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September 18, 2006

Under The Knife

A Rose by Any Other Name

by Will Carroll

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I'm speaking today at DePauw University. It's a closed seminar for journalism students and one that will be interesting, since I am not a journalism student and never have been, something that's both strength and weakness for me in my writing. I'll be both the teacher and the student as we discuss the Pete Rose story that happened over three years ago. How time flies...

This is a big topic made larger still because of today's climate of aggression towards reporters, limited access, an increase in "citizen journalism" and the culture begat by the Rodney King video, plus the legal assault on sources. By breaking down the Rose story piece by piece, by learning from the triumphs and mistakes of that event and trying to bring it into context, maybe we'll all learn something.

With this weekend's non-story about Barry Bonds, the backstory is even more interesting than the slanted headlines and clear bias that has always existed. Whether you like Bonds or not, whether you believe him or not, the methods by which this story has been told are both the best and worst of journalism and society. Learning something from it is the best possible outcome.

Powered by MLB Radio's Fantasy 411 Hall of Fame, on to the injuries...

  • There are very conflicting signals coming from my best Cardinals sources. Just days before Jason Isringhausen was shut down, I was told that he was planning to throw. Just before he was diagnosed with femoral head problems, I was told it was a recurrence of his acetabular labrum problems. Sometimes sources are wrong, and sometimes they lie. I'm not sure what happened here, but I didn't have the best information to work with, leaving you, the reading public, in the dark, and for that I apologize.

    Isringhausen is now facing a couple of options with surgery. One is a femoral head cap, where the head is very literally capped with a metal or ceramic surface to stabilize the joint. The other, less radical, option would be to shave the bone down at the head and neck. Both options don't change the fact that this is a career-threatening hip injury. The Cardinals' Dave Veres had similar surgery a few years back, and he elected to retire, though he was already planning to leave the game. Isringhausen is definitely done for the season, though sources continue to give mixed messages on how long the team has known about this, and how they plan to go forward. The team drastically overpaid for Braden Looper, suggesting they might have known for a while.

  • The Yankees continue to coast along, putting the pieces in place for their postseason. Mariano Rivera threw over the weekend, putting him on track for a return later this week. He'll be used sparingly with some near-heretical suggestions that he might be used in non-save situations to better control his workload. That's unlikely, though he will be used carefully by Joe Torre, allowing him to build up towards the playoffs.

    The Yankees got a little more flexibility ahead of Gary Sheffield's return when Hideki Matsui was cleared to play in the outfield. The team now has a glut of solid outfielders, so they'll mix and match Matsui, Melky Cabrera and even Johnny Damon in order to figure out the optimal configuration as well as buying some much-needed rest for Damon, Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams. Sheffield's return should occur mid-week, and like Matsui, he'll be limited to DH duties at the beginning, though one source told me that Sheffield has worked a bit at first base during his rehab.

  • So is anyone with me when I say that the 2006 Tigers look a lot like the 2005 White Sox? I'm sure that Detroit fans hope that it doesn't come down to the last weekend as happened last year, but it just might. The Tigers haven't been able to do what the Yankees have done or even what the Mets have tried to do: use a big lead to rest key players, make sure that young players avoid the mythical wall as much as possible, and generally set themselves up for the postseason.

    One key cog in the Tigers' success is Placido Polanco. His shoulder injury coincides with the Tigers' slide, and given that the pitching has gone downhill at the same pace, Polanco may be more valuable than most give him credit for, especially in the field. He's still working towards a return, one that in most scenarios has him coming back for the last week, though comments from Polanco on Sunday certainly made things seem bleak. Polanco had a cortisone injection and continues treatment and workouts, though his comments indicate that he's headed for surgery. This is one to keep a very close eye on over the next 48 hours.

