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HBO has done it again. Armen Keteyian’s piece on the most recent “Real Sports,” analyzing the long-term use of steroids in adult males, turns the major media take on anabolic-androgenic steroids on its head. Keteyian admits that he’s doing a 180 on some of his own reporting from his days at Sports Illustrated, unafraid to admit that he was part of the misinformation. His talks with Bob Clapp and John Romano, as well as the bright light shone on how Gary Wadler reacts in the face of facts, are enlightening. I can’t recommend this show or the HBO Sports programs in general–“Real Sports” and “Costas Now”–highly enough.

In other steroid news, the NBA’s freshly inked but unfinalized CBA includes increased drug testing. Players will now have four annual random tests for performance-enhancing and recreational drugs, with penalties for steroid users rising from five to ten games for the first offense, increasing up to a lifetime suspension on the fourth offense. Those sound familiar, though you can effectively double all penalties when equating them to baseball due to the length of the season. Given the NBA’s inability to deal with marijuana usage, among other problems, I see no reason why they’ll take little heat about something that comes in clearly under the proposals of the various Congressional steroid bills.

Powered by the new Nickel Creek album, on to the injuries:

  • It’s not like we didn’t see this coming. Finding something interesting to say about the news that Eric Gagne will have a second round with Tommy John surgery is hard now. Perhaps the worst news is for the Canadian World Cup team. The Dodgers were prepared, checking Yhency Brazoban into the closer role and looking to fill out the space in front of him. Gagne joins an “elite” club of second time TJs, a group that is experiencing good results and quicker rehab. Some of this has to do with changed rehab protocols and some is just the mere knowledge that they’ve done this before and understand the process.

    The more interesting idea, put forward today in the comments from Gagne and Frank Jobe, is that there might be an expiration date on a replaced ligament. Quick: who had TJ done in 1997? Expect Gagne back sometime around the ASB of 2006.

    The Dodgers also lost Paul Bako to ACL reconstruction. Bako will have a cadaver ligament transplanted into his injured knee and should be back in time for next year’s spring training. Ken Gurnick notes in an article that Darren Dreifort has some sort of degenerative disease. I’m working on finding more about this, but this type of “tissue issue” is one that came up during last winter’s ASMI Injuries in Baseball Conference.

  • Depending on who you listen to, Barry Bonds could be back sometime next month or sometime next year. At some point, performance counts and I’ve quit guessing. There’s only one guy in the world who really knows when Bonds will be back and that’s Bonds himself. Barry Bloom, the writer who is both writing about Bonds and for Bonds on the star’s personal Web site, has as close a view of the process as anyone outside the Bonds-selected medical staff dealing with the problem. One thing that I do know is that Barry Bonds does have a love for the game and for the dramatic moment. What could be more dramatic than a Willis Reed-type return, lifting the Giants to a playoff berth? If you’d like a baseball analogy, Bonds could look to the 1988 example of Kirk Gibson.
  • Mark Prior on Sunday? Well, that could have helped my last-place “expert league” fantasy team if I’d known it 48 hours ago, but no one really expected this. Prior threw a 77-pitch simulated game against Jason Dubois and Jose Macias which included some fielding for Prior. Dubois evidently screamed one by Prior’s head, something that Prior reacted to normally, if perhaps not as quickly as Cubs brass would have liked. Only the simplest test, day-after soreness, is left for Prior to overcome. Assuming Prior does start on Sunday, expect a very low pitch count with one of the Cubs’ fill-in starters–Sergio Mitre or Jerome Williams–ready to step in if necessary. With Kerry Wood coming close behind, the Cubs’ pitching depth might make some sort of modified tandem system a smart move.
  • The Phillies are getting a bit healthier. With Randy Wolf still trying to make a decision about Tommy John surgery–and yes, he could try to pitch through his elbow problem–the Phils are hoping that Tim Worrell can return shortly to strengthen the already-strong bullpen, that Gavin Floyd can find himself again, and that Cole Hamels can make rapid progress, perhaps hitting Philly by September. Worrell started what shold be a brief rehab assignment in Single-A with plans to move up to Double-A quickly, then Philly by the end of the month. Hamels threw his first competitive game of the season at Single-A Clearwater, going five hitless innings. That’s a nice start. Floyd, on the other hand, is combating rumors that he’s pitching through an injury. Floundering in Triple-A, Floyd has shown reduced velocity and control, including six walks in a recent start. Phillies sources continue to insist that Floyd is healthy, though the results don’t bear that out.
  • The Angels are finally admitting that Steve Finley hasn’t been right for a while. A shoulder injury has been the culprit in Finley’s disappointing offensive season. This is a new problem. Anyone who saw Finley at the winter meetings saw a guy who certainly looked in top physical condition and much younger than his listed age. Getting Finley back to even a reasonable level of production is key for the Angels’ ability to hold off the surging Texas Rangers in the AL West.
  • The Orioles are very concerned about the severity of Melvin Mora‘s hamstring injury. They have the depth, if not the talent, to cover for a normal absence, but not a long-term disabling. Mora had significant swelling and pain on Tuesday. The team will make a decision about the DL on Wednesday. B.J. Surhoff is likely headed to the DL with back pain. The recent return of some Orioles outfield depth allows the move. It also keeps David Newhan from heading to Triple-A. Does any team have more surprise streaky players–Brady Anderson, Newhan, Brian Roberts–than the Orioles?
  • Russ Ortiz doesn’t have an oblique strain. Somehow, that’s good news despite the finding that he has a hairline fracture of a rib. It’s an injury very similar to the one that Jim Edmonds is dealing with and, yes, it’s odd to see such an unusual injury twice in such a short period of time, let alone with two completely disparate players. No one in the Diamondbacks organization seems overly concerned by Ortiz’s condition with many preferring the known healing patterns of fractures to the slow, recurring oblique injury. Ortiz should be out just longer than the minimum according to current facts.

  • Quick Cuts: Anyone noticed that most of the Boras clients have signed pretty quickly this year? … Dan Meyer is close to a return, according to the Sacramento Bee. Meyer threw a simulated game on Monday and could make a start at Triple-A late this week or early next … Back in December, I quoted Clay Davenport in my New York Times op-ed on steroids, saying that Clay had found that some older players seemed to swing for the fences at the end of their career, knowing they couldn’t run as well. Frank Thomas is doing his best to prove Clay’s point this season.

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