Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Release The Hounds.

Among the many things that have made the Royals’ long and almost uninterrupted stretch of futility even more exasperating is that it has occurred under the watch of so many different people. Since 1995, when the Royals began their stretch of 13 losing seasons in 14 years (soon to be 14 in 15), the Royals have operated under three different general managers; five different full-time managers; and more hitting and (especially) pitching coaches than I can count. Heck, they’ve even had two owners in that stretch, if you count the leaderless Kauffman Trust as an “owner”.

The losing might be more understandable if it happened on the watch of a single, woefully incompetent front office, like the Detroit Lions under Matt Millen. It’s more mystifying, and harder to accept, when the losing transcends administrations. The stench of the Royals is so overpowering that it immediately infects whoever is so unfortunate to get hired to work at the Truman Sports Complex.

But what if I told you that there is, in fact, one person who has been with the Royals for the last 15 years? What if I told you that he occupied a position of considerable importance; that by all appearances he was as bad at his job as anyone in the organization; and that, despite this, he enjoys unparalleled job security? Wouldn’t that trouble you a little?

It certainly troubles me. It especially troubles me that, even though this person is having probably their worst year ever in 2009, no one – not the team, not the media, not even the fans – seems to be pointing fingers in his direction.

So let me be the one to crash the party here and say what needs to be said: Nick Swartz needs to be fired. Immediately.

I have long hesitated to wade into a discussion about the team’s medical staff, because as a physician myself I’m paranoid that someone might use my credentials inappropriately in this discussion. So let me be clear: in advocating for Swartz’s dismissal, I am not speaking as some sort of expert witness. I do not have access to any of the players’ medical records, and am not basing my opinion on some sort of medical expertise. I am arguing as a fan, and using the evidence that is available to all fans – the results on the field.

Swartz has been the Head Athletic Trainer for the Royals since 1991, replacing a legend in Mickey Cobb. Despite the fact that he has been the team’s trainer for nearly two decades, Swartz is in no danger of becoming a legend himself. Far from it: his reputation around baseball is not stellar. Over at Baseball Prospectus, our injury guru Will Carroll created the Dick Martin Award in 2003 to honor the best training staff in the majors each season. In the six seasons that he’s been handing out the award, the Royals have been conspicuous in their absence from even consideration for the award.

If there was an award for worst training staff in the majors, the Royals would be the runaway leaders at this point in the season. Let’s document some of the medical decisions that have been made:

1) While warming up in the bullpen as Zack Greinke finished off a shutout in Texas on April 18th, Joakim Soria felt a twinge in his shoulder. The Royals decided to keep things quiet, even though Soria did not pitch in a game where he was obviously needed on April 19th. Soria would wobble through a save situation on April 22nd, after which Trey Hillman finally came clean and admitted that Soria was hurting. The Royals shut him down for a few days but did not put him on the DL, and he was back in action on May 2nd – and pitched again the very next day. When he took the mound again on May 7th, Soria suffered through his worst outing of the season – and then finally went on the DL, and did not return until June 3rd.

2) Mike Aviles, after hitting .325 as a rookie last year, hits just .194 with one homer in his first 32 games this season, before finally coming clean on May 14th and admitting that his forearm was bothering him. Instead of putting him on the DL, the Royals give him a few days off, then put him back in the lineup on May 20th. Aviles goes 1-for-12 over the next four days, then finally goes on the DL, and his injury turned out to be serious enough that he eventually was evaluated by Tommy John surgery guru Dr. Lewis Yocum. While he hasn’t undergone surgery – yet – his return is still unclear.

And, of course, the coup de grace:

3) Coco Crisp got off to a great start for the Royals, and as late as May 20th was hitting .245/.360/.429. On May 21st Crisp sat out with a sore shoulder, which was the first sign that he had any kind of an injury. The Royals downplayed the seriousness of it. “His shoulder is tender. Occasionally it’s going to get that way,” Hillman said.

Crisp was back in the lineup the next day, and played in five consecutive games, but was just 2-for-16 in that span. On May 26th Crisp was pulled from the game after four innings after he had difficulty swinging the bat from the left side. At that point we learned that Crisp’s shoulder problem was not a new one. “Although Crisp has been bothered by a sore shoulder periodically since Spring Training, he’d played in 44 of the Royals’ 46 games.” Hillman also let us know that the soreness worsened in late April. “It got a little worse three weeks to a month into the season,” Hillman said. “There was some soreness, but not as much as there has been recently.” Through April 25th, Crisp was hitting .262/.384/.525. From that point until May 26th, he hit just .216/.329/.324.

