by Ed Botti
March 11, 2023
This is getting old, for me at least.
As they say, and rightfully so, “injuries are part of the game”. Absolutely truer words could not be spoken in any sport. I have been dealing with leg and arm issues for well over a year. It has side tracked me a quite a bit in my martial arts career. In that world, guys my age are all beaten up due to years of “abuse”. I just celebrated my 40th year in the martial arts, and my body is reacting accordingly!
In my case I am not a multi-million dollar a year professional athlete. As a result, I simply suck it up and tough it out, and take it day by day.
No one really cares one iota.
But for a professional athlete, it is a completely different scenario. Money is now involved.
I've played this scene before. Once again, the Yankees are hit with the injury bug, if that is even the right word to use here. You see, it’s not the typical injury bug that I am referring to. What I am referring to is the pattern of an injury to a player that went undetected by one of the following two parties: 1) The Yankees highly regarded medical staff, or 2) the people that read the medical reports and make financial investments and decisions into player acquisition and compensation packages based on their understanding of the data.
In case you are wondering what I am writing about, it is the fact that the recently signed Carlos Rodon has come up with a “mild left forearm strain”. You remember him, he’s the guy that just signed a $162,000,000, 6-year contract with the Yankees this offseason.
Nothing against Mr. Rodon, from what I can see he seems like a very good guy that takes his role on the team very seriously.
However, based on his history after 8 seasons in MLB where he has averaged 105 innings a season (not great for a starter), one would think you would be a little more circumspect before spending $162MM.
They are telling us that he will not throw for seven to 10 days and will be on the injured list to begin the year. Let’s see how that plays out and if it goes longer than 10 days.
How could this happen after only two spring training innings pitched?
That is it, he showed up and has thrown 2 innings, and now he is hurt. Worse, it’s the same arm and area of his 2019 Tommy John surgery.
Did he go alligator wrestling on his day off? Was he doing one arm pushups with Sylvester Stallone?
How do you take four months off, and show up hurt?
The Bombers are already without another starting pitcher in Frankie Montas, who underwent shoulder surgery and isn’t expected back until September, at the earliest.
Photo Chris Kirschner
As a matter of background, after taking it easy for a few weeks, Montas grappled to ramp up his offseason throwing program. After a few more weeks, he decided on a surgical scope that could have him out until September, or possibly the entire year and effectively end his Yankees career.
According to a recent acknowledgement by Montas, he was injured last season when he was traded. You read that correctly! The Yankees sent 4 players (including 2 that would be of great value right now, Sears and Waldichuk) for an injured player that contributed next to nothing for a team that was “all in”.
Montas will be lucky to pitch this year, and then he becomes a free agent.
Montas' contributions with the Yankees, after coming over from Oakland (with Lou Trivino--also hurt) in exchange for Ken Waldichuk, JP Sears, Luis Medina, and Cooper Bowman, lasted eight games for a total of 39.2 innings with a whopping 6.35 ERA!
He was obviously battling through the issues that hindered him in Oakland. Eventually he capitulated, after a September 16 start in Milwaukee where he gave of 4 runs in 3.1 innings.
He did return, only to struggle in relief in the ALCS, which he never should've been cleared to do.
Essentially, they traded 4 prospects for 2 lousy ineffective months of Montas. Not exactly a Gene Michael steal of a deal, to put it mildly.
At the time of the Montas trade, we knew nothing material about his health.
They still won't tell us who was responsible for what, and what his MRIs looked like in June, July, or August of 2022. Why should they? We aren’t paid to do so, and HIPAA laws restrict our access. But the Yankee executives unquestionably were supposed to know. They had the information. They were given the time to review it. They were responsible.
It appears that whoever was paid to evaluate the medicals was unable to do so in a well-informed manner.
Of course, GM Brian Cashman has no hard feelings towards Oakland's Billy Beane for accelerating the trade, but he instead stated that he “needs to look internally” at whoever approved the medicals.
I’m sorry Brain, but the buck stops with you. Look in the mirror, not at someone that reports to you. You had the medicals, you should have reviewed the medicals, and you still traded for him anyway. Why?
I am still waiting for Bob Lorenz or Meredith Marakovits to ask that very question.
A leader does not throw his people under the bus. He takes full responsibility for his people, and backs them up at all costs.
