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.

Mike Trout has yet to strike out this spring

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Everyone is well aware of how good Angels outfielder Mike Trout is at the game of baseball. The 26-year-old is already an all-time great, having won two MVP awards — and arguably deserving of two others — and the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award. He has accrued 54.2 WAR, per Baseball Reference, which is right around the threshold for a Hall of Fame career. Trout does it all: he draws walks, he hits for average, he hits for power, he steals bases, he plays good defense.

But here’s an achievement that is amazing even for a player like Trout: he has yet to strike out this spring. In 41 Cactus League plate appearances, he has 10 hits (including a triple and two homers) and six walks with zero strikeouts. Across his career, Trout has a 21.5 percent strikeout rate, right around the league average. He isn’t usually such a stickler for avoiding the punch-out, but this spring he is.

To put this in perspective, 134 players this spring have struck out at least 10 times, according to 938 players have struck out at least once. The only other players to have taken at least 10 at-bats without striking out this spring are Humberto Arteaga (Royals, 23 AB), Tony Cruz (Reds, 18 AB), Oscar Hernandez (Red Sox, 10 AB), and Jacob Stallings (Pirates, 18 AB).

According to Angels assistant hitting coach Paul Sorrento, the lack of strikeouts hasn’t been a conscious effort from Trout, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Ho hum. The best player in baseball is apparently getting even better.