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September 27, 2006

Under The Knife

Ambiguities in Life and Diagnostics

by Will Carroll

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Joe Sheehan often says this, and better than I will, but while sports are often portrayed as being about character, there is really very little correlation between results and the way people actually are. I've been lucky enough to meet many players, and some are great people, the kind of guys you'd love to hang out with or date your sister. Some, well... not so much. That doesn't mean that those guys who chase skirts, drink and smoke, or do things we'd rather our heroes not do aren't talented. The problem is that we sometimes want to associate things with these heroes, like our guys are good, and their guys are bad. The media can color things, but not as much as you'd think--in the age of the net, not much makes it past Deadspin or its less-talented like. I've learned things that amaze me, seen quiet donations that would stun you, and heard rumors that would curl even my hair. In the end, though, talent wins, and talent doesn't have a character. Turning our heroes into one-dimensional value cartoons doesn't help us understand the game. Information does.

Powered by completing the fifth year of the "Will Carroll Baseball Hour," a part of SportsDesk on ESPN 950 in Indianapolis, on to the injuries...

  • Yes, I was surprised as you were when Jim Edmonds came to the plate on Monday and hit a three-run homer. Cleared to play, but not cleared to fly, what's also clear is that Edmonds is not yet completely over his post-concussion syndrome. He said all the right things to MLB.com after the game, pronouncing himself ready to go, the training staff has cleared him to play, as has the team physician, though the "no fly" restriction still holds, making the playoffs an interesting proposition. Edmonds re-entered the starting lineup on Tuesday night, which is a big step. The next big step will be after the game, to see if he's showing ill effects. There's every chance that Edmonds is playing with some deficit. At least Edmonds and the Cards have the schedule on their side--they close the season at home. There's no word if they've tried to book the "Madden Cruiser" for the playoffs.
  • The Red Sox finally know what was going on in the shoulder of pitcher Matt Clement, and it wasn't good. Dr. Jim Andrews found significant damage in Clement's shoulder during exploratory surgery. Damage to both the rotator cuff and labrum was seen and repaired, likely ending Clement's 2007 before we're even done with 2006. It's another lesson in why MRIs aren't perfect as diagnostic tools, and why conservative rehab is often as risky as exploratory surgery.
  • There's no team without a flaw, but most of the teams appear to have serious pitching questions. If you can find me a playoff team that honestly goes three deep with plus starters, you know where to find me. The Yankees have survived the season after a hailstorm of injuries, but at the end of the season, they find themselves where they began it--wondering if Randy Johnson will hold up and be the ace they traded for last year. Johnson is having more back problems, though it's a good sign that his knees are holding up well. (For more on those knees, check out Jeff Passan's article on what I've always called Synvisc. Amazing stuff from this year's "leap" guy.) Johnson won't make another regular season start, but will work on the side. He could start Game Two or Three of the Division Series, depending on how those go. Mike Mussina will fill in whichever slot needed. His thumb is fine after the comebacker a few days ago. He's got full range of motion and limited pain.
  • The Mets are also sorting out their pitching. Tom Glavine looked vulnerable Monday night, but admittedly was coasting, along with the rest of his playoff-ticketed team. Pedro Martinez can't coast on Wednesday night, since this start will go a long way in determining where he'll be slotted in the playoff rotation. The third slot seems to be Orlando Hernandez's to lose with Oliver Perez making a late surge for the fourth position. The depth the Mets have gives them the ability to let Martinez have more slack; they'll be able to "shadow" him, as one pitching coach put it, by having a starter ready behind him. It's an interesting proposition, but the Mets hope that it's unnecessary. They know that they were among the best teams in the league for 162, now it's time to see how they hold up for the next three.
  • I've received a lot of questions about Trevor Hoffman and his sore shoulder. Look, the guy set the saves record in the midst of six appearances in eight games. If he can pitch and pitch effectively that often, the shoulder can't be that much of a problem. Whether the problem isn't serious or whether Hoffman can take the pain isn't clear. His mechanics look no different to my eye than they did earlier in the season, but television angles aren't ideal for this type of look. Earl Weaver famously said "the hitters will tell me when the pitcher is done." The hitters have spoken loud and clear on Hoffman, often as they walk back to the dugout.
  • The Padres look to be headed to October, and they've done it despite the loss (and poor play) of Khalil Greene. Expected to be done for the season, Greene has made some strides in the last ten days and has a chance to return. He's not starting Tuesday night in St. Louis, but Tom Krasovic reports that his return only has a couple more hurdles in the way. It's risky for any team to put a player like Greene on the postseason roster, so watch for the Padres to make absolutely sure they won't be a man down in October.
  • Does putting Francisco Liriano on a rehab program mean he's not going to have surgery? Well, not so much. Certainly the hope is that the rehab will go well and make any surgery unnecessary, but we know how the last rehab went. Of course we must also remember that the last rehab was focused on Liriano's shoulder, not his elbow, so this is a different kettle of fish. There are comps on both sides of this situation, and even with this six-week program the Twins and Liriano still have time enough to go in and look around the elbow if necessary to get him ready for next season. This assumes they don't see anything significant, and if he's failed two rehabs, then one can only assume that something significant is going on. The offseason will make it harder to keep track.
  • Quick Cuts: Oakland has a late game and I have an early flight to Bristol, but I'm sure you can find out how Rich Harden did if you try Magglio Ordonez left Tuesday's game with back spasms. Keep your eye on this If you expect me to list all the pitchers that will skip starts due to being in the playoffs or out of the playoffs, I'm sorry to dash your hopes Remember when I said Ken Griffey Jr. was done for the season? What I meant to say was that he could pinch-hit and might hit a homer. He was limping noticeably as he trotted.

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