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August 12, 2005

Under The Knife

Giving Thanks

by Will Carroll

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It should start like this every day, but today's special. My father makes this column possible. I can remember toddling around hockey rinks, basketball courts, and football fields as he plied his chosen trade, sports medicine. Every son wants to be like his father and I was no different. Tape and splints came naturally to me, though he would tell you that my taping technique leaves something to be desired. All the time I was there, hanging out in training rooms and fields, I was learning enough to come here and write this column. Today's my dad's 60th birthday and while I can't be there with him for his day, I know he'll probably get in a tennis match, look at a broken bone or dislocation, and somewhere in there, I hope he'll realize what a difference he's made. Not a day goes by that this column doesn't owe a big debt to him. The same goes for me.

-----

And Day 12 of the steroid story begins. Rafael Palmeiro came back, the rumors continue unabated by Tuesday's press release from MLB, and there are renewed calls from all sides to "do something." Sen. Jim Bunning and others believe that the Commissioner should use his nuclear option--the "best interests" clause--to invoke his April plan of 50-day, 100-day, and lifetime suspensions. This is a loser in everything but the short term.

For the game, this would be perhaps the worst move, not because the implementation itself is wrong, but because it would drive a wedge between the commissioner's office and MLBPA in advance of collective bargaining. The plan would not stand, especially in light of Shyam Das' ruling in the Kenny Rogers case, which clearly placed limits on the commissioner's capricious use of power. The plan would also take a program that is showing some results and hand it off to a program that has not. If anyone believes that the USADA or WADA have controlled drug use in Olympic Sports, they're sadly mistaken. Again and again, it's been shown that athletes are willing to risk draconian penalties in return for athletic glory. The numbers are available, on the Web sites of governing bodies for every sport. Go take a look and you'll see the names of those who have tested--positive and negative. Does that make you feel any better?

If you take the time to look deeper, you'll see that not only are there specious results, there are onerous considerations. Leaving your listed address for more than two days, perhaps on an off-season vacation? You'll have to tell the testers where you'll be. Forget and you risk missing a test, the equivalent of a positive result. The knock on the door can come at any time. According to one Olympic-level swimmer, it's not a threat, it's reality. "I was in my residence hall after a date with my girlfriend. Let's just say that it was amazingly bad timing when four testers showed up with a cup and pages of paperwork. I'd heard they would come at two in the morning, but always thought it was just a phrase. No, they really do and could care less how it affects your life." I can foresee Kyle Farnsworth form-tackling a tester if that would happen in baseball.

There's never going to be a "perfect" testing policy--and to steal a phrase from Aaron Schatz, the best is the enemy of the better here. With HGH and genetic modifications on the horizon, testing will become nearly irrelevant. Concentrate on education and research, increase the penalties in negotiation with the MLBPA, and promote the players that deserve to be clean. Want a novel idea? Voluntary testing. Let the players who want to be known as "natural" athletes opt into the system. Let the public make up their own minds and let the BBWAA take those results into consideration when they vote. Big Brother doesn't need Bud Selig's face; baseball doesn't need big changes.

Powered by more upcoming Canseco confessions, on to the injuries:

  • It was the worst collision I've ever seen. Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran went head to head in the most literal sense on Thursday afternoon, with neither coming out well. Cameron certainly got the worst of it, laying on the turf as play stopped for 14 minutes before being carted out. He was placed on the DL with a broken nose, multiple fractures of his cheekbones, and a concussion. There are no reports yet about any effect on his vision, the most long-term of the consequences for Cameron. There's likely too much swelling right now to get a true sense of any real, lasting damage. Cameron is not out of the woods quite yet. Beltran was a bit luckier, leaving the field under his own power with a laceration and sore shoulder. The shoulder does not appear to be serious and Beltran is expected to be available for Friday's game. Add in Cliff Floyd taking a 90-mph fastball off his kneecap and the whole Mets outfield had a bad day. That it could have been worse is small consolation. Kudos to Ray Ramirez and the rest of the staffs of the Mets and Padres. Ray made it to Cameron inside of 30 seconds--remember, he has to wait until the play ends--and handled it perfectly, calling for the stretcher and immobilization quickly.

