...Losing the waiting game

10:03 PM, May 3, 2013   |    comments
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The older I get, the less trusting I get, and there aren't many things I'll accept at face vaIue.

But I trust the St. Louis Cardinals completely in one respect.

When they say they're shutting down a player, I know that surgery is surely certain to follow.

I put that "shutting down" statement up with the headlines, "Dog Chases Cat", "Sun Rises in the East", and "Cubs Fade from Playoff Contention" as guarantees in life, because you just know what's coming next. 

Jason Motte is simply the latest example in that, for the Cardinals, the waiting game ends in a loss.

I get that you don't want to unnecessarily cut into someone's livelihood.  Always be leery of a doctor who seems too quick to prescribe surgery.  But the track record seems to be nearly unblemished:  when the Cardinals have shut down a player, all that the wait seems to do is delay the inevitable.

Rafael Furcal.

Kyle McClellan.

Brad Penny.

Kyle Lohse.

Mark Mulder.

Those are five quick examples off the top of my head of players with injury issues that were given the wait-and-see approach, only for it to backfire on the Cardinals.  We certainly know that with Tommy John surgery, you can figure on a year (at least) before the player in question can come back.  A year.  A season.

I know I've left out several other examples, and there is only one - one, uno, solo - example where the let's-see-what-happens approach proved (so far) to be the right move:  Jaime Garcia.

Motte's elbow issues surfaced on March 23rd.   The road to surgery took 41 days - okay, six weeks - hoping a partial ligament tear would heal and the Cards' closer could return sometime this season.  But this is a pitcher with a violent arm whip to propel the baseball towards home plate under normal circumstances.  So that's some real, misplaced optimism, it would seem; thinking that (a) the ligament would heal itself, and (b) the repeated catapulting action of arm-firing-baseball wouldn't either re-tear or rip the ligament entirely.

So by delaying surgery to fix a partial tear by six weeks, you're now giving away the first month (at least) of the 2014 season. 

Okay, so perhaps we're using the miraculous end-of-season return by Chris Carpenter as our model now; an inspirational, in-season return of a key player to provide a motivational boost?   I thought we had all agreed that Carp's return was an unexpected blessing?  Okay, perhaps that's a ridiculous comparison.

I also get that the player has some say in how to treat and heal his body, and the competitive athlete is hardwired to play through pain, or at least to find the level of pain tolerance he can endure before giving in to surgery as a last resort.  And so the rest-and-test-and-then-rest-some-more-and-re-test system goes into play while time and games tick away.

2013 is here and now, I get that:  win the game that's right in front of you and then deal with tomorrow.   And besides, 2014 is so far away.

Well, now we can add another six weeks or so to that.


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