Yesterday it became official that Justin Duchscherer will not throw another pitch before his contract expires at the end of the season, and neither the A's nor Duchscherer has given any indication that they wish their future to include the other. Duchscherer, whose agent revealed yesterday that the pitcher is battling clinical depression, offers many important truths rolled into one.
Command trumps velocity every time. If any scout or fan was seduced by the radar gun, all they had to do is watch Duchscherer pitch, topping out at around 86MPH as he wound up, kicked, and then seemed to walk the ball right to the catcher's glove. Rick Barry once demonstrated he could make 10 free throws in a row with his eyes closed; you wonder if Kurt Suzuki could catch 10 Duchscherer pitches in a row with his eyes closed, because at times Duke's command was that good.
Man is no match for the dark and heavy cloud that is depression. If you've never felt what true depression feels like, you'll never quite understand because it cannot adequately be explained in words. And if you've felt it, you really don't need words because from one who has been there to another, "Yeah, I know" is more than enough.
I'm in the camp that agrees it was none of our business why Justin Duchscherer was scratched from his rehab starts, and that the team was 100% right to keep silent. At the same time, I'm glad to know the situation because baseball is a sport where fans get to "know" the players, by their faces, by the daily travails of a 162-game season, and so if someone you "know" is battling an illness that you know is a beast, you want to be able to say, "I'm really sorry you have this challenge, because it stinks." In other words, we want to know not because it's good gossip; we want to know because we want a chance to say that we care.
But what I'm really here to say today is that over the past several years, Justin Duchscherer has been my favorite pitcher to watch. He brings out the irrational fan in me, the one who would welcome a new contract for a 31-year old who breaks down physically every year and now has put his career on hold. His command, the cutter that batters can see repeatedly and still not find, the 12-to-6 curve that buckles some of the league's best hitters. I just love watching the guy pitch. Get well soon, Duke, and if you ever want to pitch for Oakland again...