PLAYING WITH FIRE

If any Major League Baseball manager knows what it’s like to play with fire, it’s Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland. The notorious chain-smoker and brilliant baseball mind has Motown fired up and in a frenzy with Game 1 of the 2012 World Series just four days away. But, as the Tigers watch and wait to see who their opponent will be, Leyland has scheduled scrimmage games against the organizations minor league teams Sunday and Monday.

Good idea? Bad idea? Even Leyland can’t answer that question.

“Is it going to have any bearing on whether we win or lose, I can’t answer that,” Leyland told the media Saturday.

In theory, Leyland’s decision to scrimmage makes perfect sense. Tigers outfielder Quintin Berry told the Detroit Free Press,  “Any time you can see live pitching, it keeps you fresh. Whether you are hitting the ball or just watching. I like that we’re doing. This is a very smart thing to do. Get work in and not sit around and wait.”

Smart? Yes, unless one of those “What if …” scenarios comes to life.

What if … Miguel Cabrera gets hit by a pitch or pulls up lame running the bases?

What if … Prince Fielder gets spiked covering first base?

What if … Delmon Young breaks his ankle or tears his ACL chasing a fly ball?

What if … Phil Coke or Jose Valverde get hit with a line drive?

Can’t happen? Didn’t Mariano Rivera tear his ACL shagging fly balls in spring training? Wasn’t the broken ankle Derek Jeter suffered in Game 1 a freak injury? Remember how Ryan Howard went down on the final out of the Phillies 2011 playoff loss to the St. Louis Cardinals? And how about this season when Howard’s season came to an end after he broke his toe when he dropped the lead pipe he swings in the on-deck circle on his foot.

Baseball players have a long history of bizarre injuries both on and off the field. Take a look at this list:

  • Chris Brown missed a game because he “slept on his eye funny.”
  • Adam Eaton stabbed himself in the stomach as he was using a knife to open a DVD wrapper.
  • Bret Barberie missed a game because he mistakenly rubbed chili juice in his eyes.
  • John Smoltz burned his chest while ironing the shirt he was wearing.
  • Ken Griffey Jr. missed a game after his cup slipped and pinched a testicle.
  • George Brett broke a toe on a chair when he was running from the kitchen to the living room to see baseball on TV.
  • Kevin Mitchell strained a muscle while vomiting.
  • Nolan Ryan missed a start after being bitten by a coyote.
  • Glenallen Hill received cuts over much of his body after he fell out of bed onto a glass table. He was having a nightmare about being covered in spiders.
  • David Cone missed a start because his mother-in-law’s Jack Russell Terrier bit him.
  • Oddibe McDowell sliced his hand while buttering a roll at the annual “Welcome Luncheon” held by the Texas Rangers.
  • Oliver Perez went on the 15 day disabled list after breaking his toe while kicking a laundry cart in the visitor’s clubhouse.
  • Marty Cordova missed a game after he burned his face, spending too much time under a tanning lamp.
  • Terry Mulholland scratched his eye on a feather that stuck out of a pillow.
  • Greg Harris suffered a strained elbow flipping sunflower seeds while sitting in the bullpen.
  • Carlos Zambrano was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome after spending as many as five hours daily on the Internet.
  • Mat Latos held back a sneeze, causing a pain in his side that led to the 15-day disabled list.
  • Wade Boggs hurt his back putting on his cowboy boots.
  • Geoff Blum was placed on the 15-day disabled list because he injured his elbow putting on a shirt after a game.
  • Joel Zumaya strained his arm playing “Guitar Hero” and had to sit out three games.
  • Chris Coghlan tore the meniscus in his knee as he attempted to shove a shaving cream pie in a teammate’s face.
  • Jeff Juden missed a start because a tattoo he got prior to the season opener got infected.
  • Brandon Inge was trying to prop a pillow behind his son’s head and strained a muscle, and ended up on the 15-day disabled list.
  • Brent Mayne missed an entire month because he turned his head to check traffic as he was crossing the street – and wrenched his back.
  • Rich Harden strained his shoulder turning off his alarm clock.

Will it happen?

Chances are slim and none, but if a freak accident happens and a key piece of the Tigers gets injured, Leyland may regret his decision.

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