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June 30, 2003

Under The Knife

Progress

by Will Carroll

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I had a whole big rant prepared--about 500 words--on war metaphors. Sure, I call it a Medhead Revolution, but it's not a battle and we don't have to pick sides, we only have to agree to how to fight. The war will be won slowly, over time, as intelligence overrules experience, as logic beats out perception, and as we all strive to make baseball better. Our thinking is creeping into the mainstream. This article is a good start.

  • The return of Vladimir Guerrero is just days away. His return to "baseball activities"--batting drills, running and fielding--has been a success. All that stands in his way now is live batting practice, which should happen by mid-week. How his back will hold up under the stress of his high-velocity swing and the turf at The Big O remains an open question, but with someone with as much talent as Guerrero, the risk is worth taking.

  • The scratch of Matt Morris from tonight's start has to raise gooseflesh on those who have been watching the situation with his shoulder closely. The reasons to push his start back are all bad, but the Cardinals are deliberately being unclear about them. Morris' shoulder problem is either more serious than they've been letting on (quite possible) or he's having trouble recovering between starts, which can only lead to more trouble down the line if he's not given proper rest that allows the problem to subside. With any lost time, the Cardinals tax their talented lineup even more and test the duct tape holding together their alleged rotation and bullpen.

  • Adding to the Cardinals' boatload of problems is the ruptured patellar tendon of Kiko Calero. In addition to having a cool name, Calero was versatile, fared well in multiple roles, and was just the type of duct tape that Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan use effectively. While I sure wouldn't want them near my prized prospect, the pair consistently finds useful older or plug-in players and makes something of them. The loss of Calero highlights the Cardinals' depth problems: he's replaceable, but not when he's replacing a replacement already.

  • After Calero and Brad Fullmer, there were some initial reports that Tony Womack was filling out the "bad things come in threes" quota. Fortunately for Womack, his injury doesn't appear as serious: he has a sprained knee and will have an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of the injury. He's headed to the DL, with surgery dependent on the results of the imaging. While Shea Hillenbrand's return and Womack's general crappiness cushions the loss, the Diamondbacks are still reeling from an amazing number of injuries. As well as they've played recently, this is a team that is taxing itself severely--they could crash just as easily as they've streaked. What could help them? Getting the injured players back, especially Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, and keeping them healthy.

  • With Kelvim Escobar in the rotation, the loss of Cliff Politte would bother most teams more than it seems to bother the Blue Jays, as they appear ready to adjust and make do with a bullpen of found parts. Politte will miss significant time with a strained rotator cuff, an injury that explains his ineffectiveness and lousy numbers of late, especially his sudden bout of gopheritis. Hard-throwing short guys always worry me--there's no reason they can't throw hard, but their mechanics have to be even better to generate that force. When those fail, nothing good comes of it. Anyway, what's the record for saves by a Rule 5 pick?

  • Let's try to ignore their record and remember that most of the guys in the front office of the Tigers are pretty smart. One really smart move--assuming they follow through on talk of limiting him to 160 innings this season--would be limiting both the innings and the pitch counts of pitchers who will help them years down the line. Jeremy Bonderman is definitely the type of pitcher a team can build around, but wasting him on a lost year helps nothing.

  • Back in spring training, the Reds had Austin Kearns have surgery on his elbow. The side benefit of this was that it gave him time to let his hamstring heal properly. Once again, Kearns needs a secondary problem to let the primary one heal. After running full-speed into a wall, Kearns' quadriceps is bruised and sore. Giving him a couple days off for that injury will also give his sore shoulder--the result of a late-May collision--time to heal. Kearns' power numbers have been plummeting since that injury, so this could be a blessing in disguise.

  • Roster shenanigans are always fun to watch. In the NBA, players are often put on injured reserve for no reason at all. Players don't know which ankle they are supposed to have sprained, and as one player said, he was placed on injured reserve for a receding hairline.

    In baseball, teams at least try to make it look good...usually. The cases of Jeremy Giambi and Willis Roberts look like typical shenanigans. Giambi was placed on the DL with a "sore shoulder"--sore enough to delay a decision on releasing him. Giambi was reportedly upset about the move, not a smart play for someone so close to the waiver wire. With Roberts, the Orioles didn't bother to inform Mike Hargrove, who was discussing Roberts just before game time. Roberts told the press he was fine, but the front office says he has a strained ligament in his elbow. I don't expect the commissioner's office to do much. (Speaking of the Commissioner, it was interesting to see NCAA Head Dope Myles Brand compared to MLB's own Head Dope in this article. When your name becomes shorthand for incompetence, it's time to step down, Bud.)

  • Rodrigo Rosario was getting a nice look while Roy Oswalt was out (Oswalt should return by the weekend). But Rosario's shoulder tightened up during his last start and the Astros medical staff can't figure out what's causing the pain. GM Gerry Hunsicker told the Houston Chronicle that the problem isn't structural, but I don't know on what he's basing that statement. The problem is essentially moot with Oswalt so close to returning, but Rosario would add nice depth for a team that can't seem to keep its pitchers healthy. Brad Lidge is dealing with what looks like dead arm, and Octavio Dotel has certainly not looked dominant lately, which in turn puts pressure on Billy Wagner. There's that cascading thing, all over again.

  • Quick cuts: Hee Seop Choi returns early this week from the DL. His neck is said to be no problem at this point and there have been no post-concussion symptoms...While it was good to see that Kevin Olsen was relatively OK after being hit by a comebacker, I wish someone would have used this scary episode as an object lesson of what can happen when a pitcher is completely out of defensive position...Jose Guillen was a bit lucky. His hand was not fractured after being hit, but his status is unclear and depends on swelling and pain tolerance...Speaking of the Reds, they've made Rany Jazayerli a very happy man...Jermaine Dye is simply going to need a lot of off days to make it through the season effectively. There are reports of drainings, of cortisone shots, and of trade possibilities...I've mentioned it, Joe Sheehan has mentioned it, but I finally found out who that is on the "Wingman" commercial. It's the guitarist for a band called Goldspot. Pretty darn cool music and site for an unsigned band. Instead of attacking file sharing, how about the record companies start putting out some good music?

I was guilty of bad thinking on Sunday. I saw Wilson Betemit come out of the dugout and I thought, "wow, he looks like a player"...then I saw him play. I'll get another look at Betemit tonight, from the suite level this time, while I celebrate #33. Maybe MLB will have players stay healthy as a gift to me.

Probably not. I'll be back tomorrow.

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