The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports this morning on a new effort to unseal Lou Gehrig’s medical records, which are owned by the Mayo Clinic. State legislators are pushing to make them public in an effort to see if Gehrig’s ALS had any connection with concussions he received during his career.
This has come up before, and the effort was successfully beaten back by privacy advocates. The tack taken by the Mayo Clinic now follows those same lines:
The Mayo Clinic continues to have little comment, stressing that, under law, only the spouse, parents or Gehrig’s appointed representative have access to his medical records. “Patient medical records should remain private even after the patient is deceased,” said Mayo Clinic spokesman Nicholas Hanson. “Mayo Clinic values the privacy of our patients.”
Except the spouse, the parents and anyone else whoever had medical decision making authority for Gehrig have been dead for decades. And while I appreciate that the Mayo Clinic “values the privacy” of its patients, that patient has been dead for 71 years and has no direct descendants. Whose privacy is being protected here?
Fact is, we’ve reached the point where privacy of personal information has become something of a fetish. Sure, you gotta be careful with sensitive stuff which, if made public now, could cause harm, but really, you’d be amazed if you knew how much information is legally available about you right now to almost anyone.
As for Gehrig, if there’s even a moderate chance that old medical records of anyone — famous or otherwise — can help medical researchers today, and if there are no family members with vested privacy interests walking the Earth, I can’t see any reason why these amorphous privacy concerns should rule the day now. And I’m sure wherever Lou Gehrig is right now, he does not care a lick.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.