The football world has taken some of the drug heat away from baseball. Instead of a focus on which players may or may not be “on the juice”–evidence be damned–we get to focus on a guy who quit his sport to–if the rumors are true–smoke weed. I guess in America every dream has value, but some have less than others. If nothing else, it’s given the mediots a chance to focus on products like Urine Luck, available for sale in your local ‘health food’ store. There’s a sore lack of fact, an abundance of speculation, and in the end, the NFL will know how to spin this better than MLB.

That was one heck of a great chat by Stan Conte on Tuesday. If you haven’t already, definitely check it out. Next up: Jonah Keri, just ahead of Saturday’s trade deadline.

On to the injuries…

  • I love it when there’s an easy comparison to be made. Andy Pettitte ’04 = Jason Schmidt ’03. Pettitte has a small but significant tear in his flexor tendon. While it will need surgical repair, it could wait until the end of the season. Pettitte may end up on the DL, but it’s more likely that he’ll simply pitch to pain tolerance. If Pettitte can go five innings or so, he’ll have some value. However, with Pettitte’s contract, the Astros will have to make a decision on when their season is over, minimizing the stress on the lefty’s arm. The Astros are also worried that Wade Miller might miss the rest of the season. An August return is unrealistic, but by September, there may be no reason to come back. The Astros are taking a look at Paul Wilson, sending scouts to watch his last start. They need the rotation filler.

  • So much for the bullpen. After Tim Hudson came out of his simulated game, Oakland’s plan for him got serious. While he will still have a start at Triple-A, Hudson is expected to come back at near full-strength at the middle of next week. The A’s will limit his pitch count a bit, but Hudson will be expected to do what every starting pitcher is expected to do–win.

  • Fatigue is an interesting measure, little understood by even the most advanced minds in the game. Young players like Cliff Lee as well as injured players are bouncing off the “wall” at this point in the season, while players who understand the game know how to use the little rest that they can grab in-season; Bartolo Colon and Greg Maddux, for instance, know how to use the season to their advantage. All the measures we have now are just proxies for measuring fatigue. If you don’t think they work, just ask the best in the business. What we’ll have in a few years will be better.

  • How valuable is a good pitching coach? Rick Peterson saw a flaw in Mike DeJean and was able to convince the Mets to trade for him. Flaw corrected, DeJean is having some early success in Queens. It’s amazing how the shiny tag of closer can tarnish so quickly and how undervalued most coaches are. Whoever figures out how to objectively measure coaches will have the next cool tool.

  • One of the reasons the Brewers have been better is that they have been healthier. Apart from a few minor injuries, the Brewers have played the season with the team they expected to have. In the one gap where Junior Spivey was expected to play, they had Keith Ginter and Bill Hall at the ready. That’s good roster construction. With Spivey headed for shoulder surgery, depth now becomes a necessity, not a luxury.

  • When I said that the Reds needed to look at their stretching program yesterday, I had no idea how serious the injury was to Jason Romano. Instead of the reported hamstring strain, Romano avulsed the hamstring’s attachment from the bone. Surgery was required to re-attach the muscle and he’ll be out for about six months. Few players come back from this serious injury; the Reds–and many other teams–would be well served by taking their stretching more seriously.

  • As expected, Jarrod Washburn was placed on the DL with his rib-sternum injury. He’ll be out for the minimum, with Ramon Ortiz taking his starts. The Angels may get a bit more serious about their pursuit of Randy Johnson, but the Yankees’ loss of Orlando Hernandez (left hamstring strain) will do the same for the other team with deep pockets. ESPN is reporting that Johnson has asked for a trade by no later than Wednesday afternoon, but that deadline, if true, is not likely to be met. In this instance at least, injuries may be the key to the big deal.

  • The Marlins are looking for a bat, but they’re also once again looking for bullpen help. With Armando Benitez unavailable for a few days due to inflammation in his pitching elbow, the hunt has heated up. While the Fish won’t go after Ugueth Urbina for a second season, there are plenty of good arms on the market like Jose Mesa and Jorge Julio. Benitez will need to be used sparingly for a few weeks in order to give the elbow time to heal fully.

  • It’s been a long, unproductive year for Vicente Padilla. For the Phillies, they’ve managed to find arms to take the innings set aside for him, but he’s still perhaps their most talented pitcher. Expected back in mid-August, Padilla will have his first of three expected rehab starts on Thursday in Single-A Clearwater. His mechanics will matter far more than his results.

  • Quick Cuts: Despite reports to the contrary, my information on Joel Pineiro stands as reported. He will not have Tommy John now, though no pitcher can completely rule it out in the future…Trade Rumor Update: Kris Benson has his bags packed and has said his goodbyes to teammates. It appears Dave Littlefield has made his decision, but is open to some last-minute bids…Placido Polanco might be Oakland’s new 2B, traded for Ricardo RinconMike Piazza is a day ahead of schedule. He’s expected to be in the Mets’ lineup on Wednesday…Travis Hafner will only miss a few games with a sore neck…The Indians might be better next year if they can stay healthy. They’re getting closer with Brian Tallet activated…Joe Kennedy is still at least a week away from a return to Coors, but he had no problems in Monday’s rehab start…Jose Valverde is ready to return to the D-Backs bullpen, but he’ll be used in a setup role in front of Greg AquinoRyan Madson heads to the DL with a broken pinkie on his pitching hand. Expect a 15-day vacation…Ramon Hernandez was activated by the Padres. While Catcher ERA has been proven to be a myth, the Padres’ pitchers are excited to have their “A” catcher back.

I may miss John Hudgins‘ debut by a day, but Jamey Newberg is putting on quite the party in Arlington on Thursday night. I’ll report back to you on what is sure to be a fun night of baseball. Jamey’s got 120 people already signed up, but we may have to have an after-party if enough are interested. You know how to find me.

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