In the cases of Montas and now Rodon, he had the medicals, he reviewed the medicals, and he went forward with the deals regardless. In the case of Rodon, he spent $162MM of his boss’ money.
This is nothing new in the Yankee Universe.
Do you remember that Aaron Judge showed up in spring training 2020 with a rib injury suffered 6 months earlier during the 2019 season? Or that James Paxton came to the same training camp suffering from a back injury that required microscopic lumbar discectomy with removal of a peridiscal cyst that no one detected until almost February of 2020.
Ditto for Luis Severino and his arm in 2020 which required Tommy John surgery in FEBRUARY!!
In 2019 Giancarlo Stanton went on the IL with a Grade 1 bicep strain to his left arm. While rehabbing his bicep, all of a sudden it was reported that Stanton received a cortisone shot for his left shoulder, prolonging his IL stint.
Do I need to even bring up what Clint Frazier went through in 2021? Remember Clint and his “legendary bat speed”? Forget his ability or what we learned was his lack thereof to play baseball, the kid was having dizzy spells, vision issues, speaking problems and memory issues. The cause was not detected while he was a Yankee.
Greg Bird’s foot injuries were a never ending issue.
Same goes for Nick Johnson and his hands.
In 2019 Miguel Andujar was able to avoid surgery on his labrum to return to the Yankees’ lineup in early May. However, it was obvious he was not healthy. He could not play third base, he was not hitting, and it clearly looked like he was still injured.
Last season, Andrew Benintendi suffered a weird injury while checking his swing. We were later told "He had the surgery to remove the hamate bone, but there could have been some left or whatever. He'll have to have surgery on that."
“Could have been some left”?
Don’t you think you would have looked into his prior surgical results before making the trade?
I have a difficult time placing blame on the medical staff the Yankees have chosen to work with. These are top doctors in their field.
They examine the patient, and report on what they have found. After that, it is up to whoever reads their reports to make a decision.
Just this past winter we saw the San Francisco Giants and then the New York Mets both pull $300(+) MM deals off the table for Carlos Correa due to bad medicals.
Yet, apparently the Yankees either seem to think they know better than the doctors, or simply do not understand the data they are given to analyze.
Of course, none of it is Brian Cashman’s fault.
Cashman recently stated that relievers Tommy Kahnle (signed as a free agent this winter) and Lou Trivino will also both begin the season on the injured list.
Kahnle has yet to throw a pitch in 2023, and he is already hurt?
Again, how is that possible?
After making only one appearance in the Covid-shortened 2020 season, Kahnle required Tommy John surgery. The elbow surgery, plus right forearm inflammation, has limited Kahnle to a measly 14 games over the past three seasons.
All of that, and the $11.5MM man shows up to camp with an injury to his recently rebuilt throwing arm.
Not surprising to me.
This trend needs to stop. If you can’t read a medical report, find someone that can, and stop wasting money and resources on injured players.
I guess it is not as bad as the Carl Pavano 4 year $39.95 million deal that yielded a 9-8 record with a 5.00 ERA after 25 starts and 145 2/3 innings.
To add to that, we leaned late Thursday afternoon that centerfielder Harrison Bader is now hurt as well with a left oblique strain. As we have learned (Luke Voit, Giancarlo Stanton) those injuries can take a while to heal. I hope I am wrong, but I don't expect to see Bader for at least a month into the season.
The fact is that after 6 seasons in MLB, Bader has averaged 89 games per season. Remove the Covid shortened 2020 season, and his average games played goes to 97 games per season.
Last time I checked, a season was 162 games.
Maybe now we can see why Cardinals GM Mike Girsch made that trade, and why he selected Brian Cashman as his trade partner.
At the end of the day, I’ll take availability and durability over ability every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.
With the obvious exceptions of Anthony Volpe or even Jasson Domínguez (both of whom I doubt will make the club), during this first half of spring training a 2023 a dark horse candidate (in my view) to make the club is righty Jimmy Cordero.
Looking throughout the entire league for that young stud who may force himself onto an MLB roster, look no further than St Louis, where 20 year old outfielder Jordan Walker is kicking down the door for MLB playing time.
March Madness kicks off this coming week. Enjoy one of the truly great athletic competitions we have left.
RIP to Hall of Fame (2006) guitarist Gary Rossington.
Photo: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame