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Why Danny Farquhar matters

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We wonder what became of the last person we wondered what became of ...

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago White Sox
Spin Cycle: Farquhar’s comeback a month after a brain hemorrhage to throw out a first pitch at Sox Park is another “cool” moment that gets filed away ... until the next one.
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a few days in Florida, on a little island off the Gulf coast, near Ft. Myers. The family and I were visiting my mother-in-law, who has a place there. The wife and girls were on vacation. I was still working, but, since I can work anywhere with an internet connection, at least the view out the window was nicer. And heck, part of the time, it was actually hotter back home in Chicago.

So while I was there, I picked up and was browsing through the local paper when I ran across this. In it, I certainly didn’t expect to see this.

Recreational Red Snapper season? Yeah, that I certainly expected. An article on Danny Farquhar? Somewhat less.

There is no real connection. Yes, Farquhar grew up and played high school ball in Florida, but not locally. Southwest Ranches is on the other side of the state, and much farther south. A Miami paper? Sure. Ft. Lauderdale? Yep. But Sanibel-Captiva? Hmmm.

As blandly stated in the article, Farquhar is a journeyman reliever. He’s spent the better part of seven seasons in the bigs and has accumulated a grand total of 2.5 fWAR, -0.1 of which is with the Sox. He is virtually the definition of an anonymous big leaguer. Unless he is currently on your team, the only way you’d notice him is if he were somehow instrumental in some big-game result – say, giving up a game-winning homer in a crucial pennant race, or, conversely, coming in and striking out the side to get you out of a late inning, bases-loaded, nobody-out jam to preserve a victory that keeps or puts your team in first place.

Otherwise, he’s Erik Johnson, or Ramon Troncoso. He’s Bill Pulsipher. And so on. He’s, “Who?” Or maybe, “Oh, yeah, I kinda remember that guy. Let’s go get a Polish and a beer before the next inning starts.”

Farquhar is under contract with the White Sox for this season, and this season alone. A season he’s going to miss for reasons we all know, understand and sympathize with. If Danny Farquhar ever pitches in the major leagues again, there is every possibility it won’t be for the Sox. Under the best of circumstances, full recovery and career resumption, he’s an aging middle reliever to fill out somebody’s bullpen. To use an old SSS meme: He’s just a guy.

Of course, thanks to something none of us, most of all himself and those who know and love him would wish on anybody, he’s no longer just a guy. An unfortunate, near-tragic, situation elevated his profile beyond anything he ever he did on the mound. The Island Sun of June 8, 2018, kind of bears that out.

Now also of course, with the brain hemorrhage in the past, and the onset of the boring hard work of recovering and getting himself back to normal (whatever that may now be) occupying the present, Farquhar will fade into the background. There will be periodic updates, progress reports, but aside from those who know and love him, only those of us who are serious enough Sox fans to pay attention will pay attention.

If he does get back on a professional mound, there will be some celebratory human interest pieces, 45 seconds on Sports Center, and a “Day” with whatever team he gets back on the mound for. If he doesn’t, even we here on this site are unlikely to note it. He’ll become “I wonder whatever became of …?”

For a lot of sports fans, myself included, human interest stories quickly become tedious. Most notable, and most annoying, around Olympics time. With the soft-focus camera work and sensitive acoustic guitar plucked gently in the background, we hear about how this athlete overcame a crippling case of X, while another one overcame hardship Y, and this other one over here managed to excel while coping with Z. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get it. Can we please get back to the downhill? The gold medal match? The Russian women’s curling team warming up?

For a lot of us baseball/Sox/SSS fans, can we please get to the WAR (f, b, warp, Ken, and otherwise)? Can we please DFA this AAAA OF who can’t f-ing hit? Can somebody figure out why this middle infielder can’t figure out how to handle a routine damn grounder?

And when that AAAA Of finally is DFA’d, we post a short article and it gets a couple dozen comments, mostly either “it’s about damned time” and “wish him well, always wished he’d have worked out.”

And all of this is natural and normal. We all have our real lives. Most of us have families and others that we love and care about and for whom losing their jobs, say, will impact them and us. We care about their personal sufferings and setbacks. When your sister loses her job, it means more than when Trayce Thompson loses his. If nobody wants to hire your son, it’s a much bigger deal than when nobody wants to sign Conor Gillaspie.

So, then, Danny Farquhar. Journeyman. Middle reliever. One-year contract guy. Seems to be the kind of guy who’s very popular with his teammates. Which is probably a good thing, since he has a new set every couple of years. But the Island Sun?

Well, yes. Because Farquhar and his near-tragic hemorrhage remind us that the guys we root for, slam on gamethreads, evaluate like livestock, dismiss with a “what the hell took so long,” and welcome with a “hope this one’s better than that last one” aren’t really just “guys.” They are guys. They are real people, with real problems, real fears, real anxieties, real other people who love and worry about them. They are something more than a set of numbers, their WAR, OPS+, FIP, WHIP, or salary/years. He reminds us this, and it’s important for us to be reminded, even though I wish it didn’t take tragedies, and near-tragedies, to do the reminding.

Whether or not Danny Farquhar ever pitches professionally again will barely affect my life one way or the other, in any significant way, shape, or form. But I sure hope he does. And not just because he’s a Sox. Not just because he has a skill and talent that I admire, and for many younger years would have killed for. I hope so, because ultimately, he’s just a guy, like you and me, and our lives are hard and full of everyday struggles. I hope all of us make it, even though I know a lot of us won’t. The Island Sun helped me remember that.