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Baseball and Drawn Out Admissions that an Injury is Dire

March 24th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Baseball

Baseball injury updates. Hah.

At best the information disseminated to media is good ol’ fashion (very ol’ fashioned) American optimism.

At worst, it is a method for teams to get the player in question, as well as fans fretting over the loss of a key guy, to come to grips with something that can be, oh, dire, as athletic injuries go.

Anyway, the multi-step process goes something like this:

–Player makes an “owie” face, while playing the game. Or even warming up. Let’s call him Big Hoss.

–Big Hoss gently touches an ankle or knee or elbow or shoulder. Is that a grimace? Sure looks like it. Meantime, the medical trainer comes onto the field and probes the afflicted area. The crowd is quiet. A replay is shown of the moment of the apparent injury. Just the one time, though. The crowd perhaps summons a collective “ooh!” as the moment of injury is played back. (Though this is more of a football thing.)

–The player leaves the field. A polite round of applause is accorded by the crowd. “Good luck, Big Hoss.”

–After the game, reporters ask the manager about the injury. (Big Hoss, himself, has already left the stadium.) The manager said he can’t really sure about anything until some tests are run, but he is told by the trainers it “doesn’t look too serious.” This is a key moment in the chain of events. “It doesn’t look too serious.”

–Next day, during the pregame chat, the manager is asked about Big Hoss. Probably the first question. Well, there is some … oh, let’s call it strain … in the area of the joint/tendon. Some tenderness in the forearm. A twinge in the shoulder that has happened “once or twice” in the past week or three.

–To play if safe, to err on the side of uncertainty (as the club would call it), we will put Big Hoss on the disabled list. Wait for the afflicted area — and it is more of an ache than an affliction — to “calm down” a little so that diagnostic testing can be most efficient. The manager says that the situation doesn’t look bad, really, and they are thinking two to four weeks before Hoss is back.

–Two weeks pass. Big Hoss has not picked up a ball or bat. Can’t ignore that. The manager concedes tests have shown “slight tearing” in the injury area. (Another key moment in the march to the truth.) The manager says the medical staff and player have decided to wait for a bit, see if the inflammation (or whatever) settles down, check to see if some physical therapy will mend Big Hoss — and because of that the club is now looking at four to six weeks without Hoss.

–The six weeks are up. Hoss tries to employ the afflicted body part in a “soft toss” or “light jogging” situation. It does not go well. Hoss gives it up almost immediately. Too much pain. This is another key moment.

–Hoss is going in for a second (or perhaps third) opinion on his ouchie and finally the team, the manager, the media and some of the savvier fans, hear what they expected to hear on the day Hoss came off the field. He has a ruptured (fill in the blank). It is not going to heal itself. Hoss will need surgery, perhaps one named after former Dodgers pitcher Tommy John. The manager is upbeat. “We expect the damage to be repaired and Hoss will be back as good as new.” Uh, six to 18 months from now.

So. If you pay any attention to baseball, you are so familiar with all this that you could have diagnosed it correctly on that day two months ago, when Big Hoss “felt something strange” in his joint/tendon. And he will be out for the season. He was hoping he could fix it with therapy, but it did not respond.

Why baseball clubs turn what is a fairly obvious issue of deep significance, to one of their players … into a two-month process … I am not sure, but it happens every day. Some spin-age can be expected, but this is dragged out. Again and again.

Why? So the player can come to grips with being on an operating table sometime soon? So the club can get over the blow of losing a significant player. So fans don’t give up hope, without Big Hoss?

But baseball does it all the time, taking this “little strain, day-to-day” thing and turning it into a leaky faucet of bad news that ends with surgeons going to work.

Fans should expect the worst any time a player walks off the field. And no matter what the club says, in news dribbled out … the chances are pretty good Big Hoss is done.

It’s a sort of formal “dance”, everything that comes between the ouchie and the “he’s done”. Like Japanese kabuki, perhaps. (I’ve heard it is very formal.) Maybe the club feels like it is better for everyone involved to minimize, minimize and delay, delay before getting to the truth.

But it happens. All the time.

So, if you are reading today, ahead of your fantasy draft, about this or that star player with a “forearm strain” or a stiff Achilles or an aching oblique or sore knee … mark it down. The scenario will almost always be the most dire, and eventually, the truth will out.



1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Gene Hiigel // Mar 24, 2019 at 6:27 PM

    But isn’t there also a Part 2 to this injury scenario (as least for the Mets)? The player was injured in say June but somehow the decision that an operation is necessary is not made until spring training is about to begin for the next season, thereby insuring that the player will miss all or most of the next season as well.

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