Lance Berkman needs knee surgery, making him doubtful for Opening Day

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Update: According to Alyson Footer, Astros Sr. Director of Social Media, Berkman underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee this morning. Dr. David Crumbie removed loose cartilage debris from the knee and did not see any sign of ligament or meniscus damage. He’s still expected to miss 2-4 weeks, leaving Opening Day in doubt.
Friday 1:40 pm: MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports that Lance Berkman will undergo arthroscopic surgery “to remove loose particles from his left knee” and will miss 2-4 weeks, putting his status for Opening Day in serious jeopardy.
“Whether or not he’s going to be ready for Opening Day really just depends on the healing process,” general manager Ed Wade said. “They haven’t even gone in yet so it’s too early to tell, but the normal time frame would be two-to-four weeks. We’ll see where it flows from there.”
Berkman was sidelined early in camp after bruising his knee during a drill, but Astros team doctor David Lintner called the injury “not serious” and the first baseman returned to the lineup for the next five games, going 4-for-11 with three doubles.
Berkman even said at the time that doctors advised him playing through the pain was “not going to be able to make it worse,” but apparently things have changed. Given that he’s a 34-year-old with a history of knee problems Berkman figures to be on the long end of the recovery timetable, making Opening Day a serious long shot.
As part of a six-year, $85 million contract Houston holds a $15 million team option or $2 million buyout on Berkman for next season, so after 14 years in the organization there was already speculation that they’d look to trade him or simply decline the option. He ranks sixth on the Astros’ all-time list for games played and is second to only Jeff Bagwell in homers.

Dan Straily suspended five games, Don Mattingly one for throwing at Buster Posey

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Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that Marlins pitcher Dan Straily has been suspended five games and Don Mattingly one game for throwing intentionally at Giants catcher Buster Posey on Tuesday in San Francisco. Straily plans to appeal his suspension, so he will be allowed to take his normal turn through the rotation until that matter is settled.

Everything started on Monday, when the Marlins rallied in the ninth inning against closer Hunter Strickland. That included a game-tying single from Lewis Brinson, who pumped his fist and yelled in celebration. Strickland took exception, jawing at Brinson who was on third base when the right-hander was taken out of the game. Strickland went into the clubhouse and punched a door, breaking his hand.

The next day, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez hit Brinson with a fastball, which prompted warnings for both teams. Mattingly came out to argue with the umpires about the fairness of issuing warnings right then and there. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly apparently said, “You’re next” to Posey, who was standing around home plate. The next inning, Straily hit Posey on the arm with a fastball, which led to immediate ejections for both him and Mattingly.

Neither Rodriguez nor Giants manager Bruce Bochy were reprimanded, which is ludicrous because it was plainly obvious Rodriguez was throwing at Brinson. But neither team had been issued warnings. Essentially, Major League Baseball is giving free reign for teams to get their revenge pitches in. Furthermore, Straily’s five-game suspension is hardly a deterrent for throwing at a hitter. The Marlins could simply give Straily an extra day of rest and it’s like he was never suspended at all.

Beanball wars are bad for baseball. It puts players at risk for obvious reasons. When players have to miss time due to avoidable injury, self-inflicted (in the case of Strickland) or not (if, for example, Posey had a hand or wrist broken from Straily’s pitch), the game suffers because it becomes an inferior product. That’s, of course, second behind the simple fact that throwing at a player is a tremendously childish way to handle a disagreement. When aimed intentionally at another human being, a baseball is a weapon. That’s especially true when it’s in the hands of someone who has been trained to throw anywhere from 90 to 100 MPH.

Commisioner Rob Manfred has spent a lot of time trying to make the game of baseball more appealing, such adding pitch clocks and limiting mound visits. He should spend some time addressing the throwing-at-batters problem.