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June 30, 2005

Under The Knife

Birthday Card

by Will Carroll

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At some point in your life, people ask you what you want for your birthday and you really don't have an answer. I have my TiVo, my iPod, and my XM, and that's about all the gadgets a growing boy needs.

I guess more than anything else, I want to be recognized as a professional baseball writer. Not just for me, but for guys like Joe Sheehan and Rob Neyer who have been doing this far longer and far better than I have. It's 2005, deep into the Internet age, and yet a writer from Baseball Prospectus is treated differently--as less than--a writer from the Northwest Indiana Times when it comes to recognition as a professional by Major League Baseball and its constituent teams. Sure, there has to be a standard, but it should be a simple one: Do you make your living as a baseball writer?

Drew Olson, a former President of the Baseball Writers Association of America, said to me last year that "we all write for the Internet now." That face has made the world of baseball writing better, because now you don't just read the the limited coverage in your local paper, you can click your mouse to read a game recap from Rochester, a box score from Boston, and a column from Colorado.

All I want this year is a card, not just for me, but for the other people who do the same work as newspaper columnists but without involving dead trees. There's no difference in the effort or the output, just the medium, and in 2005, that's no difference at all.

Powered by the strength of dreams and conviction, with thanks for another year full of love, hope, and miracles, on to the injuries:

  • Craig Biggio took another one for the team. By that clichéd standard, he's the biggest team player ever. Since the result of all those plunks is roughly the same as a bunch of walks, I asked James Click if there was much of a difference between a walk and a HBP in terms of pitches seen. Turns out that the difference is about 2.5 pitches per plate appearance. Biggio didn't collect these overnight, so the effect for him is insignificant. In a much broader sense, a walk is perhaps just a little bit better than a hit by pitch.

  • A good start for Pawtucket--am I the only one with a sense of déjà vu? This season started for me in Indianapolis, back in April as Curt Schilling came to town. His ankle looked unstable then and he didn't seem confident in his push. Three months later, Schilling had another outing and my eyes in Pawtucket had strict instructions on what to watch for. Not only were the results impressive, but my source tells me Schilling seemed able to really drive off that push leg, that he may be falling more (a positive, despite how it sounds), and that while Schilling might not be the mid-season 2004 vintage quite yet, he'll certainly appear to be an upgrade on the version seen earlier this year in Boston. Beyond this, no one is really sure how the ankle will hold up, so there's a risk premium involved in any equation involving the Sox's expert pitcher.

  • I often call Ryan Doumit the Pirates second chance to get Craig Wilson right. That shortchanges the versatile Wilson, since he's still around as well. Wilson's ready for a rehab assignment after being cleared by the Pirates' hand specialist. He's likely to head out to Indianapolis or Altoona sometime next week, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and should be back in PNC just before the ASB. Two months for a surgically repaired knuckle is exactly what the doctors expected.

  • Houston fans are beginning to look a bit battered. It's one thing to be a bad team for a while, but having this first to worst run appears to be taking its toll on the boys in burnt orange. The latest slap to their psyche is a biceps injury to closer Brad Lidge, a guy with an extensive history of arm problems and a recent dominant streak that rivals anyone who's name doesn't start with Mariano or Mistress. Lidge injured the muscle during a long toss session and sounds a bit concerned about the injury, talking about needing to "proceed with caution." Lidge's history and usage patterns over the past two years are enough to give many fantasy owners pause.

  • I've watched every pitch Kerry Wood made on Wednesday a couple times now and if there's been a change in the way he throws, it's subtle. There's a bit of a change in the release, something he's doing with his landing foot, and the rest is seemingly noise, never quite enough to call it a change. The results were pretty good. Wood had nice velocity, better than normal control, and didn't seem hesitant to use any of his pitches anywhere in the count. The question is not how good Wood is--he's good--but how healthy he can be over an extended period, turning that talent into results. Wood is still young. At this stage in his career, Nolan Ryan was coming off a pair of 20 win seasons, but Ryan didn't have to come back from Tommy John surgery either. The parallels aren't as clear as they once were for the Texan fireballers, but if Wood is never more than what Ryan was in his Houston and Texas career, that still has some value.

  • Kelvim Escobar underwent surgery to shave down the bone spur in his pitching elbow. Doctors were already in there, so they took care of the regular maintenance that Escobar has been getting about every five years. Lew Yocum also found a small bone chip in there and removed it. Expect Escobar to make it back just before the end of the season, assuming that the Angels are still in the pennant chase, which seems likely. The bigger question is whether he'll make it back in time to get some game work in the minors or whether the Angels will just have to take his readiness on faith and sim games.

  • The road from bad to worse is a short one in Minnesota. Glenn Williams was already going to miss a minimum of eight weeks after dislocating his shoulder, and there was a chance he would need a similar surgery to what Ken Griffey Jr. and Richie Sexson have had. Minnesota's infield depth took another hit when Michael Cuddyer took an inside pitch off his hand. X-rays were taken but results were not available to the public by deadline. The Twins were hoping that even with Williams' injury, the return of Nick Punto would give them a bit of depth in the infield. Instead, it's looking like the one real need for the Twins will be at third. Joe Randa is a name that keeps popping up as Wayne Krivsky looks to deal with his future team.

  • The Padres may be the most talented team top to bottom in the NL West. What they lack is depth and that could be the Achilles heel for their chance at the playoffs. Ramon Hernandez is a key cog, both offensively and dealing with their pitching staff, so news of a setback in his injury rehab echoed through cavernous Petco Park. The Padres are worried that Hernandez not only won't be back next week as previously expected, but that there's a coinflip chance that he'll need to have surgery on that injured left wrist. That would put him on the shelf until August, something that Pads don't seem to have a Plan B for.

  • The Mets need Steve Trachsel more for what he allows them to do than what he does. A quick recovery from back surgery has put Trachsel on track for an August return, giving Omar Minaya some flexibility in making deals. The pitching market thus far has been extremely thin, raising the value of someone like Aaron Heilman, a pitcher a lot of coaches look at and think they can fix. Trachsel should be close to a rehab assignment by the time the All-Stars come back from their little exhibition. (Oh that's right. It still "counts," doesn't it?)

  • Quick Cuts: Joe Borowski was designated for assignment today, a sharp reminder that despite hard work and technology, not all pitchers make it back from arm injuries … Brandon Lyon is progressing rapidly in his rehab over the last week. He's extended his long toss sessions and could begin a rehab assignment before the ASB … I guess when I head down for the Dallas Pizza Feed, I won't ask Kenny Rogers for a picture … Larry Walker returned to the lineup after the cortisone injection into his neck worked its ouchie magic. Two home runs is one way to announce you're healthy … Susan Slusser had an interesting article that illustrates just how hard it is to deal with some players … A number of steroid bills are making their way through Congress right now and at some point, they'll need to settle on one. Parts of the others will likely make it into the final bill, leaving them a chance to get it as close to right as they can. The uncertainty that conferencing usually gives doesn't seem to be derailing the momentum of the intent of these bills.

One quick note: I often get emails asking me why I didn't cover a certain player. Usually, the answer is that I have nothing to add. Either the injury has been thoroughly covered in the media or I simply haven't acquired information from my sources. I do my best to cover the most important injuries as thoroughly as possible. Feel free to email with questions, though I'll reserve the right to tell you I'll cover it in the next day's UTK. Have a great Fourth of July. Thank a veteran, do something nice for someone, and I'll see you next week.

Related Content:  The Who,  Year Of The Injury

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