February 26, 2006

A Shoulder to Cry On

Where have you gone, Darrell Rasner? A Nat-ion turns its lonely eyes to you.. woo woo woo.

New pitcher
Brian Lawrence will miss somewhere between half the season and the rest of his career after sustaining a torn labrum in his pitching arm. Nationals Farm Authority broke the story... ah, the benefits of having an "online journalist" down in Viera. Here's the team's official story, and the WaPo take (citing "leading expert on baseball injuries" Will Carroll.)

Federal Baseball
contributes a post on the injury that I won't try to improve on. He also beat me to the best possible title. Basil points out that this might be the one situation where Jim Bowden, poster-GM for all that is wrong with the Nats, gets away clean, and I tend to agree. The Lawrence-for-Vinny Castilla swap was lauded when it happened, and I was right there lauding along. Brian Lawrence had an injury-free career, all indications are that he passed his pre-trade phyiscal with flying colors, and the Nats weren't doing anything wierd or funky from a training standpoint. So maybe this is just one of those things that happens sometimes. Bad luck all around.

Having said that, watch me proceed to pin this on the Nats front office and training staff. Note well that I have no medical background (but I do watch House) no training (other than being CPR-certified) and no evidence or "sources" to suggest that this is anything other than pure conjecture on my part. And away I go.

The Nats medical staff that failed to detect any problem with Lawrence's shoulder are the same people who apparently misdiagnosed the severity of Jose Guillen's
shoulder injury. The same doctors who thought seriously about putting Jose Vidro back under the knife until Dr. James "Ligament Surgeon of the Gods" Andrews advised a strength-training and conditioning program instead. The staff that questioned the need for Tony Armas's late-season shoulder surgery.

Maybe these were all the right calls. Maybe they were no worse than medically debatable. But I see a pattern here. I don't think the Nats have a top-flight medical staff. Why should they? Everything else about this franchise is consignment store, gently used, retread quality... from the GM to the stadium to the free agents. Why should the doctors be any different? Let's be clear: I don't think the team's medical staff is delivering sub-par care, or that they have a "ride 'em until they drop" treatment philosophy. But I also don't believe the Nats players get the best medical care money can buy.

Even if Lawrence's injury was a fluke, something no medical staff in baseball could have predicted or prevented, I can still lay this at Bowden's feet. In
Tom Boswell's column Trader Jim is quoted as saying "We now have six starters. You want to go into the season with seven because two of them are going to get hurt." Jim Bowden never has any trouble diagnosing the problem, it's just that he keeps coming up with cures worse than the disease. The cures du jour? Over-paying for a free agent pitcher like Pedro Astacio, or trading a commodity like Ryan Church for a middle of the road starter.

Now let's run the names: Claudio Vargas, waived in a roster squeeze. Zach Day, gone for 3 months of the now-departed Preston Wilson. Tomo Ohka, gone for less than three months of the now-departed Junior Spivey. Sunny Kim, waived to call up the now-departed Matt Cepicky. Darrell Rasner, waived to sign Matt LeCroy. Maybe none of these guys was more than a 4th or 5th starter, but they're all on 40-man rosters somewhere. And taken together, they're evidence of why the Nats seem to be constantly short of starting pitching, with nothing but a back-up 1B/C to show for it.


Chris Needham said...

The medical thing is an interesting question.

In fairness, the position of the labrum in the shoulder makes it almost impossible to diagnose without an MRI. And even with the MRI, it's easy to miss, especially if it's a minor tear.

The question is whether an MRI is part of the standard physical package. I'd assume not. And I'd assume that it wouldn't be in the case of most players -- unless we're talking a giant Free Agent contract, or something.

We do know that Lawrence hasn't had arm problems, and that there really wasn't anything in his history (other than a crappy year) to make them think that something could be different.

Who really knows.

Rocket1124 said...

Damn you. I was just trying to think of a good "Mrs. Robinson" parody for the Lawrence matter, when I clicked over to this blog.

I guess I'll go join MissChatter's "Blogging Rut Support Group."

Nate said...

Your one note stand-up is straying into the Scott Long arena, Yuda.

Nate said...

Really? It's not your fault? You had nothing to do with it? It just spontaneously sort of happened, independent of you harping on it for the better part of two weeks? It's the miracle of the Immaculate Punchline! ;-)

Nate said...

On that we agree. :)