despite feeling less than 100%. And in many circumstances, I would.
But if he took it upon himself to stick it out (which, in retrospect, comes off as a touch self-indulgent, no?), then he shouldn’t blame the bad start on a bad knee.
In fairness, I wasn’t on the mound or in the dugout when Mike Matheny and the training staff talked with and quickly evaluated Lynn’s ability to keep pitching. But I dare say no one forced Lance to get back on the mound. If he felt he was truly pitching “with one leg,” but convinced the staff he was good to go, he put his entire team in the nearly impossible position of trying to win while Lynn “got the ball to home plate.”
I can feel your disapproving glares through the computer screen. What right do I have to question his decision to stay in the game? I don’t know. What right do any of us have to second guess the professionals?
Still, the point remains. I love watching Lance Lynn utilize his talents to the best of his ability. I believe when he does that, he sets the team up with an exceptional chance to win games. But, it’s a team game. They’re team wins … and team losses. Sometimes, there’s more honor in “taking one for the team” by sitting down if you just don’t have it than there is in gutting it out because you don’t want to give in.
You could blame Matheny, I suppose. Many surely will. You could also just call me a “hater” like so many have already. So maybe this is me, just trying to explain myself.
No. I don’t hate Lance Lynn. I will jump off my couch and cheer anytime he wants to dazzle us with his strengths. I hope Lance goes seven strong in his next start. I hope he learns and grows with every valley, and celebrates and commemorates every peak. And I will try to do so with him. But I can’t promise I won’t have moments where I don’t like him quite as much as I wish I did. And that is the epic internal struggle I’ll just have to live with.