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September 14, 2007

Under The Knife

Operation Shutdown

by Will Carroll

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There's one part of the Mitchell Investigation that no one is talking about, a part that is, to me, vitally important. Since Watergate, the Howard Baker question--"What did he know and when did he know it?"--has led to damning implications, no matter the answer. Even being asked that question is problematic, forcing many to drop an "I don't recall." That might prove to be the case for Bud Selig. It would be an ironic turn if the investigation he set in motion ended up turning on him, but it seems that Selig was aware of this risk, so credit him for putting his own reputation on the line. As proxy for all owners, Selig certainly could have "done more" in the early years of what some now call the Steroid Era. Even just a better PR strategy could have helped, as the NFL demonstrates day after day. With more names coming out of Albany, and the Mitchell Report seeming to take on new significance with each passing allegation, Selig appears calm in the eye of the hurricane. Problem is, those of you that have been through a hurricane know that the calm comes before the storm.

Powered by Bryan Dorfler, who saved me about three grand on a new car, on to the injuries:

  • It's the time of year where we start seeing teams shut down players either to protect them or to maintain them. You'll often see it tied to their being mathematically eliminated, which I guess is as good a determining factor as any. It's essentially an arbitrary decision that affects the fans' perception more than anything, but we'll see a lot of this over the next week or so, with a continuous, meaningless trickle as more and more teams drop out. Given the status of the races, the AL should be shutting down more quickly, and we're seeing that. Odalis Perez is one of the more notably shut down, since he's been on the DL for almost a month anyway. He's been rehabbing his knee at home in the Dominican, and it appears now that he's made his last start with the Royals.

    Carlos Silva could be the next to be shut down. He left his last start with a groin problem, leaving his next start to one of the young Twins pitchers that will be with Minnesota next year. The Twins' plans are a bit up in the air now that Terry Ryan has been nudged out, making many wonder about whether players like Silva and Torii Hunter might be back in the mix for 2008 in a win-now mode, or whether Bill Smith might prefer to play the young talent the Twins have collected. Right now, we simply don't know. We do know that Silva will miss at least one start.

    Young guys are also getting shut down, injuries or not. The White Sox have shut John Danks down for the year. It's a smart move to protect their young pitcher, but the timing is either interesting or coincidental. Danks is at 139 IP right now, almost exactly his total from last season. With my "rule of 30," Danks is likely to be one of those jumping over that hurdle next season. This is one of those situations where I can examine the research and think one thing, then think entirely another knowing that the Sox know what they're doing. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.

  • The Cubs are locked in a tight race with the Brewers, and with less than 20 games to go, even the smallest thing could be the difference between winning the division and watching the playoffs on TBS. Something as simple as Derrek Lee fouling a ball off himself and subsequently missing a game could make a difference, but this time, it didn't--the team didn't miss a beat when Lee took a day off to give the bruise on the inside of his knee some time to heal. Lee isn't expected to miss much more time because of the injury, if any, and it should have little or no effect beyond that, making this near-miss one of those lucky breaks that could be the difference between winning and watching.
  • The Jays have had their season nearly defined by injuries. They've had a lot of them, losing some credibility on the issue, and two of their key players will end the season with questions for next year due to injuries. Troy Glaus' season has finally, mercifully ended, as he will undergo surgery to try and fix his injured foot. In the surgery next week, the doctors will decompress the nerves in his foot. It's a different treatment strategy than what we've seen before, focused on resolving the symptoms more than the cause, but treating the cause has seldom worked with baseball injuries. Glaus still has the off-field questions to deal with while he tries to heal up his heel. The Jays also appear close to shutting down Vernon Wells, allowing him to have the shoulder surgery that they've announced he'll have. Wells' cyst isn't that much of an issue--it's easily removed--and the labrum tear that's been acknowledged is allegedly not big enough to need repair. That could change once the surgeon gets in there and sees it, but with a full offseason to heal up, it's going to take discovering a big surprise inside of Wells' shoulder to alter his outlook for next year.
  • The Phillies are still in it, and since they are, as noted previously, they'll keep pushing forward with Cole Hamels. He made it through a simulated game and is now on track for a start. There are indications that the start could come as early as Tuesday, though sources are mixed on what restrictions Hamels will be operating under, if any. I understand the team's thinking--things are different in a pennant race, and risk has to be redefined within that context, but that doesn't alleviate my worries. The current coaching staff isn't one with a great track record on keeping guys healthy, so I'll be holding my breath a bit when one of the best young lefties heads back out to the mound.

    In contrast, the team doesn't have much worry about Kyle Kendrick. He didn't quite dodge the ball coming back at him, though he did dodge a bullet when he wasn't injured worse after it hit him. He's got a nice bruise on the side of his knee, but the pain and color will fade, and Kendrick should be able to make his next start.

  • One of the hidden benefits to switch-hitting is that sometimes what ails you one way doesn't so much the other way. Chipper Jones is able to swing lefty despite having trouble with his strained oblique when he swings right-handed. I'm not able to explain this--according to my process, and confirmed with a couple of my UTK advisers, both obliques should be activated in the swing from either side. Even medical studies confirm this, but Jones and the Braves could care less about the studies. If it works for him from the left, then they'll try and find a way to get him on the field. As with every team, their push to play him will shift once they determine that they're out of the race, so fantasy players need to watch his usage closely.
  • It's one thing to be close to your brother, and quite another to copy him. Chris Duncan is currently shut down with a sports hernia, so when news came out of New York that suggested that Shelley Duncan also had a sports hernia, you can imagine my surprise. Apparently, many of you were surprised as well, and I had a flood of emails asking about the genetic component for this. It turns out that Shelley Duncan has a bone bruise on his pelvis, which sounds like something that you would know exactly how it occurs. If he or the team does know, they're not really saying, though the Daily News is reporting that Shelley Duncan also has a small inguinal hernia, which is not the same as a sports hernia. Duncan could be back quickly, as the problem is more a matter of pain management.
  • I expected that Rocco Baldelli would be shut down for the season. What I didn't expect was how the Rays went about shutting him down. Maybe they just wanted to tell Baldelli in person, though having him join the team in Seattle seems an odd way of doing it. In the end, Baldelli has lost another season to his hamstring troubles, one where we won't even see a last-ditch attempt to establish some value. He's still got the upside if he can prove that he can stay healthy, but I'm beginning to wonder if anyone besides me thinks that's even possible. At one point a few years back, I joked that the Mets should bring in Rickey Henderson and handcuff Jose Reyes to him. Now I think the Rays should figure out a way to handcuff Baldelli to Reyes.
  • Quick Cuts: I'll take Jake Peavy for the NL Cy right now (just slightly over Brandon Webb), but I'm curious how many votes Tom Gorzelanny will get. He's got 14 wins and has lost a couple to the bullpen for a terrible Pirates team. ... John Maine left his start with a small blister. He could be pushed back to let it heal. ... Josh Hamilton is still dealing with a tight hamstring, and will not be pushed over the next couple weeks. ... If I have to "settle" for Paula Marshall, tell me where to sign up. ... The Rockies had Willy Taveras take an MRI to check his quad strain. The good news is that it's no worse, but it's also not much better. Rest in the offseason should be enough to heal it up.

    Related Content:  Shelley Duncan,  Quad-a

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