"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

News of the Day – 3/6/09

Today’s news is powered by an MRI machine, and this video …

  • Jack Curry covers the recent history of A-Rod’s hip health:

When Rodriguez underwent a magnetic resonance imaging procedure for his right quadriceps last May, General Manager Brian Cashman said the results showed an incidental irregularity in his hip. …

But after the finding, the Yankees were seemingly lax about examining Rodriguez’s hip again. Rodriguez, the highest-paid player in baseball, did not have another M.R.I. on his hip during or after the season. Cashman said the irregularity on Rodriguez’s M.R.I. was an insufficient reason to pursue additional testing.

Still, considering how valuable Rodriguez is and how closely the Yankees typically supervise players, they could have ordered an M.R.I. last October to determine if the irregularity had developed into something more significant. The Yankees have $275 million invested in Rodriguez. An M.R.I. costs a few thousand dollars. Cashman said that was unnecessary because Rodriguez did not have a documented injury, often has stiff legs and never reported any pain.

  • Tom Verducci writes of the Yankees’ achilles heel … the age of their big stars:

The Yankees have a 37-year-old catcher coming off shoulder surgery (Jorge Posada), a shortstop who turns 35 in June (Derek Jeter), a 39-year-old closer (Mariano Rivera), a 35-year-old outfielder (Johnny Damon), another outfielder who turns 35 in June (Hideki Matsui) and now a 33-year-old third baseman with a problematic hip. None of those position players except Jeter played 150 games last year.

  • The Post sizes up possible short-term replacements (both internal and external) for Rodriguez.
  • Ken Davidoff thinks the A-Rod hatred might just vanish come Opening Day:

A hip injury has to cause a tremendous concern for the Yankees. However, let’s take a leap and say that this is a condition from which A-Rod can recover, and be something close to his old self.

If A-Rod can return to the Yankees’ lineup sometime in May, then perhaps he’ll actually be appreciated for the positives he brings to the table. Rather than the negatives.

Right now, when everyone is tied in the standings at 0-0, it’s easy to hate the guy. To pick on him for daring to offer praise to Jose Reyes, of all things.

But when the Yankees open the season April 6 in Baltimore, and Cody Ransom is playing third base, we’ll get the full appreciation for the 7.1 Wins Above Replacement Player that A-Rod put up in 2008, a down year for him.

  • Brian Cashman briefed the media on the team’s plans for Rodriguez:

Contrary to speculation by A-Rod’s brother earlier Thursday, surgery is not scheduled for Rodriguez. Cashman said that the Yankees hope to treat Rodriguez conservatively, since surgery would likely cost the slugger four months. However, Cashman also said that he will need surgery at some point, and having it before the end of the season is “not off the table.” In question is whether Rodriguez will be able to make it through the upcoming season without it.

Cashman confirmed that Rodriguez will not participate in the World Baseball Classic and has been removed from the Dominican Republic’s roster.

“He’s not going to be active here [at Spring Training], I wouldn’t think, for a while,” Cashman said of Rodriguez.

  • PeteAbe recaps Rodriguez’s last four weeks.  It sounds busier than Obama’s.
  • PeteAbe also spoke to an expert on these types of injuries, and it seems like surgery is inevitable for A-Rod.
  • If the Yanks inquire about the Indians’ Andy Marte, they’ll listen.
  • Cody Ransom may be the first in line to replace A-Rod:

“Cody is a professional player,” Girardi said on Thursday. “He has experience all over the infield, he has pop in his bat. Cody is one of those guys that gets dirty all the time and plays extremely hard. He has a great attitude.”

[My take: So he's David Eckstein with a higher slugging percentage?]

  • Joba Chamberlain wasn’t too concerned over his wild performance on the mound Thursday:

….. Yet Chamberlain was upbeat after the outing, saying that he had just identified a delivery flaw to hammer out.

“That’s the best I’ve felt physically all year,” Chamberlain said. “It’s part of Spring Training, it’s part of the process. It’s just, mechanically, [I'm] not consistently getting over my front side. As far as the ball coming out of my hand and depth on my pitches, it was great.”

  • The Biz of Baseball gives an organization report on the Bombers, with some gaudy financial numbers getting tossed around:

Moreover, in business news, the Yankees remain the most valuable team in all of baseball. In the past nine years, the Yankees value as an organization has more than tripled from $491 million in 1999, to $1 billion 306 million in 2008. Let us compare that to, say the 30th rank team in baseball, the Florida Marlins.

If you break down the numbers, the Marlins are a team that profits with less, a case of cutting their margins. In most cases, you have to spend money to make money, but with Florida, they post the largest operating income by slashing player salaries. The Marlins who have a payroll hovering around $20 million made a profit of approximately $35 million, largely due to revenue sharing. On the other hand, “The Evil Empire” posted an operating loss of $47.3 million, largely due to their player payroll and $100 million paid out in revenue sharing. Seems like polar opposites, and that is the case, the Yankees are a brand and the Marlins are a team in the National League East.

Poll time!

