Brandon Fusco has never dealt with a season-ending injury. Not at Seneca Valley High School north of Pittsburgh. Not at small-school Slippery Rock University. Not in his first three NFL seasons.
But Wednesday morning, three days after he tore his pectoral muscle in the 20-9 loss to the Saints, the Vikings placed Fusco, their starting right guard, on injured reserve, sidelining him until 2015.
“It’s disappointing that my season has come to an end,” said Fusco, who signed a five-year contract extension earlier this month. “I had high expectations for this year for my team and for me, as well.”
Fusco was blocking down on a Saints defender in the second half of Sunday’s game and felt a pop in his chest as he grappled with the defender. “I knew something was wrong right away,” said Fusco, who had never felt something like that before. He stayed in the game for two more plays before taking the injury to head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman. After all, Fusco could no longer lift his arm.
Fusco will have surgery in New York on Monday and his recovery time will take about four months.
“I’ve always been healthy my whole life. I’m very disappointed. It’s something that’s new to me,” said Fusco, who has already talked to veteran Vikings teammates who have been on injured reserve. “So I have to get surgery and go from there. Rehab, work hard and come back stronger next year.”
Fusco expects to rehab at Winter Park so he can feel as much of a part of the team as possible.
“If I’m not around here, I’ll drive myself nuts,” said Fusco, one of the team’s best linemen. “I love the game of football and I’m just going to be around here with the guys and do as much as I can.”
New York is in a lather because heavy rain is in the forecast Thursday night for what is supposed to be Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.
On a personal level, we love the idea of some rain in the Big Apple falling on Jeter, as it would be a welcome moisture change from the tongue bath he has been getting even as a very good career ends with an awful season (unless a .611 OPS and league-worst range for a shortstop inspire a different definition from you).
On a grander level, though, the thought of a rainout at Yankee Stadium brings to mind a different kind of schadenfreude: a lovely comeuppance for those haughty East Coasters who act like it’s a felony that Minnesota doesn’t have a roof on Target Field (you heard from them during the All-Star festivities, when it dared to rain here and delay the HR Derby by an hour) while never once mentioning that Yankee Stadium is a much better candidate for one.
But it’s true: A fellow by the name of James Santelli ran the numbers a couple of years ago, compiling stats on the average amount of rain in every MLB city between April and September.
The impetus, it seems, was to prove that Seattle didn’t really need a roof — and he was right: that city actually gets the seventh-least amount of rain during the baseball season, more than only Arizona and the five California teams.
But the real delicious number in there, to us, is this: 26.41. That’s the average rainfall in New York from April to September. Only three other cities have more — Miami, Tampa and Kansas City, two of which have roofs. Minnesota is around the middle at 13th, with nearly five fewer inches of rain per baseball season (21.66) — slightly less than Baltimore and Philadelphia, slightly more than Washington DC and Boston, none of which, along with NYC, are ever lamented for their lack of a baseball enclosure.
If your chief argument is that Minnesota should have a roof because it’s too cold to play in April and September, or should the mood ever strike again, October … well, that’s just not true. The average high here, even as late as Oct. 23, is 55 — same as it is on April 9, around the time the Twins typically have their home opener.
If a place is going to have a roof, it’s usually about extreme heat (like Arizona) or rain. Maybe New York should have thought about that — or at least thought harder about it — before building a roof-free Yankee Stadium or at least before criticizing others for failing to do so.
Two of the most damaging things we can do in our lives are essentially polar opposites: Staying the course in a situation that has become toxic (or even simply too comfortable) because we don’t have the means, energy or guts to change … or acting rashly and changing something merely for the sake of changing it, only to regret the impulsive move and the better life we left behind.
When it comes to the Twins, and you cut through the raw emotion of losing 90 games in four consecutive seasons and simply examine the facts, you are essentially left with a decision on manager Ron Gardenhire that speaks to the nature of change. Careful reflection might not be popular with the ALL-CAPS crowd, but it is the right course when making a major decision like this.
We know that, when given capable players, Gardenhire is a very good regular-season manager. Even if he benefited from a weak AL Central at times, six division titles in nine years is an admirable accomplishment for anyone. His teams failed in the playoffs (the Twins are 2-19 in their last 21 postseason games under Gardenhire), and this four-year nosedive has been on his watch, but we cannot forget there are positive things on his side of the ledger, too.
The questions the Twins’ management should be asking itself in the next handful of days are these: would firing Gardenhire simply be change for the sake of change … and is there a greater danger in remaining on a comfortable, familiar course?
There are those that would argue sometimes “change for the sake of change” is reason enough to make a move. Maybe. Sometimes. You could look at attendance at Twins games this September, and the general apathy that is firmly entrenched among a growing number of fans and conclude that, if you were merely crowdsourcing this move, the best thing would just be to dump Gardy and start over.
The counter to that is that the Twins might actually be on the verge of giving the man enough talent to compete again, and when that has happened in the past the results have generally been good (the postseason notwithstanding, which we acknowledge is no small thing and could, in fact, be an even more damning bit of evidence against Gardenhire staying than four consecutive 90-loss seasons with an incomplete roster).
There are those, too, who would argue that there is a beauty in patience and that being comfortable in a job isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Maybe. Sometimes. But patience can bleed into complacency, and complacency can foster an attitude that makes losing acceptable.
If the Twins are going to make a move on Gardenhire, the reasoning and explanation needs to be more solid than “we just felt it was time for a change.” But if they are going to keep him, it better be because they feel like he’s the best man for the job and not because they don’t have the courage to move on.
There are certainly reasons beyond “change for the sake of change” to let him go, but there is also a not-too-distant past to consider when wondering if it would be a decision the Twins ultimately regret.