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August 8, 2005

Under The Knife

Leadership?

by Will Carroll

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Secrecy leads to speculation. The wake of Rafael Palmeiro's suspension has led to speculation about nearly every player that's hit a home run in the past five seasons. The bigger the name, especially if there's been any connection whatsoever to the steroid controversy, the more it's making the rounds. Congress is about to weigh in, steering clear of mentioning the fact that George Bush was mentioned on the same page as Palmeiro and Winstrol in Jose Canseco's book. But at least they're doing something, even if I disagree with the something. Mike Lupica is on the right track here, something I don't often say.

The scariest thing is that it doesn't look like we're done with this, the debate or the suspensions. Multiple sources in baseball have confirmed to me that there are ongoing appeals and/or grievances, portending future suspensions. It's unclear how long this process takes, though indications from both the Palmeiro and Ryan Franklin cases give a two to three month timeline from test to suspension. Yes, this means that there are players out there on fields now, perhaps affecting pennant races, leading categories, or heading towards winning awards, that are facing suspensions at some point. It's also possible that some of these procedures might not be finished during this season. This isn't about naming names or questioning the necessary due process. This is about the fact that public perception of this is going to be poor. Baseball is getting pummeled by this, by the press, by Congress, and by the public, all despite the fact that there's plenty of performance-enhanced athletes making headlines this weekend in other sports. When asked for comment, the MLBPA declined due to confidentiality concerns, while MLB had not return our calls as of press time.

Last week, I made a call for leadership from all sides. I'm still waiting.

Powered by Tony Stewart's emotional win at The Brickyard, on to the injuries:

  • It's not water to wine or Medjugorje, but the comeback of Armando Benitez might rank right up there with modern baseball miracles. Benitez tore his hamstring back in late April and appears ready to be activated within the next week. The Giants closer was on a surgeon's table just three months ago, having two of the three muscles of his hamstring screwed back into the bone, and is now ready to take back his role of closer. As impressive as the return of Ken Griffey has been from similar surgery, seeing it happen within the season is even more astounding. Benitez is the first pitcher known to have this type of surgery so there's nothing to judge this by. Give a ton of credit to Dr. Michael Dillingham and the Giants medical staff, as well as to Benitez himself.

  • The Yankees have hung in the playoff chase by patching their rotation and relying on their hitting talent to carry them through. It's much like my idea for the Rockies--ignore pitching and get a bunch of mashers. The Yankees expected to have a great rotation, not a faded top three and players that redefine replacement level lining up behind them. Randy Johnson's back is a big concern, though it's something he's dealt with all season, so this latest episode is nothing new. Good start, bad start--Johnson's a relatively known, if unpredictable, quantity. Carl Pavano, though, is becoming an unknown. He's headed to Birmingham to see how damaged his pitching shoulder is. Pavano was making good progress in his rehab before pain and inflammation sent him to Dr. Jim Andrews. Any setback at this point is going to endanger his season and push the Yankees to stay with what was intended to be a short-term solution in the rotation. Hopes that Jaret Wright and Chien-Ming Wang could be back for the last month look better with both on the mound this week.

  • The Braves are so reluctant to use the DL that it calls some of the more basic measures of their medical staff into question. It also shows that Bobby Cox isn't afraid to manage with a roster spot or two tied behind his back. Whether it's an injured Chipper Jones or Rafael Belliard for the better part of a decade, the Braves don't mind. Jones isn't on the DL despite being unable to throw from third. He's technically available to pinch hit though the team is still protecting its ability to retro him to the list. The current official line is that Jones is out until Wednesday. It's better to think of it as the day the team will decide to use the DL or not.

  • Jose Guillen might pass Carl Pavano in the hall at ASMOC this week. Guillen is suspected of having a torn rotator cuff and will have Dr. Andrews check it out. Guillen's shoulder, torn or not, isn't expected to keep him out of the lineup long: just a week or so. I'm sure he'll be tested on his throws, but the bigger concern is if reducing the swelling in the shoulder will allow him to swing the bat better than he has over the past couple weeks. Paired with an injured wrist, it's tough to expect much from Guillen down the stretch.

  • The annual August fade by Paul Lo Duca will get an assist from his injured hamstring. Lo Duca injured his leg trying to tag up and go to third. He's not expected to hit the DL, but Matt Treanor will get most of the time behind the plate this week. Lo Duca's absence, combined with a short stay on the DL (retro move) by Carlos Delgado should test the Marlins. The one thing the team doesn't have is depth and these two positions are the most impacted. Delgado has always been durable and Jeff Conine can play adequately, so this isn't such a problem. Not having a better plan B for Lo Duca is less defensible. Sure, Josh Willingham might have helped--he's done for the season--but bringing up Ryan Jorgenson, yet another piece of the Matt Clement/Dontrelle Willis deal, might be the best option. Lo Duca's long term deal doesn't leave them much flexibility.

  • Every time the Cubs seem to get healthy this season, it's followed by a losing streak. It happened when Mark Prior and Kerry Wood came back in July and now again when three injured Cubs came back. There's nothing really like this in baseball over the past five years. Usually, a team gets better when it gets its better players back. It's a small sample size to be sure, but we get another data point next week when the Jays get Roy Halladay and Ted Lilly back. Halladay was held back due to concerns about his fielding while Lilly is coming back from shoulder soreness. David Bush and Dustin McGowan will get more chances in T-Dot, likely slotting in behind Halladay as early as next season.

  • The Mets are in last place in the NL East, but still in range. Sure, the Braves are doing their normal pull-away, though getting healthy and getting an ascension to the mean for someone like Carlos Beltran would give them a better shot at the Wild Card. Steve Trachsel has one more rehab start between himself and Shea Stadium. He's hardly a difference maker in the classic sense. The Mets hope to get some depth, to save their bullpen, and for Trachsel to solidify the rotation like no one on the team outside of Pedro Martinez has been able to do.

  • Soft tossing lefties only seem like they go forever. Jamie Moyer could be pitching until he's Julio Franco's age. Tom Glavine isn't elite any more, just serviceable. Kirk Rueter--well, he seems to be nearing the end of the line at age 35. He's unlikely to be back with the Giants next season and has been pushed out of the rotation by gout. Seriously. Rueter is unable to land on his right foot due to the gouty big toe. Rueter should be back, relegated to the bullpen, in late August, hoping to finish out his Giants career on a better, er, foot.

  • Quick Cuts: Expect Darin Erstad back in the lineup early this week. His back has calmed down after taking a misstep Torii Hunter thinks he can get back if the Twins make the playoffs. According to the Playoff Odds report, Torii should think more about March than October Mark Kotsay left Sunday's game with a recurrence of back spasms. Pulling him from the game was precautionary. The flights he took to see the birth of his child appear to have aggravated his chronic back problems Oliver Perez is back on the mound. He'll be in Indianapolis or Altoona next week, then back in Pittsburgh before September The last test for Brandon Lyon will be back-to-back outings at Triple-A Tucson this week. He'll be the closer when he gets back, if only to help Bob Melvin's ulcers Does the White Sox interest in Ken Griffey Jr. have anything to do with Carl Everett being unavailable? Everett's groin may push him to the DL "Kip" rhymes with "Pipp." Kip Wells may have lost his rotation slot to Ian Snell after missing a start with a cracked fingernail Carlos Guillen is having swelling in his troublesome knee. Expect him to get some time off as the team plays in Toronto Michael Cuddyer is headed to the DL with a bad right knee Speedy guys can't have bad hammies. Chris Duffy missed Sunday's game with a sore leg and could miss a couple more this week.

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