Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mystery Injuries

For the Twins, it's been a season of injuries that won't go away. And as much as we'd like to, we can't expect the offseason to serve as a cure-all.

Joe Mauer has been the most frustrating and perplexing example. He underwent a knee operation that was considered minor last December, but hadn't recovered in time for spring training and -- after subsequently spending two months on the disabled list -- still hasn't shown that his legs are anywhere near full strength. He hit .356 in July but managed only four extra-base hits. In 18 August games he's hitting .268/.312/.352. This is just not the premier hitter we've come to know.

Scott Baker underwent elbow surgery during the offseason that, like Mauer's, was deemed minor. The right-hander reportedly dealt with "setbacks" in spring training, and now those issues have seemingly resurfaced, as he's on the disabled list for the second time since mid-July.

Then there are the brain injuries. Justin Morneau took a thump on the head last July and hasn't been the same since, while Denard Span suffered his own concussion 11 months later and has gone 2-for-35 between DL stints in the aftermath.

You can make a case that, when healthy, this foursome represents Minnesota's three best position players and their best pitcher. All face significant health uncertainty that could very well stretch beyond the 2011 season. And they're all under contract next year, for a combined $46.5 million.

The front office faces a lot of important decisions in the coming months as they try to get this derailed mess of a team back on track, but those decisions may not be particularly consequential unless these four players can return to satisfactory levels of health and production.

Everything the team does the rest of this season should be built around that focus. It seems likely that Baker and Span are already finished for the year, and one could certainly make the argument that Mauer ought to be shut down as well.

As for Morneau, there's not much to be done other than hoping things will start to click for him with continued reps. Right now, he's headed in the wrong direction, with a .121/.206/.226 hitting line since returning from his neck surgery.


Anonymous said...

By his own admission, Mauer stated he had trouble driving off his left leg. This is the grounding leg where power drives from up the skeletal/kinetic chain as the hips rotate and open up during a swing. His bum left knee cartilage, hip, and sacroiliac joint may hamper him to the extent he may be hiding the pain and may never develop the power.But then again, maybe over the off season he'll heal. Don't forget the growth spurt after the 2006 season that preceded the 'mysterious' upper thigh injury. Left femur grew... tendon origin/insertion was weakened because it didn't grow as much as the bone. Duh. I question the team knowledge of trainer on this team, as well as the docs the players choose. Does Mauer know how to train? I doubt it, and I suspect the team trainer lacks insight into fundamentals on training and healing.

Kevin said...

I think it's been removed now but I guarantee I read a quote in the Strib postgame article on Hardy where he just about came out and said the Baltimore training staff treated him a lot more effectively than the Twins'. He said something to the effect of "I don't want to say anything specific and point any fingers but it was definitely different" when asked about the differences in treatment.

The way the Twins have handled injured players of the past few years has been disturbing.

Kevin said...


That links the article where it was. They still quote him on how quickly the Baltimore staff cleared up his wrist issues this season.

Kevin said...


Mackey has the exact quote.

jokin said...

You forgot to mention Kubel's strange mystery injury. Watch the replay of it. Much like Morneau's concussion from last year, I failed to see where any significant trauma was induced to cause him to miss two months of the season. The public pattern of treatment was the same as in all the other mystery attacks, at first he was "day to day" with a prcautionary boot fitted, then it was not responding to treatment, then a "setback" occurred in rehab. Like many of the other strange injuries, I just don't get how an ordinary sprain/strain turned into a lost 1/3 of the season for Kubel. Albert Pujols is the classic example of the Anti-Twin approach to injuries. (Don't even get me started on DY's drama queen incident).

Anonymous said...

Is part of the issue that too many players have gotten too comfortable (aka complacent) playing here for Gardy for too long? It just seems like they starting taking dominance over the division for granted. Clearly this team needs the 4 players Nick mentioned to be healthy and productive next year, but I think they need to shake things up too and sign an impact FA or 2 and not just their own guys.

Anonymous said...

The Twins are notoriously cheap. In regards to training/med. staff, maybe they are getting what they are paying for?

Matt said...

So, blame the training staff?

Mauer came to Spring Training out of shape, plain and simple. If he was still hurting, he should not have participated in ST at all. The year he didn't do anything in ST turned out pretty well for him (MVP), I'd say.

Baker has spent time on the DL just about every year he's been here.

It's either piss poor, rotten luck that they have guys that keep getting hurt, or the "Twins Way" either can't draft the right guys or keep guys healthy.

And yeah, those Hardy led Orioles are a great squad, year after year. Must be the training staff...

JB_Iowa said...

I do think you have to blame the training/conditioning/medical staff for part of this. I was glad to see Gibson get a 2nd opinion (or even a 3rd if he wanted it) -- I can't see any player wanting to put their future in the hands of the Twins medical staff.

But I also wonder about Mauer. Was this simply a case of coming to camp out of condition? If so, why is he still so out of condition 2 months after coming off the DL? It is hard to believe there isn't something more going on here. If it is just a matter of time & conditioning to get him healthy, I hope that they have agreed with him on a plan focused on getting him healthy for next spring -- even if that means shutting him down now (or when rosters expand in September).

I think they have to keep playing Morneau until the end of the season (if he can play) because they have to see what durability he has. So far it isn't looking good.

As for the pitching staff, all I know to do is pray unless they make changes in the front office and then the medical/training staff.

I thought the Metrodome was supposed to be so hard on their bodies and that TF had all these wonderful training facilities to keep them in shape?

william f. blakey said...

I think it's fair to question the training staff with all the various injuries that seem to go on forever. How many times have you heard them say an injury will take a day or two to heal and you dont see the guy for a month or more? In any other sector of business anywhere if they had an issue in one facet like these injuries, every single employee possibly associated would be micro-scrutinized. I'm not blaming the trainers but why should they be any different? Injuries ruined the season. Seems reasonable to explore.

Twins6 said...

I wholeheartedly agree with the statements concerning the questionable knowledge of the Twins's training staff. Players were not prepared for this season, extended stints on the DL for minor injuries--something isn't right here.

Anonymous said...

The Twins announcers oght to play a new game called "Pick the Puss." The bet will be to see who gets put on the DL with a hang-nail or in-grown hair. I've got Rene T in tonight's game w/Detroit. A man with a woman's name has the inside track on this group quitters.