The entire 7-season run of the 1980’s TV series “Hill Street Blues” was released on DVD this month. The show broke new ground for television in almost every respect. The description of its attributes may sound common for a police drama series today, but not so in 1981. No prior series had ever had an ensemble cast (13 actors and actresses receive credit in the opening), or pursued story lines that ran through multiple episodes (sometimes entire seasons) or depicted characters that were both “good” and “bad” (sometimes at the same time), and who challenged the audience’s traditional views of such judgments.
I could write for many paragraphs about my memories of this show that I watched every Thursday night all through law school and the early years of my practice. Most of you are too young to have seen it during its original run but if you simply watch the intro I think you will immediately develop an interest in the gritty urban landscape and dire events occurring there (“armed robbery in progress”). You may even feel a relationship building with one or more of the characters just from their intro shots. The cast was simply that good.
I had several favorite characters, but the one that came to mind this week as I read about the release of the DVD’s was Sargent Phil Esterhaus. He was the precinct leader who handled the daily roll call and gave updates on various suspicious activities or on-going police operations. He always ended each talk with an admonition to his troops intended to remind them that it was a dangerous world they were about to enter. His profound advice: “Let’s be careful out there!”
Well, it is not a perfect segue, but I am certain that the reason Phil Esterhaus came to mind was that I was at the same time also reading about yet more injuries in MLB. Professional sports are not generally viewed as more dangerous than law enforcement, but if the current rate of players landing on the disabled list doesn’t slow, that perception may change. Injuries have always been part of the game and I have written about them as recently as March. But can anyone remember a time when so many important players, stars both old and young, have suffered serious injuries in the first two months of a season?
Just consider this list of Texas Rangers players who are likely out for the season starting with today’s announcement: Prince Fielder and Jurickson Profar (that is the left side of TEX’s infield that was supposed to be so effective), to these are added 4/5 of the Rangers’ starting rotation – Holland, Harrison, Lewis and Perez – and you can understand why TEX is under .500 and 7 games behind OAK.
Virtually every team has at least 1 major component of their roster out for the season or an extended period. This includes established stars like Chris Medlin and Matt Harvey, as well as young stars like Jose Fernandez, Matt Moore, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Many other veteran stars have been on the 15-day DL at least once, including Sabathia, Votto, Braun, Lee, and Beltre. The current extent of the carnage is revealed here:
Just what is going on here? Certainly some of these injuries are the result of players failing to heed Sgt. Esterhaus’ advice. How many times do you have to tell a player NOT to slide into first base? (Hamilton, Harper). But is there any greater care that can be taken with pitchers these days? Five and even 6 man rotations, strict pitch counts and inning counts (Strasburg), advanced kinesiology – and yet pitchers are still suffering season-ending and even career-threatening shoulder and elbow injuries seemingly every day. I just don’t get it. What is even more confusing is that despite all the injuries to pitchers, which undoubtedly has diminished the talent pool, the league batting average is among the lowest in the past 50 years. Good hitters are hurt almost as much as good pitchers, so I guess we are learning another maxim of baseball: bad pitching still beats bad hitting.
Perhaps this simply reflects the irony that life often exhibits, just as was seen in the life of Michael Conrad, the actor playing Phil Esterhaus. Sometimes things just happen. Despite his character’s daily concern for the officers’ safety, caution was unable to save Conrad in real life. He died of cancer during the fourth season of Hill Street Blues. http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=michael+conrad+hill+street+blues+intro&FORM=VIRE1#view=detail&mid=E61183EE4AD732225A53E61183EE4AD732225A53.
It is still early in the MLB season, so it is too soon to write the definitive story-line for 2014, but in order to change the focus the managers might considering adopting a new pre-game talk: “Let’s be really careful out there!”
© (JSR – 2014)