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April 4, 2006

Under The Knife

Sick of Steroids Already

by Will Carroll

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Jon Miller says that Opening Day means "every slate is clean, every playing field is level." I can only wish that were true throughout the game. I realize it seems hypocritical for someone who has written a book about steroids to say he's sick of the steroids story, but I am. Misinformation is flying, players are still finding ways to get their edge, and in the end, the game remains the game. It doesn't matter what the Mitchell Commission finds, what memos might or might not mean (answer: nothing). Without intentionally echoing Mark McGwire, talking about the past accomplishes nothing.

Let me make it clearer. We can't bring Taylor Hooton back to life, we can't bring home runs back in the park, and no wink-nudge commercial about shrinking balls will accomplish what we need. We need a strong, no BS campaign of education, research, and public relations. We need an independent body controlling the drug testing because the fans don't trust anyone in power to do it on their own, whether or not the new policy is strong enough. Let me try and make this even clearer: find me one owner--just one--that will stand up and say that he'll enforce a stronger drug policy. It would be within an employer's rights to modify the basic player contract to allow for this before signing. Find me one player that will publicize his drug testing results, making his own Athlete's Passport if MLB won't adopt the policy for everyone. Until we find men of character willing to stand up and be accountable, we'll continue to hear whispers without fact, convictions without evidence, and pointing to players with nothing more than "he looks juiced" any time it's convenient and, more importantly, not our guy.

We need one more thing--fans that will stand up and say "Prove it" the next time the media thinks it can pontificate.

Powered by a great day of baseball on the field, on to the injuries:

  • Many baseball fans are waiting to see what B.J. Upton can do. They might not have to wait much longer, though I'm sure none of them wished any misfortune on Julio Lugo. Lugo left the first game of the season with a strained oblique and appears to be headed for the DL. The injury seems to be going around baseball; the first three UTK entries today are all oblique strains. Several sources around the league seem dumbfounded by this, despite the increased incidence of this injury over the past few years. The only factor I've seen that makes any sense is that creatine, a supplement still legal for use in baseball, has a tendency to dehydrate muscles and leave them more susceptible to strain. What I don't know is if any of these athletes used creatine or any other supplement, though in the case of one, I really, really doubt it. The first team to figure it out gets a major advantage.

  • It's hard to watch what Nomar Garciaparra has gone through the past three seasons and not feel bad for the guy. One of the most well-conditioned athletes in the sport is simply being betrayed by his body. While more and more players are changing the way we think about age, some simply break down. Garciaparra heads to the DL with an oblique strain, something that had been bothering him for a week and finally broke loose. He'll be out at least a month, likely needing some time in Vegas before coming back. Given his close relationship with Athletes Performance, you can expect that Garciaparra will take up residence in Irvine very soon. Watch his timetable closely; API can make a point by getting their guy back ahead of schedule.

  • The Indians will have an announcement sometime Tuesday about C.C. Sabathia. I'm no psychic, but the best guess is that Sabathia will be put on the Disabled List as a precaution. Sabathia's injury is an oblique strain, though it is lower than last season's injury. That raises a question--is this a recurring injury, or is this a distinct one? Precise location of muscular strains isn't something I can get consistently, so it's not something I can give much guidance on. I'd expect Sabathia to miss more than the minimum, but less than last season.

  • Early returns on Matt Thornton--and I mean early, as in I watched him pitch at about 2 a.m. local time on Monday morning--look great. His mechanics looked smoother than I'd ever seen. Given the amount of time Don Cooper had with him, it's even more impressive. The question with Thornton has never been stuff, but consistency, so take one late-night performance with a grain of salt.

  • Bobby Crosby left Monday's blowout loss with a bruised left index finger. He got it hit on a tag play. His injury propensities aside, the injury doesn't look serious at all, one that would probably get no notice at all had the game not turned into what it did, making keeping Crosby in the game meaningless. It does point to the small things that end up contributing to injuries. Does something like leaving the glove down a bit too long, stretching just a bit too far, or swinging just a bit too hard contribute to injuries and is there any way to measure that? The scouts who are at every game should be seeing this type of thing; I bet some of the best have notes.

  • Some moves don't make sense to me, though I know I don't alwasy get the complete story behind some moves. I'm still looking for an explanation as to why Dustin McGowan is being converted to a reliever. With A.J. Burnett on the shelf and two pitchers--Ted Lilly and Scott Downs--dealing with problems, pushing what is titularly your next option to the pen confuses me, but again, there's probably something there that we don't know. In fact, Lilly is likely to miss his first start with shoulder pain. McGowan didn't look great last year coming back off Tommy John and there's certainly an argument to be made for him working his way back in long relief. That's the fun of the game--figuring things out, or not.

  • Many are panicking in Pittsburgh after watching the radar gun during the first start of the season by Oliver Perez. Perez lived in the upper 90s just a few seasons ago. Today, Perez was in the upper 80s despite 9 strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings, relying more on deception than pure velocity. Part of the dropoff is the new mechanics that Jim Colborn has Perez working on; it's still a work in progress, at best. Part may be injury, but velocity is perhaps the most overrated tool in a pitcher's arsenal. Perez may not have picked up the win, but he was certainly effective. That's what counts.

  • Quick Cuts: Whatever Rick Krannert saw on video seems to have been fixed. Dontrelle Willis looked significantly better in his first start than he did at any point during the WBC. That might be another knock on the coaching staff put together for Team USA Anyone in Oakland, Philly, L.A., or Cincy think that scoring and home runs will be down this season? Ryan Drese looks to be pushed into action for the Nats. He'll go on April 9th instead of Tony Armas Jr.. Drese acknowledges he's not all the way back from offseason shoulder surgery, so that tells us a lot about Armas as well The Twins seem worried about Torii Hunter and his still recovering ankle. These statements by the team against their interests are something to note Frank Thomas was one of the few highlights for the A's Opening Night game. He looked pretty solid at bat, proving he still has power. That was never the worry Jason Kubel is expected to start for the Twins Tuesday. That's another one for the doctors. He owes any career he has to modern medicine.

The Will Carroll Baseball Hour returns Tuesday from 4-5 Eastern (yes, it changed now that Indiana joined the daylight saving revolution.) Call in with your questions or listen on ESPN950.com. We'll also have a big media announcement very soon.

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