  • The Braves are only so reluctant to use the DL. Johnny Estrada is having yet more problems with his spine. Now, it's not just the lower back that is in spasm, he's also having 'significant pain' in his cervical area (neck). Estrada hasn't played in nearly a week and the Braves weren't willing to play more without a backup. It's unclear who the emergency backup was during the games where Estrada was unavailable. The Braves did use Chipper Jones as a pinch-hitter in Thursday's game. Jones is making progress with his throws. He'll avoid the DL.

  • The saga of Johnny B. Baker continues. The latest episode started with an innocent comment, saying that he'd consider using Kerry Wood as a starter next week. The team quickly reminded the Cubs manager--and the press--that doctor's orders on Wood limited him to two innings per appearance. I guess if it was Lou Piniella, maybe we'd think Dusty was trying something creative or out of the box. In the face of the continuing breakdown between the team and their manager--the same guy I touted as Manager of the Year back in May--this will likely be a data point looked at closely come October. The Cubs are also watching Aramis Ramirez. His quadriceps is acting up, part of the continuing series of leg problems the 3B has had. The Cubs will try and figure this problem out in the off-season, hoping to find the real cause. The Cubs will likely play August at "full strength," then see which kids shine in September.

  • Frankie Rodriguez can't catch, but he certainly can pout. Yesterday's Angels-A's game ended with one of the most unusual plays ever. However, few noticed that both teams were playing a bit short-handed. The A's were without Mark Kotsay in the field, back spasms limiting him to DHing, while the Angels missed Garret Anderson, out with patellar tendonitis. Neither is expected to miss much time, but health will be key for these two teams going down the stretch in what could be the only competitive division. Anderson continues to have strange injuries plague his season. Angels fans hope that his medicine keeps working.

  • Jose Valverde shouldn't get too comfortable. Just like Yhency Brazoban, Valverde could find himself out of the closer's role soon. Brandon Lyon pitched back-to-back nights in Triple-A Tucson with no real aftereffects. Lyon threw well--if not dominating--in the minors, and despite Valverde's recent success and returned velocity, Bob Melvin is expected to install the Sosnick-Cobbe client back into the late-inning slot.

  • Here's a serious question--what did Rafael Palmeiro do while he was on suspension? I dug up some quotes that seemed to indicate he was heading home to Texas to "be with his family in this difficult time." Ten days later, he's back with the team and Sam Perlozzo indicated that, in addition to everything else, Palmeiro hadn't done anything to stay in shape or keep his timing. During the suspension of Kenny Rogers--and everyone else, including the other steroid suspensions--players are allowed to work out, participate in batting practice and such, but cannot be on the bench during games.

  • Quick Cuts: Some people have complained lately that UTK is starting to look like the Yankees Pitching Report. Yeah, I feel your pain, but I play it where it lies... Vladimir Guerrero is running better according to several observers. He's been stealing lately and not looking strained in the OF... Jody Gerut heads to the DL. The Pirates say this knee injury is not related to previous knee injuries. OK, sure... Wily Mo Pena seems like he's spent more time on the DL than any other player. His contract status contributed to the problem, but Pena is starting to have the "Nick Johnson" tag attached to him. He'll have his wrist checked on Friday... Adam Eaton had a successful Single-A outing. He'll have at least two more before being re-assessed.

We'll have a solid show this weekend on BP Radio, so be sure to check in or just have iTunes do the work via Podcast. MLB.com's beat writers stop by as Mychael Urban talks A's, Matthew Leach talks Cards, and Brad and I talk about everything else.

Related Content:  The Who,  Week In Quotes,  The Week In Quotes

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