[poll id="19"]

  • Francisco Cervelli, a possible heir apparent to Jorge Posada, turns 23 today.
  • Happy 32rd birthday to Marcus Thames.  Thames was a 30th round selection of the Yanks in 1996, and made it into seven games for the Yanks in 2002, before being dealt for Ruben Sierra.

[My take: Would we take him back for CF patrol now?]

  • Joe Sewell, who finished up what would be a Hall-worthy career with three seasons with the Bombers (1931-3) died on this date in 1990, at the age of 91.  Sewell holds the ML  career record for most ABs per strikeout (62.1) and in 1925 struck out four (yes, 4) times in 699 PAs.  Oddly enough, in 1927, he stole three bases, but was caught 16 times!
  • On this date in 2005, Suzyn Waldman becomes the first woman to be a full-time color commentator in major league history, making her debut with John Sterling on WCBS-AM 880.

Categories:  Diane Firstman  News of the Day

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21 comments

1 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 6, 2009 10:36 am

I posted this in the previous thread, but I think criticism of Cashman on this issue if off base. It should not be a GM's role to prescribe and oversee the medical treatment of a player, regardless of how much money he makes. If Yankee doctors and/or Arod did not indicate that an MRI was worthwhile, I don't see why Cashman would demand one. After a very long and trying season, I doubt that Arod's hip "irregularity" was foremost on his mind, nor should it have been. Whether or not the Yankee doctors dropped the ball is another question, but quite frankly that isn't even worth debating because the team has since replaced Hershon has chief physician.

I realize that there always seems to be an assignment of blame, especially when Arod is involved, but this strikes me as simply being a case of bad luck for Arod and the Yankees. Hopefully, he continues to be without pain for the rest of the season.

2 Raf   ~  Mar 6, 2009 10:42 am

this strikes me as simply being a case of bad luck for Arod and the Yankees

The Yanks have had an awful lot of bad luck the last few years...

3 RIYank   ~  Mar 6, 2009 10:52 am

Good point(s) by Davidoff.

"David Eckstein with a higher slugging percentage"

Uh, Diane, is that like, you know, a relief pitcher who's Mo Rivera only without the cutter?
A guy who's a little like Alex Belth, only he doesn't write?
Maybe he's sort of like God, only not omnipotent?

4 rbj   ~  Mar 6, 2009 11:13 am

I'm not blaming any one person, but I do think the whole organization dropped the ball on the A-Rod hip thing. Ounce of prevention and all that.

5 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 6, 2009 11:18 am

[2] But probably no more bad luck than the Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies and White Sox (teams that have won the World Series).

6 Raf   ~  Mar 6, 2009 12:07 pm

[5] Maybe, maybe not, but watching the team suffer all sorts of injuries (what are the odds a pitching staff implodes 4 years in a row?) as well as watching the breaks go the other way (2004 ALCS was a perfect example of a perfect storm of bad luck; reversed calls, bad bounces, and the like), I shake my head in amazement.

7 Simone   ~  Mar 6, 2009 12:32 pm

It is indefensible that the coaches, medical staff and Cashman did not insist that Alex undergo another MRI and see a specialist about the hip. MRI are not that expensive and they do not take that much time. It is the organization's responsibility to be proactive and overly cautious about the health of all their players, especially the ones that cost the most. Alex needs to just have this operation and get it over with.

8 MichiganYankee   ~  Mar 6, 2009 12:33 pm

Right now, the biggest beneficiary of the A-Rod injury is Joba. No one is talking about yesterday's game.

9 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 6, 2009 1:07 pm

[7] Are you really placing responsibility for medical treatment on the coaches and GM? If so, why have doctors?

As for Arod having the surgery, it makes no sense to rush into it until it becomes clear that is the best option. Considering that the surgery Arod would have could potentially keep him out for the season, it makes complete sense for the Yankees to see if Arod can wait until the off season before going under the knife.

[8] Joba has only pitched two spring outings...I don't think we need to panic just yet.

10 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Mar 6, 2009 1:47 pm

Ransom: uh, kind of the opposite, RIYank. I don't see "Eckstein + slugging" as a bad player at all. Eckstein's big drawback was a lack of power, but he had a career .351 OBP. If Ransom could be Eckstein + slugging he'd be a very solid replacement part. Ransom's also a much better fielder thank Eckstein. The problem with Ransom is he could prove to be a total bust given his lack of major league experience, but he has the tools to keep the Yankees comfortably above replacement level at 3B if needed.

Thames: The guy is a terrible corner outfielder and has never played center in the majors.

11 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 6, 2009 1:56 pm

If the Yankees eventually need a replacement for Arod, I think their best option would be to wait a couple months for the Mariners to lose a ton of game and then target Beltre. His stellar defense combined with contract-year driven offense might make him the best option come June or July.

12 Diane Firstman   ~  Mar 6, 2009 2:03 pm

[10]

In my mind, I temporarily swapped Thames with Curtis Granderson .... my bad. :-)

13 Diane Firstman   ~  Mar 6, 2009 2:07 pm

[11[

How quickly can Jesus Montero learn third base? (I kid .... I kid)

14 ny2ca2dc   ~  Mar 6, 2009 2:35 pm

As the GM Cashman hires and fires the doctors, and oversees the medical program. That program failed, as it has in the past. I don't think it's a bad program, per say, but I don't think it's remotely the best. And it should be. The organization really blew it, like with the other issues tommyl points out. no excuses.

15 williamnyy23   ~  Mar 6, 2009 2:42 pm

[14] Are you sure that a GM oversees the doctors and the medical program? I am not so sure about that. He may have some input, that seems to me as if it would be something dealth with by higher-ups in management. Also, it again should be noted that the Stuart Hershon is no longer with the team, so if one were to call for a change, well, it has already happened.

I am not a doctor, and I don't have access to Arod's medical reports, so I am not comfortable suggesting that the team or its medical staff "blew it", nor do I give those without that level of knowledge much credibility when they make similar claims.

16 RIYank   ~  Mar 6, 2009 3:54 pm

Cliff [10] and Diane, sorry, my joke had an obscure point.
It was supposed to be that Eck's lack of slugging is his essence, as God's omnipotence is His, Mo's cutter is his, and so on.
It was fairly lame to begin with, and now by explanation has been made maximally lame.

17 tommyl   ~  Mar 6, 2009 4:06 pm

William, I'm not blaming Cashman or naming names or anything like that. What I am seeing though is a pattern of incompetence and bad decisions when it comes to the Yankees medical staff on this and other issues. Having done some reading around, a torn labrum often first presents as muscle weakness, stiffness, most notably without pain. Considering that two elite level infielders (Utley and Lowell) as recently as the same year had this, it would seem like something the staff should be on the lookout for. When you throw in that he already had an MRI that showed an irregularity, and that coaches have noticed problems with his swing I would argue the most prudent thing to do is another MRI and exam, if only to establish that the irregularity had not changed (or even gone away). Now, if this was Wilson Betemit would I be complaining, no, of course not. But A-Rod is one of, if not the, most irreplaceable and expensive assets the Yankees have. I would think that caution dictates you treat him with kid gloves and gather all the information you can.

If you think that's second guessing, I'll pre-guess on another player. The Mets should absolutely have Johan Santana get an MRI and exam on both his elbow and shoulder before throwing another pitch. He's their best pitcher, and most expensive. They have no chance without him. Why not get him an MRI during one of his off days? What's the harm? I'll come back to my racecar analogy. If my car sputters once, but then keeps running, I'll finish the race I'm in. But you better be sure that the second the race is over, I'm tearing open the hood to find what the problem is. What the Yankees (and now Mets) did was to just assume the car was fine and put some gas back in it for the next race.

I also do not buy this argument that Alex didn't complain so he must be fine. Players are often the worst sources when it comes to injuries. Jorge Posada last year was a perfect example, hell Posada this year is a great one. He decided to do stretches he was told not to do because he felt fine. I've had to be physically locked out of a weight room during my own rehab because I refused to accept that some tendinitis should keep me off strength training for two weeks.

To sum up, player X, the best player on your team has one bad MRI, an issue during the season that affects his swing and you decide at the end of the season not to follow up. I don't care which specific person was responsible, that is bad to awful team management. It just is.

18 Diane Firstman   ~  Mar 6, 2009 4:25 pm

[16]

That's OK .... I was trying to poke fun at Girardi's description of Ransom in those "intangible" words used for those "scrappy, gritty" guys ....

19 Raf   ~  Mar 6, 2009 4:25 pm

If my car sputters once, but then keeps running, I’ll finish the race I’m in. But you better be sure that the second the race is over, I’m tearing open the hood to find what the problem is.

They already knew what the problem was.

To keep with your mechanical analogy, this is the equivalent of a mechanic not turning your rotors every time they change your pads.

20 The Mick536   ~  Mar 6, 2009 5:30 pm

I have serious arthritis in both hips. Didn't know it when the pain arrived. Used to play tennis. I thought I had a groin pull.

I am sure Alex thought the same thing that I did. It will go away. I will heal.

I did the conservative approach, physical therapy. It left me breathless. I would feel a little better, go back on the tennis court, win a few, lose a few. I lost my power in my forehand, because I couldn't turn on my locked hip. Didn't matter. People hit to my back hand which I could handle. I adjusted my game for years, never going full out.

During a lesson, I reached for a ball and that was it. I went to the doctor, he said hip locked. Physical therapist tried for three months to unlock it. Finally, they said go to an orthopod. I had avoided it like Alex. The doc looked at the x-ray and said what are you doing next week? You need a hip replacement.

Three years later, number two coming up in May. Alex should do it sooner than later.

21 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 6, 2009 5:59 pm

[20] Wowzers, good insight. Think I'd have to consider that quite carefully; so far it seems this was not handled well, if at all, by the Yanks up til now; could I trust someone's advice to play through it with that track record in mind?

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