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Take everything you hear about player health with a grain of salt

Braves Spring Baseball

Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis takes batting practice during a baseball spring training session on Thursday, Feb 25, 2016, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Curtis Compton /Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) MARIETTA DAILY OUT; GWINNETT DAILY POST OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; WXIA-TV OUT; WGCL-TV OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT


I’ve spent the morning living in the past. It’s my brother’s 45th birthday today so I woke up thinking about him a lot. How he got so old while I’ve stayed so young and vibrant is a mystery but I’ll call him later to taunt him about that.

Then, thanks to that Facebook memories, and the fact that I’m usually at spring training in early March, I was reminded of a ton of past spring training happenings. Six years ago today I witnessed a Mets fan berating a hotel clerk in Port St. Lucie. Four years ago today I saw Yu Darvish’s debut, during which a credentialed cameraman dropped his camera and dove for a foul ball. It happened the morning after I met a guy in a bar with a head wound who thought that women getting the right to vote was the worst thing ever. I wonder what happened to that guy. I assume he’s running Trump’s Arizona operation but I can’t be sure. I’m flying to Phoenix on Thursday so I’ll try to catch up with him.

An event more relevant to the 2016 season has me looking backwards too. It’s this story about Braves outfielder Nick Markakis from Mark Bowman at It’s an encouraging story about how he is feeling 100% this year and how, unlike last year, after a short spring training due to his recovery from neck surgery, he is swinging free and easy, has power and is relieved to be able to engage in his entire, usual spring training routine. What a nightmare last year was! How good that is in the past!

But then I remembered last year Markakis, as most players coming off of injuries or surgeries do, claimed he was totally fine. Indeed, he claimed it exactly one year ago today, telling Bowman “I’ll be fine with a week’s worth of at-bats” and suggesting that the neck surgery was no issue at all. Guess not.

Which, fine. Markakis is an athlete. Athletes, by necessity, spend a lot of time convincing themselves they can do the impossible and convincing themselves that obstacles in front of them are not as big as they seem. Most, I suspect, do not allow themselves to acknowledge long odds until the absolute last moment they have to, preferring instead to engage in positive thinking. They’re wired differently than you and me.

But it does mean that whenever you hear a player talking super positively about his recovery from surgery or injury you should take his claims with a grain of salt. Or at least bookmark it and check back in a year for some more candid comments about where he was at the time he offered said comments.