Agism clouds judgment on Contreras


Old is out.

Think about it: We elected a young president, we see movies that
are marketed to 18-24-year-olds, we buy products that make us look younger, we
exercise to the point of excess — call it “excessercise.”

Sure, we don’t mind watching Larry King, laughing at Andy Rooney
monologues on “60 Minutes” or listening to the latest Joe Biden snafu, but we
live in a youth-obsessed, agist society.

I can’t help but think age has something to do why fantasy
owners/fans have been so slow to embrace Jose Contreras. (For those who don’t
know, Contreras is listed as 37 years old. I say “listed” because of the
mystery that comes with players who’ve defected from Cuba.)

All this dawned on me Wednesday night as I watched the big Cuban
treat the Indians lineup like misbehaved children, ringing up nine strikeouts
without breaking a sweat.

How else can you explain why Contreras is still floundering on the
waiver wire in more leagues than not?

Here we have a guy who’s been downright dominant since returning
from Triple-A Charlotte a month ago. By dominant, I mean a 2.06 ERA, a 38/6
K/BB ratio and a .189 batting average against in 43 2/3 innings over six
starts, a span that includes three eight-inning gems, vs. the first-place Tigers,
the big-bopping Brewers and the Indians.

Beyond the numbers, he’s also fun to root for — that is, unless
you happen to be a Yankees fan who remembers his tumultuous days in the Bronx.

Many observers thought Contreras wouldn’t recover from a severe Achilles’
injury until midseason. Of course, he came back by Spring Training.

In April, the guy asked — that’s right, asked — to be sent down
to Triple-A, where he worked himself back into shape like a beat-up boxer
making his last hurrah. Now, his fastball velocity is reportedly back where it
was pre-2008, in the low to mid-90s.

Six starts is a small sample size to make a big fuss over, I admit;
Contreras isn’t about to challenge Zack Greinke for the American League Cy
Young Award.

Still, his improved command shows a dramatic shift from the
injury-plagued, pitch-through-the pain mediocrity we’ve grown accustomed to
from Mr. Contreras.

It shows a rebirth. It shows potential for one of the better
comeback stories of ’09. The kind of comeback owners dismiss for weeks until
September rolls around, and they look back saying to themselves, “Maybe he
wasn’t so old, after all.”


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