Thanks for all the feedback on my ESPN article about Dr. James Andrews, which was actually written about six months ago. Writing alongside John Helyar is a big thrill, since Lords of the Realm is a favorite of mine, and yes, we’ll have John on BPR for a new edition of BP Conversations very soon. A lot of you had your own opinions of whether or not someone like Dr. Andrews should be in baseball’s Hall of Fame. In the article, I mentioned Marvin Miller as another candidate, and several of you wrote in about Dr. Frank Jobe. I concur on Jobe completely, but the debate brings up the fact that there are lots of people outside the normal categories contributing to baseball and that some of these-the very best of the best-deserve the honor of ultimate recognition. I still believe we need a “Buck O’Neill Baseball Ambassador Award,” much as we have the Spink Award for writers. It would be for a lifetime spent helping the game of baseball, whether as a coach, scout, and true ambassador like O’Neill himself, or as a player, broadcaster, and fundraiser like Ron Santo, or through his surgical prowess and research, like Jobe and Andrews. I can only hope that the current Lords of the Realm consider it.
Powered by Talk Like A Pirate Day, which really should be big in Pittsburgh, on to the injuries:
The Brewers got the win and the tie for the division lead last night. That wasn’t the big news for fans however. Ben Sheets walked off the mound once again, this time with a hamstring problem. The training staff might get a save on this one-after the game, reports were that Sheets left due to cramping or what one source called a “mild strain, almost a pre-strain if there is such a thing.” Sheets couldn’t get the leg loose for whatever reason, feeling it from warm-ups on into the game, and having notable problems in the first inning. Manager Ned Yost isn’t sure yet if Sheets will make his next start, but current plan is to keep him on his normal schedule despite the short outing. That could change depending on need and how Sheets looks on his throw day later this week.
The news wasn’t bad, though it’s hard to call Cole Hamels‘ performance good either. The Phillies ace made it through just 54 pitches, just short of where the team hoped he’d get in terms of total pitches. Doing it in just three ineffective innings was a bigger problem, especially on a night that ended up going 14 innings and taxing the bullpen. He came through healthy, but was having notable mechanical issues. Hamels started out not being able to find a consistent release point, but by the end of his outing, he was guarding his elbow, and short-arming his follow-through. It’s not a good sign for his health, and while I doubt he did further damage, the Phillies are certainly going to have to question if he’s their best option next time his turn comes up.
While the Mets look for someone who knows how to do a team-wide Heimlich, injuries aren’t helping them hold off the Phillies. Moises Alou left Tuesday’s game with a strained quad. The team is currently calling it “tightness,” but it was the same muscle that kept Alou on the DL for much of the season, and from how he grabbed it, it looks to be much the same location as the previous injury. The Mets training staff will work to see if they can minimize the damage and get Alou back on the field, but this could be a big loss for a team already struggling on offense. It could push forward the return of Carlos Delgado up as well. On the pitching side of the ledger, Orlando Hernandez was diagnosed with a bunion. The team and Hernandez are trying to figure out if he’ll be able to come back at all, but have a few more ideas, including custom shoes, before they give up on el Duque.
The Yankees are still in chase of the Red Sox, even while all but locking up the AL Wild Card. They’re not making the same sort of playoff preparations as the Sox are, instead following some kind of noblesse oblige to chase the division crown that they feel is their birthright. This could backfire, as they both need to set their rotation for the likely first round matchup against the Angels or Indians and get several players-especially Jason Giambi-a bit of rest to get over some minor injuries. Giambi is feeling the same kind of “grab” in his elbow that has limited his throwing off and on all season, although it’s not a major concern. The Yankees also have Roger Clemens ready to make his next scheduled start. He reported no real problems with his elbow or foot after his last start, and will be in the playoff rotation unless his arm literally falls off.
The Red Sox are using their lead to give them time to re-set their rotation. It doesn’t hurt that most of their pitchers could use a couple of days of extra rest, including Daisuke Matsuzaka, who appears to have hit a wall due to the change to working within a five-man rotation in the U.S. It gives Clay Buchholz another start as well, though it still appears unlikely that he could force his way onto the playoff roster. The re-set is also built around some desire to allow Josh Beckett to stay on schedule as he pushes for 20 wins and a Cy Young. The Sox will also try to find some rest for DH David Ortiz, who is having more problems with his knee. Ortiz has a date with an arthroscope shortly after the Sox season ends, but he should be fine when he does play down the stretch and next year.
The world might be ignoring the Rockies, but the Dodgers watched their playoff hopes get nearly swept away, losing both ends of yesterday’s doubleheader and shortstop Rafael Furcal to a cascade back injury. Cascade? Yes, because Furcal’s chronic ankle injury is a likely culprit here. Furcal has admitted that the ankle is still a significant problem and the changes in his gait-he’s notably limped at times over the last month-is likely to be putting some additional strain on his back. While the back problem is muscular and not considered serious, it’s another data point against Furcal, the odd speed player who appears to be aging quickly. If nothing else, Ned Colletti deserves some credit for the short-term, more-dollars contract that brought Furcal to the Dodgers, and which will have him out of L.A. before he’s in full decline.
As the Cardinals resign themselves to playing out the string and instead being something of a spoiler, the team is letting the injuries take care of themselves now. David Eckstein might have played his last game in a Cards uniform, with a sore lower back keeping him in the training room. The team doesn’t want to risk further injury to him, knowing that he’ll be on the free agent market soon, though Eckstein would like to get back out there if possible, both to showcase that he’s healthy and to be able to leave on his own terms. The team is also taking no chances with Jim Edmonds. A moderate groin strain kept him on the bench in last night’s extra-inning game that saw Tony La Russa use everyone short of Edmonds and the peanut vendor in Section 112. Finally, Albert Pujols was held out of the lineup (though he did pinch-hit) with a strained calf. The injury isn’t considered serious, but added to his chronic foot problems and the Cardinals record, there’s absolutely no reason to push him.
It’s looking more and more as if Carl Crawford is done for the season. It’s a precaution rather than a long-term concern, as sources tell me that Crawford’s groin strain is a “4 or 5 on a 10 scale.” The Rays have options like Jason Pridie and Justin Ruggiano who they could try out, beyond just plugging in Jonny Gomes in left field. It’s a situation that’s more of a fantasy dilemma than a real baseball problem.
In other Rays news (and yeah, I think “Rays” is next year’s name), the team has shut down James Shields. He’s made a 31-inning jump from last season, and the team isn’t willing to let him go any further. As is, it was a great breakout campaign for Shields. Their other ace, Scott Kazmir, will make his final starts with a hard pitch limit in each. He’s chasing the strikeout title, tied with Johan Santana with 220, and only one behind Erik Bedard, who’s shut down as well. Kazmir and Santana will both pitch on Friday.
Quick Cuts: Rich Harden made it through his simulated game, and will go about 75 pitches if all goes well with his Sunday start for the A’s. … Clay Hensley will have shoulder surgery on Friday to determine how damaged his rotator cuff is. He’s been pitching with a small tear. … Milton Bradley is expected back in the Pads lineup this weekend, though with all his setbacks, I’ll warn you not to count on that. … Bartolo Colon won’t make his next start, and may only start next week if Mike Scioscia elects to re-set his rotation.