The Red Sox medical staff comes under fire

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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.

The
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.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.