With forty-eight hours or so left on the non-waiver trading clock, MLB is doing its best imitation of the NFL. Every deal has a component of money, too many teams can’t accurately assess their chances, and the media doesn’t factor in the demands of the fans. Injuries, at least, occur in the realm of fact despite the attempts of many teams to spin them more than a politician in a sex scandal. I won’t call this a “No Spin Zone” by a long shot, but as the trading deadline looms, I think we’ll all watch it go by as the real work gets done on the waiver wire.

Powered by Duncan Black, on to the injuries…

  • With pitchers, there’s always a fine line tread between health and effectiveness. Use someone too much and his effectiveness drops; don’t use him enough and the team loses value. As with Jason Schmidt last year, the Astros face a hard decision with Andy Pettitte. The injuries are extremely comparable. Schmidt elected to pitch through his last year, leading his team to the playoffs. Pettitte is asking the same of the Astros, but there’s some major differences to consider. First, Schmidt was (and still is) about the only pitcher the Giants had, while Pettitte is the third-best pitcher on his own team. Second, the Astros may be playing for the last time with this team, but they owe Pettitte a lot of money in the future. His backloaded contract simply has to be taken into consideration now and in the off-season when the team tries to replace what it’s sure to lose. Finally, the Giants were favorites to win the NL West and were coming off a World Series appearance; the Astros are losing sight of the wild card. It’s a decision I’m glad I don’t have to make.
  • The equation works for position players as well. Roto players have been squawking about the lack of steals by Rafael Furcal, but it’s another smart move by Bobby Cox. (Can we just start calling Cox “underrated genius” now?) Running exacerbates Furcal’s back and hamstring injuries, so Cox has limited Furcal’s ability to run rampant, actually requiring a steal sign for the speedy shortstop. Sure, Furcal’s speed is a weapon and adds some value to the team, but his presence at short is clearly more valuable. The equation always tilts to maximizing opportunities.
  • The other side of this is Jose Reyes. The Mets middle infielder seems to have more recurrent injuries than anyone in recent memory. A reader asked me today of Reyes was the Darren Dreifort of the infield. I’m not ready to go quite that far–and Dreifort has been pretty effective so far this season–but any current value and future expectations laid on Reyes has to be tempered by his fragility. Reyes’ most recent injury is to the right ankle that he injured last season, but it’s hardly as serious. He’s expected to miss only a few games, but the weakened ligaments in the ankle are a danger sign for the future.
  • The Veruca Salt of baseball is working to add yet another piece of candy to the Factory, but the Pinstriped Oompa Loompas are also hoping to have two key pieces back on the mound within a few weeks. Kevin Brown is expected to start on Friday, but the final decision will be made on Thursday. Brown had a side session where he threw well, but his physical response is the last barrier to return. Mike Mussina will bring the “drinking bird” back to the mound on Thursday. He’ll need one week of good mound work followed by at least two rehab starts. Big Unit or not, the Yankees need Brown and Mussina in October.
  • The problems just keep coming for the Phillies. Billy Wagner headed back to Philly to meet with team doctors after there was no progress. Two cortisone shots and intensive treatment behind him, Wagner requested the trip as part of his continuing battle with Jeff Cooper, the Phillies longtime trainer. Wagner will be seen on Thursday, but team sources don’t expect any new information to come from the visit. Wagner will need to get his mechanics back in sync once he’s able to return to the mound.
  • Should second opinions scare Twins fans? Not really, at least in the case of Joe Mauer. The young catcher’s agent wants the second opinion from star surgeon Richard Steadman in Colorado. With all the talk of team physician conflicts of interest, it still surprises me that more players don’t take a more active interest in their medical care. If a player can have a personal trainer, nutritionist, masseuse, and so on, I’m surprised that the “personal physician” isn’t in vogue. Granted, most team doctors are among the most qualified in the area and the network of consulting physicians is very small. Mauer is simply having his post-surgical left knee checked out. Nothing has changed and the visit is of the double-check variety.
  • We have a Rick Ankiel sighting. The prodigal son of the Cardinals will start throwing in Single-A on August 1st and has been getting his arm into game shape. He’s just a year post-TJS so we won’t yet have a solid handle on exactly what Ankiel might be and control issues are expected. While I’d still love to know who wrote the “maturity beyond his years” comment in BP 2001, but they were also prescient in saying that in two years he’d still have a chance to be Tim Hudson, and with the same stuff. That’s debateable, but it’d sure be nice to finally find out. We might get the chance in September. It would be a comeback worthy of a movie.
  • Speaking of good young pitchers, Brad Penny is two years older than Ankiel, but he’s out on the mound throwing that heavy fastball until he pukes his guts out. Penny was challenged by high humidity, leaving the game in the fifth inning with what the Marlins called “minor heat-related symptoms.” It’s not considered serious, but factor this extra fatigue into his next start. It’s an example of why pitch counts alone don’t tell us enough–this was a hard 95 pitches.
  • The main benefit of a big division lead is time. Time to rest players, time to set up a rotation, and time to give the bench some plate appearances. The Cards have that time, perhaps enough to overcome all but a devastating injury. Jim Edmonds stiff back makes no sense in this context. Reportedly, he first felt it during last weekend, but tried to “fight through.” There’s tough and there’s stupid, especially when stupid could really hurt the team. Edmonds doesn’t expect to miss much time, but the Cards would be well-served by saving him from himself down the stretch, using So Taguchi more.
  • More on Nomar Garciaparra in Quick Cuts, but Nomar’s place would be taken by Pokey Reese in the unlikely event that he were traded. Pokey is still healing and with the timetable for obliques slow and open to setback, he’s not expected back before the second week of August. Players are having more luck in coming back from these injuries due to a better understanding and better bracing. Unfortunately, the learning has come due to the uptick in this type of injury.
  • I don’t normally do many minor leaguers, but when John Sickels asks, I’ll make an exception. Matt Moses, the Twins top 2003 pick, may be ready to play at the Single-A level soon after–get this–a high-school trampolining accident flared up. It’s taken about three months to heal and he is behind schedule, but the Twins have high hopes for him. (If prospects are your thing, John still has some of his 2004 Prospect Book available.)

  • Quick Cuts: The White Sox cut off contract talks with Magglio Ordonez shortly after his bone marrow edema was diagnosed. As mercenary as it sounds, a team has to fairly value players it is negotiating with. Ordonez’s value just changed significantly…Speculation that Jermaine Dye was being held out of Wednesday’s game prior to a trade is laughable. Oakland is working on about twenty deals, just like any other day, but unless Billy Beane has something up his sleeve no one’s seen, Dye’s going to remain an A…Matt Clement for Nomar Garciaparra was re-opened, I’m told by sources on both sides, but seems to be going nowhere. The Cubs are seconds away from a deal for Orlando Cabrera according to our friends at The Score 670 in Chicago…Jason Arnold could be back throwing in the minors by August. The Blue Jays pitcher could contribute in 2005.

I’m heading out early Thursday morning for Texas. It’s still home, if not in the sense that my hat hangs there, and we’ll see if I miss the 100-degree summer days. I am looking forward to one heck of a party put together by Jamey Newberg at the ballpark. Only two more stops on my Jet Lag 2004 Tour, but you won’t hear me complain much. I hope to see a bunch of you at the park or after, but I will be out of email range for much of the next two days.