I’ve been covering steroids in baseball for most of my career, and there’s been no scarier day than yesterday. I was in the ESPN newsroom, getting ready to go on and talk some fantasy football when I saw that the authors of Game of Shadows were sent to jail. When Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams were sentenced to up to 18 months in jail, your chance at learning important information got worse.

I won’t pretend that injury info to help your fantasy team approaches the work that those writers did in breaking the BALCO case. This isn’t the next Watergate, Plamegate or any other gate. The sentence and the attack on the freedom of information did chill the possibilities for writers like myself who use sources. As Gibson said, “information is the power and currency of the new millennium.” Several teams have called me at various times, angry over one report or another and suggesting everything from limiting my access to the possibility of a lawsuit, making anonymous sourcing a must for my column and others you read in print or on the ‘net. The fact is that unless my sources believe that I can protect them, I won’t get the information you read here. It’s a chilling day for journalism and for freedom, even our corner of the world.

Powered by Esquire Magazine, on to the injuries…

  • The Yankees only have another week to sort out their injuries, their playoff rotation, and their roster. With Jason Giambi likely out for much of that time with a grade one tear in his wrist, there’s space for Gary Sheffield to step in and get some playing time. Giambi should be fine, though continued cortisone shots to the area likely both helped and contributed to the problem. Some sources have told me that Giambi, like many players, has built up something of a resistance to cortisone over his career, reducing its effectiveness. Sheffield should make the postseason roster unless his wrist collapses under the stress of playing, but his role will be determined by his play over the next week. He’s looked good in batting practice, but live hitting is a different beast, especially with Sheffield’s swing.
  • The A’s limp in to the playoffs a bit, though Rich Harden had to make A’s fans feel better about their chances. I watched a half-inning of the game over Brian Kenny’s shoulder, discussing how Harden had hurt Kenny’s fantasy team after he’d made him a high pick. I saw one pitch and instantly reacted with “he’s fine.” His mechanics looked solid, if a bit off balance, but he certainly had all his velocity, living in the mid-90s and showing a couple pitches that touched 98 on the TV gun. It was tough to see movement, but sources tell me that he looked “perfect … same old Harden.” Whatever the A’s did with him has worked, at least in the short term.

    The news isn’t so good for Bobby Crosby. The shortstop hasn’t made much progress and is likely out for the season. The A’s are also watching Eric Chavez closely. He’s having more problems with the hamstring that has plagued him all season long. He’s out for the weekend, at least, and will be re-evaluated next week.

  • The Mets have clinched their first division title in a long darn time, finally not letting the Man (or the Braves) hold them down. I talked to several Mets sources, including some in the clubhouse and they seem to be in some odd combination of surly and exuberant. It’s very confusing. On one hand, everyone is excited that Pedro Martinez looked much better in Thursday’s out than he did in his last start, the one that led to a crying jag. Martinez isn’t going to dominate like he once did, but he’s also going to be a very tough matchup for the NL.

    Carlos Beltran had a precautionary MRI, something that seems to be nothing more than a nuisance. Beltran has been able to produce this year despite various small injuries, a big contrast to his 2005 season. The Mets are also watching Paul Lo Duca, using their clinch to get his thumb some time off before the playoffs.

  • Francisco Liriano may be gone for the season, but Brad Radke may be back. Radke’s next outing could be very limited, with some suggesting that he only wants to exit on his “own terms,” leaving after as little as one pitch or one out, depending on who you speak with. Radke’s bullpen session suggests otherwise. He completed a 12-minute bullpen session without significant pain and told the Star-Tribune that he could be ready for the postseason. There’s a couple tests between here and there, so watch Radke closely. With the Twins already dangerous, giving them a bit of depth might be enough to make them a favorite.
  • Miguel Cabrera has missed a couple games with a strained shoulder, the result of an awkward lunge at an outside pitch. Cabrera’s injury isn’t considered serious, but could keep him out for the rest of the season. The team is focused on getting past the controversy surrounding their manager and one way to do that would be finishing at or above .500. Cabrera’s return might well be tied to the chances of hitting that magic number. The MVP candidate should have no long-term concerns from the injury.
  • Here’s something you never want to hear about your calf muscle: “thumb-sized hole.” That’s how severely Jarrod Washburn tore his calf during his last start. He’s clearly done for the season, and the M’s will watch his rehab closely. There should be plenty of time for him to heal up by spring and no lingering problems from it, though this is an interesting injury. The database indicates that calf injuries are the most recurring leg injuries, even more than hamstrings.

    The M’s will also be without Yuniesky Betancourt for a couple days. He fouled a ball off his knee, though it does not appear to be anything more than painful.

  • Quick Cuts: After some drama, Placido Polanco is scheduled to return to the lineup this weekend … David Wells did not have a cortisone shot in his ankle, but is expected to make his next start … You have to read to the end, but nice to see Wayne Krivsky gets itCoco Crisp will have more tests on his problematic finger. The Red Sox seem to be trying to figure out if Crisp will have trade value … The Reds continue to collapse from an interesting season. Ryan Freel will end his season on the shelf with a fractured thumb, while Eric Milton has been shut down so he can have elbow surgery.

Be sure to check out this week’s BP Radio when we’ll chat with Mike Arbuckle (Assistant GM of the Phillies), Bobby Evans (Giants Director Of Player Personnel) and Bernie Miklasz (Columnist, St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Three guests from potential playoff cities talking playoff baseball.