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June 9, 2003

Under The Knife

Scary Moment at Wrigley

by Will Carroll

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I've stopped shaking, I think. The goal yesterday on Outside The Lines was mostly to not embarrass myself and the Prospectus brand. I think I pulled that off. If I got in some facts, imparted some knowledge, and gave credit to the work of Keith Woolner, Rany Jazayerli, Nate Silver and the rest of the BP crew, all the better. As Tom House said, just opening the discussion of pitch counts, appropriate workloads, and injury analysis is a good start. I'm still trying to figure out how I ended up the only one without a hat and wearing a tie, but I do thank ESPN, Bob Ley, and the Outside The Lines producers for giving me the opportunity. Medheads on TV...now, that's a good start to the week.

  • The good news is that Hee Seop Choi will be OK and shouldn't have any lasting effects from his concussion Saturday. It's a scary sight for people to see someone unconscious and "locked" as Choi was after his head whipped into the hard Wrigley dirt. After being unconscious for more than two minutes, being taken off with all precautions, and following each step the situation called for, including a night in the hospital, Choi should return in about two weeks, no worse for the wear. Concussions are an interesting beast and everyone will react differently, but it is not a football-type situation where Choi is a recurrence risk. He has as much chance of falling and hitting his head like that as you or I do--probably less. Several sources are pointing to insurance as the reason for the DL posting and this is quite likely the case. The treatment of Choi was textbook concussion management and there's no reason that should stop when Choi left the field of play and entered the field of lawyers and actuaries. If nothing else, this is a great showcase for David Kelton...and one that could finally lead to a trade for the Cubs.

  • Joe Sheehan's analysis of Joe Garagiola Jr.'s trade history included a challenge to keep an open mind. I'm trying to, especially in the case of the acquisition of Shea Hillenbrand. No trade should be analyzed by any one measure. By my favorite measure, MLVr, the Diamondbacks made out like bandits. By injury analysis, Hillenbrand's oblique injury would cloud things, but Kim's earlier DL stint would be ignored since it was a freak, traumatic occurrence. Trades probably can't even be analyzed properly for three years or more, but their very nature demands that they be dissected in every column, blog, and toilet stall from Roxbury to Mesa. All we can tell in this moment is that the severity of Hillenbrand's injury won't decide the fate of the 2003 season for the Diamondbacks. That fate was probably sealed long ago.

  • J.P Ricciardi needs some good news while he camps out, so the news that Eric Hinske is way ahead of schedule has to brighten his outlook. Hinske is recovering from the removal of his hamate bone and should return with no effects other than a bit of rust.

  • One of the goals of any team in rebuilding mode has to be keeping the pieces you have in one piece. Nothing derails a GM's plan like injuries and it's never made any sense to me that teams like the Indians or Tigers don't put more of a premium on protecting the players that will be the part of the next winning team. For the Indians, the loss of Ricardo Rodriguez is not as damaging as the loss of Brandon Phillips or C.C. Sabathia, but Rodriguez is possibly one of those four- or five-slot starters that can keep a rotation stable. Rodriguez left his start today with a triceps strain. Like a flexor tendon injury, triceps strains often disguise an underlying elbow problem, so this bears watching.

  • While getting Denny Neagle back into the rotation won't push the surprising Rockies over the top and into realistic contention, it's always nice to see the millions you spend out on the field, and not in Colorado Springs. Neagle still has a couple Triple-A starts coming before returning to Coors, but after numerous setbacks, that return seems to be written in ink rather than pencil.

  • Attacked again by the Jason-like blisters that will not heal or die, the career of Jeremy Affeldt is becoming as tenuous as the life span of the girl who just took off her shirt in a slasher flick. After leaving his start today in the third inning, the only question now is will Affeldt be the one to challenge the paradigm, to be the one that runs screaming from the house and manages to make it to the next town over? Can he escape the monster that threatens to devour his talent with a trip to the bullpen? How many sequels will we see across the game of baseball this year? Finally, why is "Jason vs. Freddy" even being made?

  • Derek Lowe is also dealing with a blister problem; it only cost him an inning or two in his Sunday start, and should not keep him from making his next start. With blisters, as with real estate, location is everything.

  • There are plenty of concepts in sports medicine that I don't understand. If I ever get to a point where I think I know everything, I'll quit because that's the signal that I learned nothing. I often go to my advisors and even to people that I know have interesting takes on injuries. Today, I had an e-mail discussion with Jonathan Leshanski about Rick Reed. Reed has an abdominal wall strain that resulted in bruising and pain in his back. Leshanski (a veterinarian by trade) suggested that one of the best explanations for this occurrence is a tearing of the muscle fascia, and even after speaking with people close to the situation, his take is the best available explanation. As well as Reed is capable of pitching, pushing Johan Santana into the rotation and Mike Nakamura into the major league pen improves the Twins. The Twins also lost SS Chris Gomez for around four weeks with a strained MCL in his right knee. The good news--if you can call it that--is that he'll avoid surgery.

  • If Paul Byrd doesn't pitch at all in 2003, how will we judge what Leo Mazzone did for him? Easy: we don't. Leo Mazzone's strength doesn't lie in the avoidance of injury--and don't think his comment yesterday on Outside The Lines about Steve Avery got by me--but in the way he puts together a staff in an ideal configuration and the trust and communication he develops with his pitchers. There's less science than art in what Mazzone does and what he's developed from the teachings of Johnny Sain, perhaps much less science. But that doesn't eliminate him from consideration as the pre-eminent pitching coach of the last 20 years. We do have to factor injuries into the mix to a certain extent when judging Mazzone though. Whether Byrd was damaged goods when the Braves signed him or went from completely healthy to out for the year is something that will need to be assessed. Byrd's surgically repaired elbow seems too far gone to make it back in any meaningful form for 2003 and perhaps ever.

  • Jason Christiansen's return from Tommy John surgery is a testament to the skill of the Giants medical staff, but one good outing shouldn't be used as a predictor of what he'll do this season. Like most Tommy John survivors, Christiansen will be alternately great and terrible, struggling to regain the command that brought him to the majors to begin with. Alou, Righetti, and Conte will try to find spots where he can succeed. But while the time from surgery to return has been significantly reduced, the time to full recovery remains around 18 months.

  • One day after his activation, Chan Ho Park is right back on the DL. Park's career freefall is almost unmatched, but this injury is supposedly unrelated to the back injury that he was coming back from. Sure. Park was either injured when he came to the mound in San Juan or he needs to put out an Amber Alert for his dying talent.

  • I'll go slightly off-sport, if not off-topic, to discuss one of the greatest fights and guttiest performances I've ever seen. While I'm the first to say that the macho myths of sports need to be exploded, seeing Arturo Gatti fight a brilliant six rounds Saturday with a shattered right hand and clearly winning was amazing. The Gatti-Ward trilogy stands up with some of the great fights ever, one that makes boxing fans applaud and doctors wince. It was a series of fights that will be held up by both boxing fans and boxing opponents. Baseball needs an Arturo Gatti...and a Don King, but that's a column for another day.
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