The Red Sox medical staff comes under fire


Today ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes has a long and engaging look at the mounting criticism of the Red Sox medical staff that’s worth a read.

It’s hard to really get a handle on this kind of thing. Most of us aren’t doctors and even those of you who are haven’t seen a player’s medical chart or X-rays, let alone examined the guy. As a result, when someone says team docs should have done x, y, z for a player, they’re engaging in blind armchair quarterbacking at best. If, like me, you’re no doctor, you’re engaging in highly ignorant, blind armchair quarterbacking.

But as was the case with the Mets last year, there are a lot of anonymous whispers coming out about the lack of satisfaction with team medical decisions and diagnosis and stuff.  Some of these complaints may be legitimate — I don’t quite understand the Jacoby Ellsbury odyssey, for example. Some of them may be comments from people with axes to grind.  A lot of it may be — indeed, a lot of it probably is — a function of poor communication. Stuff like this:

Cameron’s case is illustrative. The Sox had maintained that Cameron
would be able to play with his injury this season and that surgery could
be postponed until after the season. Instead, Cameron was limited to 48
games, was never healthy and finally had the operation Friday.

team believed Cameron would be able to contribute more than he did and
conveyed as much publicly. But according to a club source, the Red Sox
were fully informed that Cameron would not be able to play on a daily
basis, that his availability would be symptom-based, and that
essentially, as with other athletes who have had a similar injury, like
NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, you play until you can’t.

This is not primarily a medical issue, it seems. This is a communications issue.  And while it may reflect poorly on information flow between Red Sox doctors, trainers and front office personnel, it doesn’t suggest quackery or anything.  If anything it suggests that it was the non-medical people (i.e. team spokesmen) who screwed up, for whatever reason.

So the “Red Sox medical problems” are out there. They will probably continue to be out there as the season comes to a close and especially over the winter, assuming the Sox continue their attempts to shift medical risk to players. I mean, if you were new to the Red Sox and they asked you to place some of your future earnings on the line based in part on the medical treatment you were going to get, wouldn’t articles’ like Edes’ give you at least a moment’s pause?  Probably would me. At the very least it would make me have to a lot more research before I’d feel comfortable signing with them.

But beyond that, I guess my only intelligent thought about it now is that we should be careful how we characterize this stuff and appreciate that most of us don’t really know what we’re talking about when we talk about athletic injuries.

Nationals fire reigning Manager of the Year Matt Williams

Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams looks on from the dugout during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Friday, May 2, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

Matt Williams was voted the National League Manager of the Year on November 11, 2014, receiving 18 of 30 first-place votes from Baseball Writers Association of America members.

Today the Nationals fired him following a season full of disappointment, reports of clubhouse discontent, and Jonathan Papelbon choking Bryce Harper in the dugout.

Williams went 179-145 (.552) in two seasons in Washington, which is an excellent winning percentage, but when you take over a stacked team the expectations are extremely high and there was seemingly nothing anyone could point to about his actual managing that suggested he was doing a good job.

His in-game tactics and particularly his rigid bullpen usage patterns infuriated fans. His dealings with the local media became increasingly antagonistic. And even setting aside two players literally fighting in the dugout there’s ample evidence that Williams lost the clubhouse a long time ago.

Williams was far from the only thing wrong with the Nationals this season and he’s hardly the primary person to blame for their disappointing record, but it’s also hard to make a strong case for his sticking around–meaningless, beat writer-voted award or not–and general manager Mike Rizzo predictably acted quickly to move on.

Now we’ll see who gets to take the next crack at managing the Nationals to play up to expectations.

Dan Haren plans to retire after the playoffs are over

Dan Haren
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Dan Haren, who said two months ago that he was leaning toward retiring after the season, reiterated those plans following the Cubs’ regular season finale Sunday.

At age 34 he started 32 games for the Marlins and Cubs with a 3.60 ERA and 132/38 K/BB ratio in 187 innings, so Haren would have no problem finding work and a solid paycheck for 2016.

However, he’s not expected to part of the Cubs’ playoff roster and told Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago:

That was it for me. If I have to pitch in the postseason, I’ll be ready for sure. Happy the way the last few starts have gone. Being able to contribute to this amazing team. I’m just thankful to be a part of it. If I don’t pitch in the postseason, that’s it. It’s been fun. Hopefully there’s a lot more games to go. … If my name is called, I’ll be ready.

Injuries has lessened Haren’s overall effectiveness in recent years, but he’s remained a solid mid-rotation starter and has pitched 13 seasons in the big leagues with a 3.75 ERA in 2,419 innings. He made three All-Star teams and earned more than $80 million.