In 2013 with the Twins, Chris Colabello had a cheering section across social media.
After spending seven seasons in the independent leagues, he’d finally gotten his shot at the big leagues. After the Twins selected his contract in 2012, he played 134 games with the Double-A New Britain Rock Cats, hitting .284 with 98 RBI, and collected 47 walks. He made his major league debut in May of 2013, playing in 114 games over the next two seasons, going back and forth between there and Triple-A Rochester.
With a late-in-the-day push to have a productive career with a big league team, the first baseman/outfielder made an impression. But something was underfoot; more specifically, under thumb.
According to today’s report by Hardball Talk, which also cites earlier reports by the ‘Twins Now’ blog and the Worcester Telegram, Colabello’s injury was known to the team, but both him and the team brushed the seriousness of it aside. There were some troubling claims made about the Twins.
The disturbing part was the Twins deflecting by saying that Colabello’s struggles could be attributed to a problem with confidence. Even Colabello, now 30, put the blame squarely on himself. But the team is more to blame here if he was playing through an injury they knew of. The bottom line is that players will play through pain. That’s the nature of their job. Even more so if you’re a player in Colabello’s position, who surely wanted to put in maximum effort, in what could be a last chance.
When covering him in the Can-Am League, during his time with the popular Worcester Tornadoes, he was one of a small group of players on that talented club to break back into affiliated baseball. His opportunity came a few years after those of his teammates, but his story was bigger. Not only was he older, but he was the only one of that group to actually receive a big league job. He was known as a team leader with the Tornadoes: energetic, tough, positive. When the season was over, we spoke about his future plans. He expressed disappointment that his contract had not been bought again, but he was also relentless. He wasn’t giving up. It’s not so surprise that when he was in the midst of finally earning that shot, he wasn’t going to allow pain to get in the way.
There’s been talk on social media outlets about ‘macho culture’ and how absurd it is to risk hurting yourself, or the team, because you don’t want to admit you need to rest. Is the macho culture of sports a new thing to anyone? Of course not. But there’s also been empathy for Colabello, who did what many players would and have done in that situation.
That might be bothersome to people, but the real failure is on the Twins in not protecting their player. Don’t peddle a confidence tale if there’s nothing wrong on that end, because that could create an actual problem that wasn’t there before. And, frankly, a player of Colabello’s toughness and tenacity deserves better than that. The fact that he took full responsibility is admirable, so there’s that angle. He’s certainly not going to be the one to say the Twins shouldn’t have allowed him to play.
Ultimately, teams have a responsibility to make sure the guys they’re fielding are in the best health they can be. And it’s important to determine whether the Twins are in fact creating a culture of impossible standards.