  • The A's have an interesting dilemma. More than any other of the recent A's teams, this team has been built to succeed in the postseason. Barry Zito was never seriously shopped, and players were analyzed for their matchups with the likely opponents in a short series rather than the 162-game season where the A's have long excelled. With the injuries the team has endured, especially those to Rich Harden and Bobby Crosby, the design comes into sharper focus. Harden pairs well with Zito and Dan Haren for a solid three-game set to start a postseason series, but Harden won't come back until Thursday, and even then he'll be on a strict--and low--pitch count, giving the team very little time to figure out if Esteban Loaiza will play a more significant role in the playoffs. Crosby is an even more unsure thing. He won't be back next week after rotational exercises (read: core training) left him sore. The A's will go into the last two weeks with a playoff slot locked down, but a very unsure roster for those playoffs.

  • David Wells has taken to San Diego well. Much like Greg Maddux, the move to warmer climate and a pennant race has re-focused the veteran. The Padres can ill afford to lose Wells in the final weeks of the season, forcing them to be a bit more aggressive than normal in treating Wells' sprained ankle; he'll have a cortisone shot before his Wednesday start. There's some irony in Wells injuring himself running the bases, but he's proven that he can tolerate a lot of pain. If this weren't Wells, I'd worry about the cascade and compensation effects on Wells' knees and shoulder, but he's not your normal pitcher. Or normal anything. He know's what he's risking, and the Pads, frankly, need him to do it.

  • The Marlins have a tough job over the last couple weeks of the season, one that's important to the franchise's future. While the team has succeeded on nearly every front except ticket sales, all the development that's been done could be wasted if players begin coming up lame. The pitching staff is of particular concern, as nearly all of them are at career highs for innings. The Marlins have already lost two pitchers to Tommy John surgery so far this season. Josh Johnson will miss his Monday start with forearm tightness, something that will likely keep him from getting into the danger zone; Johnson's previous career innings peak was 152. Dontrelle Willis will come in slightly below his 236-inning high from 2005, proving he can come back from the 200-inning level despite some early season mechanical struggles. Both Anibal Sanchez (188) and Scott Olsen (171) are far above their career innings peaks, making them a bit risky going into next season.

  • This year's "in" injury for pitchers is the strained lat. The latissimus dorsi muscle is one of the largest in the body, so it's interesting that in rapid sequence, several pitchers have had similar injuries despite very different styles, motions, backgrounds, workloads and bodies. That suggests that somehow the lat is becoming the "weak link" in the chain. As we learn more and more about shoulders and elbows, we've made great strides in fixing them and in preventing injuries to them. Any chain has a weak link, and if the stress is being transferred from a now-fortified link, the lat might now be the weakest in the chain.

    The latest pitcher to add their name to the fashionable strained-lat list is Kason Gabbard, which sounds like a very fashionable name indeed. Heck, I think the shirt I wore on last week's show was made by Kason Gabbard. His availability for his next start will be determined by Tuesday.

  • Jonathan Papelbon is done for the season, and has told the media that he wants to come back in 2007 as a starter. This is interesting from a pitching context in that he believes he can stay healthier and be more effective starting. Papelbon is an interesting test case for the "leverage multiplier" we have long known existed, but have not yet quantified for relievers. Most of our proxy measures, such as pitch count and PAP, have little or no application for relievers. Papelbon's changeover, as well as that of John Smoltz, are nice data points. I'm also watching Chris Ray closely. With LaTroy Hawkins out and no other effective relievers in the Orioles pen, the staff has been using Ray in longer relief appearances. Ray has been doing well, though his seasonal fatigue is beginning to show in his velocity. A comprehensive study of reliever usage and fatigue is one of the big holes in baseball analysis.

  • Quick Cuts: Derrek Lee is out for what is assumed to be the rest of the season while attending to his ailing three-year-old daughter. Our best wishes to him in this difficult time Brad Radke is throwing on the side. Twins sources say it's "25% at best" that Radke will return Tom Gorzelanny will make his next start. Don't be surprised if he finishes out the season in the rotation Carlos Zambrano made a Sunday start with no problems. It's some good news in a bad week for the Cubs Tony Clark will have surgery to repair a torn labrum, ending his season. We're at the stage of the season where surgery starts happening more as teams fall out of the race I've got nothing physical to report regarding Pedro Martinez. If there is a problem--shoulder, toe, calf--the Mets are hiding it extremely well, something they haven't done all season Nomar Garciaparra will be back in the lineup on Monday after missing a couple games with a quad strain.

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