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Unhealthy Climate, Revisited
2003-09-29 09:29
by Jon Weisman

Mike Branom writes:

I'd like to register a complaint against the Dodger training staff. (I believe you have made similar comments.) Doesn't it seem to you that an above-average number of medical controversies seem to befall our boys in blue? Green's shoulder, McGriff's groin, Perez's finger, Beltre's appendix, the various - and expensive - disabilities of Brown and Dreifort.

Somewhere, within the nexus of players-trainers-coaches, is a dysfunction. Does Jim Tracy throw his top players on the field, no matter how poor their health? (Wow - imagine quiet ol' Jim, acting like Bear Bryant.) Is Stan Johnston's crew simply bad, misdiagnosing injuries? Budget cutbacks in the trainer's office? (Think "Major League," with the jury-rigged whirlpool. Also, Marge Schott's 14-year reich in Cincinnati had penny-wise pound-foolish training staff; remember the scandal over Eric Davis' lacerated kidney in the 1990 World Series?)

Is there mistrust between the players and Johnston, where they'd rather lie? The first man I'd like to testify on this topic is Odalis Perez.

Johnston, going off the media guide, is an organizational soldier, but behind the lines, if I may stretch the metaphor. He started with the Great Falls team in 1985 and has worked his way up the chain: Bakersfield, Albuquerque and assistant in The Show. I'm not going to lay everything at Johnston's feet - who knows what's happening behind closed doors. But this is a matter that needs to be addressed in the offseason. Will Dan Evans do it? This is his second year as Johnston's boss, so he should have formed an opinion by now. If the team is sold, with the new owners even look in that direction, or will they be too busy hiring architects and contractors so they can cram housing into Chavez Ravine, or lobbying for a downtown stadium? Good organizations are proactive about the health of their players - end of story.

Does an above-average number of medical controversies seem to befall our boys in blue? If you take the question literally - addressing not medical ailments, but medical controversies, than perhaps the answer is yes.

Mike is right in that I am worried that Dodger management reacts emotionally to player injuries. As I wrote recently about the Odalis Perez situation, I fear that the Dodgers have created a climate where you become suspect if you complain about an injury that they don't take seriously.

Will Carroll has made it pretty clear on Baseball Prospectus that injuries are not bad luck - but as manageable as any other aspect of the game. There may be only so much you can do with a Darren Dreifort - and for that matter, Johnston and his colleagues may deserve praise just for getting a couple months out of Dreifort this year - but yes, the fact that there is repeated second-guessing about evaluation of injuries concerns me.

And yes, I don't expect that the organization is going to pay any attention to this concern during the offseason.

P.S. Mike also passed along this link to a December 2002 article about former Dodger Onan Masaoka, who decided to walk away from the major leagues at age 25 rather than become the Hawaiian Jesse Orosco. He is going to college for a degree in communications while volunteering as a pitching coach.

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