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September 12, 2007

Under The Knife

The Madness of Crowds

by Will Carroll

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I debated a number of ways to start today's column and finally figured it out. You're smart and you don't need to be spoon-fed anything. When I offer my opinions here, they're here as nothing more than that; sometimes I'll make a compelling argument and sometimes I won't, but the facts and analysis of injuries is what I really do. I got roped into the steroid arena because no one else had done it-and as it turns out, that must be for good reason. In his latest ESPN article, Howard Bryant writes about his ... well, I'll just let you read it and make up your own mind.

The only thing I know for certain is that the media, or at least certain sections of it, love the easy attention but simultaneously thoughtless output that the steroid story allows them. Bryant, the author of Juicing The Game, is anything but thoughtless, which is why I offer this column up here. B-12? That's a red herring, one that any journalist could ask Johnny Pesky about. You remember Pesky, that noted juicer. No? Disagree? So do I. It's simply not that simple. It's a nuanced problem that defies the type of knee-jerk responses that seem to be the norm coming out of the press room. I'm just one guy, an accused apologist, but I know you, and that you're smart enough to make up your own mind.

Powered by something imported from the Dominican, on to the injuries:

  • There are a couple of parts to the Roger Clemens story. First and foremost, he's on track to pitch again after informing the team that he threw two bullpen sessions over the weekend. He was in Houston at home, as is his contractual right, and sources tell me that he was working with "his trainer and a couple of other regulars", though I couldn't get names or what kind of "regulars" these are. I'll assume that it's a regular bullpen catcher rather than something more nefarious. It appears that the cortisone shot Clemens got last week worked, at least to some extent, and he's on track to start against the Red Sox this weekend. Clemens is reporting that there's some mild ligament and muscular damage, though Clemens' translation leaves something to be desired as far as medical precision.

    The other part of the story is the apparent tension between Clemens and the Yankees staff, most notably between the Rocket and Joe Torre. Clemens was reported to have avoided Torre's calls, and while their relationship has never been close, it's never been unprofessional. On top of this are some whispers that the Hendricks' have started asking around regarding interest in Clemens' services for next year, notably back in Houston. Added up, there's no clear picture on what is going on, but there seldom is with one of history's best pitchers. The only thing for certain is that Clemens loves his own legend as much as he does the game of baseball. If he can have his own bloody sock moment, he'll do it.

  • The Red Sox are thinking that Manny can go back to being Manny soon. Manny Ramirez has begun light swinging as his oblique has healed up, but they're not going to push him to come back until they're sure there's almost no risk of a recurrence. The Sox have a lead and plenty of outfield options beyond Ramirez, so they'll let 'Manny Being Healthy' become the new catchphrase. The Sox are doing a lot of resting, with players like Ramirez and David Ortiz expected to get extra time off to heal up. One player that won't get extra rest is Josh Beckett. Beckett is fighting for the Cy Young, and since wins will probably be the deciding factor for the electorate in his battle with C.C. Sabathia and Chien-Ming Wang, any extra rest might put him at a disadvantage.
  • There's late word that Shane Victorino pulled up lame during a pinch-hitting appearance. While there has been no official comment from the Phillies, it would appear that this would be a recurrence of his calf strain or, worse, a cascade issue from that previous injury. Although Michael Bourn is back and Jayson Werth contributing, and looming beyond the outfield picture is the good news that Cole Hamels is making progress, losing Victorino for even a short time could hamper the Phillies playoff hopes. Worse, the situation Victorino was used in seemed pretty meaningless. This type of play, this type of ignorance of risk, is the one thing I keep noticing with Charlie Manuel, and it's the reason he won't get my vote when the IBA ballots come out (Ed. Note: And that's in less than two weeks, folks.)
  • If Gary Matthews Jr. is getting off a bit light for his involvement in the Signature scandal relative to how much media play that story is getting, he might be even better off now after an injury. Matthews sprained his ankle sliding into second, proving once again that while headfirst seems more dangerous, the facts don't necessarily support that assertion. The Angels aren't sure how long he'll be out, and plan to be conservative in getting him back, meaning more playing time for Reggie Willits in the short term. What matters is that Matthews should be fine in plenty of time for the playoffs. In better news, Vlad Guerrero homered twice and has shown no lingering effects from his recent arm problem. The rest appears to have cleared it up, giving the Angels their slugger free and clear for October. Nevertheless, expect him to continue to get regular rest down the stretch, along with most of the Angels, as they get ready and set their rotation and pen.
  • The Cardinals are going to wait ten days before making any kind of determination on Chris Duncan. The suspected sports hernia will be treated over that period in hopes that Duncan can return, and if the Cards are still in the race, then Duncan and the team can make some kind of informed decision on just how much risk to take with his injury in pursuit of the playoffs. The worst-case scenario is an exacerbated injury that requires surgery, something that's already in play, so Duncan really wouldn't be taking on significant added risk. The biggest risk is actually the significant pain that the injury would put him in, as well as the additional pain if it gets worse.
  • "He threw the ball so hard, his fingernail tore right off!" Before all is said and done, there are going to be a lot of Pecos Bill-style stories about Joel Zumaya, who I'd say was the reincarnation of Steve Dalkowski, except that Zumaya has some control, not to mention that Dalkowski's not dead. This one, however, is true-Zumaya did tear the nail off from its bed, most likely the result of the nail catching on a raised stitch more than the sheer horsepower of his fastball. It's a better story the other way, so we'll let Zumaya tell it however he wants. He's likely to miss a couple days and learn things about Lee Press-On nails he'd rather not have learned.
  • The Mariners are going to be without Richie Sexson for the rest of the week after he first has and then recovers from a contrast MRI of his hamstring strain. The dye used needs to clear the body before the player can resume playing. The club has no reason to rush Sexson back, even after he's cleared for activity, no matter how well the MRI comes back. One scout I spoke with suggested that this might be enough of a reason to shut Sexson down, opening up playing time for Ben Broussard or some shuffle that could get Adam Jones some more chances to play over the next couple weeks.
  • In an unsurprising announcement, the Jays' Vernon Wells will undergo minor shoulder surgery. The shoulder has often been used as something of an excuse for Wells' ordinary play this season, but remember that the Jays knew about this condition when they signed him, and didn't think it was significant when they gave him that deal. A cyst inside the shoulder capsule shouldn't be serious, and only Wells knows just how much it affected him. Once removed, he won't have any excuses for not living up to his big-dollar contract.
  • Quick Cuts: I got confirmation from an "in the know" source that Ivan Rodriguez was suffering from dizziness as the result of an illness and perhaps medication, not a concussion. That's a good thing. ... Rich Harden will throw another sim game this week, pushing his pitch count up to fifty or so, in preparation for an announced return to the rotation on September 23. ... Scott Rolen underwent his planned surgery on his shoulder. He should recover in plenty of time for spring training. ... Kazuo Matsui is out for at least the next few games as he tries to heal up a strained hamstring. ... Hey Goldstein-I picked Gallardo over Hughes, Lincecum, and Bailey at the start of the year. This prospect stuff isn't so hard! ... Derek Lowe was hurt during a pre-game catch session. No word at deadline whether he would be affected in his scheduled Wednesday start.

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