Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Media mumbo jumbo

Let's not make such a big deal about the Padres' injuries, OK?


It's inevitable that we read and hear a lot about them, just because the scribes have stories to write and broadcasters have air time to fill and many of both may have spin that their bosses want them to apply. Indeed, the number of injuries early this season qualifies as news, if with a lower-case n. In a recent chat with Jim Malone, the Padres' strength and conditioning coach, I saw Jim's angst as he tried to explain the barrage. Malone is taking it personally, even though his bosses say he (and the trainers) shouldn't. More on him and them in another post. In the meantime, injury announcements will cue an ever obliging media in the orchestra pit to play their mournful scores. Media mumbo jumbo is what we get, to borrow a phrase from Greg Maddux.

Look around. Baseball players get hurt. Forgive me for going Woodward and Bernstein here, but there's something the media and the Padres aren't telling you about the crowded DL: Many of the presences just aren't surprising. Unfortunate, yes. Strangely bunched together? OK. But surprising? Not really. When spring training began, no one should've confused these guys with Cal Ripken Jr., Carlton Fisk and Nolan Ryan. If there were iron men in Peoria, they were the batting-practice machines that spin baseballs.

At the risk of being tedious, This Blog will explore much of the so-called misfortune that has populated the DL with 13 Padres. I won't complete the list because it does get tedious. Bear in mind that Cory Luebke's elbow injury, the most significant injury to hit this team and perhaps the least predictable as well, was the subject of a recent post.

Mark Kotsay? His back ailed him the first time he was a Padre, a decade ago. Even then, Padres trainers described the issue as chronic. Kotsay's career is a tribute to Kotsay's willingness to endure, as anyone who's known back pain can attest.

Dustin Moseley? He had season-ending shoulder surgery last year, a yellow flag even if the procedure wasn't to his throwing shoulder. In recent years other teams doubted Moseley and his durability, describing him as frail.

James Darnell hurt himself last year by diving while at his natural position, third base; new to left field, he hurts himself in another dive and we're supposed to be surprised?

When the Padres drafted Logan Forsythe, they said his talent exceeded his draft position. What they didn't say when explaining the $835,000 investment in an instinctual, strong and quick-footed player was that other clubs were chastened by his surgical right foot. Four years later, postponing his start to this season, Forsythe had the same procedure, which removed the sesamoid bone from his left foot. Scan Forsythe's medical chart and you'll also see a torn left thumb ligament from a headfirst slide into first base at the start of his pro career; a broken right hand for punching a dugout in Double-A; and the season-ending knee surgery last year, to repair torn cartilage. The knee procedure was his second, according to some media reports.

Tim Stauffer? Seriously? To his credit he represented house money to the Padres, who were thrilled two years ago that Stauffer could still pitch in the aftermath of shoulder surgery, let alone give them smart returns during the miraculous, 90-win season. Shoulder problems that began in his final college season in 2003, in addition to knocking nearly $2 million off his signing bonus, attached red and yellow flags to Stauffer's career. Drafted fourth overall, Stauffer has a respectable career ERA of 3.92 but hasn't thrown a complete game despite calling Petco Park home.

The Rockies offered Huston Street to the baseball world last offseason; I know of two American League teams that balked over concerns about his durability this year. What's surprising about Street's presence on the DL is the injury itself. Bud Black couldn't recall a pitcher who was a teammate or a Padres pitcher being felled by a lower lat strain.

Entering 2012, the year of the pitcher 3.0 or 4.0, why did the White Sox receive only two fringe prospects for an accredited slugger, Carlos Quentin, last winter while also having to absorb $1 million of his salary? Largely because many teams doubted he could stay off the DL. One week into his Padres career Quentin reported a knee ailment that led to surgery. The trip to the DL was his sixth since 2007. In the Pink Pony Scouts Chat, Quentin's fragility was a topic.

Shortstop Jason Bartlett has been in decline for a few years now. The Padres found no taker for him on the trade market last season. This season wasn't two weeks old when a scout was telling This Blog that Bartlett had slipped further. Of what consequence was it that Bartlett went on to the DL last week with a knee injury?

It'd be convenient to blame the team's poor start on the unusually high number of injuries. The inconvenient truth may be that the Padres, while filling out the majors' lowest-payroll roster, rolled the dice on several players staying healthy. The team's transitional mode and bad start further encouraged the front office to move players in and out, contributing to the NL-high number of players to appear on the team's active roster this year.

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