August 17, 2007

Hip, Hip, Oh Crap

I've got a funny feeling that the other shoe in the 2-year, $10M Dmitri Young contract extension just dropped. Multiple sources are reporting that 1B Nick Johnson, out all season recovering from a broken leg he suffered last September, will have surgery on his ailing right hip. The surgery is termed "minor" and doctors expect Nick will be ready to go for Spring Training '08, but isn't that what they said about Spring Training '07?

Nick is a notoriously slow healer. I'm not saying that to rag on the guy, it's obvious he's been putting in the effort, his body just isn't cooperating. This latest trip under the knife will remove some of the hardware from his previous surgery and hopefully clear up the lingering swelling and bursitis in his hip. But as anyone with an elderly relative knows, there's no such thing as "minor" surgery when the connection between body and leg is involved. At the very least Nick will have to shut down completely until the end of the year, and then try to ramp up his rehab again in time for Viera. And again, Nick Johnson = slow healer. If the "normal" rehab time for this sort of thing is 3 months, we might want to just go ahead and pencil in June 2008 for Nick's most optimistic return.

It's fair to assume that the front office knew this was a possibility long before anyone bothered to tell us, and if so that explains a good deal about Da Meat Hook's new contract. Two years, ten million dollars might still be excessive, but it makes more sense to pay that for Dmitri Young the first baseman rather than Dmitri Young the left fielder or Dmitri Young the switch-hitting pinch hitter off the bench.

Of course, the best case scenario is still possible. The surgery really is minor, Nick comes back pain-free in December, gets his rehab on and is ready to go when position players report in March. And Lord knows that's what we here at Nats Triple Play want for Nick. He's been a hell of a ballplayer and a genuinely good guy from Day One. Plus, Watson has all that moola invested in a # 24 jersey. So Godspeed Nick Johnson, best wishes for a successful surgery and a speedy recovery... again.

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