Crisp was kept out of the lineup for the next four days, and then went on the bereavement list for three more when his great-grandmother passed away. He returned on June 4th and went straight back into the lineup. He was 0-for-7 over the next two days, then once again was rested for three days – two games along with an off-day. He returned to the lineup on June 9th, then sat on the 10th because the Royals didn’t feel he was 100% batting left-handed. Even at this point, the Royals were downplaying his injury:

“I think there's still some discomfort in there [batting] left-handed so I thought it’d be a good opportunity to move Willie [Bloomquist] around and get T.J. [Tony Pena Jr.] back in the middle of the diamond and see how we roll there,” Hillman said…

Hillman said that holding out Crisp did not indicate more problems with the shoulder.

“No setbacks,” he said.

Crisp was back in the lineup the next day. The day after that, June 12th, Crisp was pinch-hit for by Mitch Maier in the bottom of the seventh. He did not play the following day. On the 14th, he was finally put on the DL.

“We've tried it three [days], we’ve tried it four, we've tried it six and it wasn’t enough rest to let the irritation and the inflammation settle down in that right shoulder,” Hillman said. “Through compensating for it and trying to fight through it, we’ve got to give it the rest that it needs.”

On June 19th, Crisp headed to see Dr. James Andrews after the team feared that what they thought was a strained rotator cuff was in fact a torn labrum. “I don’t know what it is yet,” general manager Dayton Moore cautioned. “We’re going to get a second opinion, but he’s been battling this for about five weeks now. He tried to play through it before we made the decision to put him on the disabled list.

Yesterday, Andrews confirmed the worst; Crisp underwent surgery today and is out for the year. He may not even be ready for the start of next season - it is quite possible that his time in a Royals uniform is over.

I don’t know about you, but to me, the handling of Coco Crisp’s shoulder injury is by itself a fireable offense. Crisp was playing – terribly, mind you – with a bum shoulder FOR FIVE WEEKS, and even after his shoulder pain became severe enough that he could no longer play, the Royals kept shuffling him in and out of the lineup for three weeks, putting him back out there as soon as the pain became tolerable again.

But the pain didn’t go away. It only got worse, and presumably his shoulder only got worse. The question that no one can answer is whether, five weeks ago, Crisp already had a torn labrum, or whether the injury occurred while trying to play through the inflammation. We can’t answer it, but we sure as hell can speculate. As far as I’m concerned, the Royals’ ham-fisted approach to Coco Crisp’s shoulder turned an injury which might have healed with a few weeks of rest into a season-ender.

The ham-fisted approach to Soria’s shoulder turned a quick 15-day DL stint into a six-week drama. We don’t know the nature of Aviles’ prognosis yet, but the fact that the Royals commandeered him into playing again even after he came clean with the injury certainly could not have helped.

This is a trend, people. When the Royals downplay the extent of an injury, then give the player a few days off before sticking him back out there, and only later realize the injury was worse than expected THREE TIMES in the span of less than three months, this is not bad luck. This is incompetence, plain and simple. And while Hillman and Moore are the ones quoted above, they’re making those decisions based on the medical information they’ve been given. And the point man for all that information is Nick Swartz.

Oh, and I didn’t even mention the decision to let Gil Meche pitch through his back injury. Meche has been amazingly durable since joining the Royals; he tied for the league lead with 34 starts in both 2007 and 2008, and leads the league outright this year with 15 so far. But the fact is that on April 28th, Meche gave up five runs before coming out of the game in the fourth inning with back stiffness. Despite this, Meche did not miss a start, and over his next five starts he threw just 24.1 innings and allowed 19 runs. Meche, at least, didn’t seem to aggravate his back problems by continuing to pitch every fifth day, but neither was he helping his team out.

It’s not like 2009 is such an outlier either – it seems like every year some Royals player has an injury that lingers beyond any reasonable timeframe, or an injury that we’re told for weeks is minor turns out to be season-ending.

The first time I heard concerns voiced about Nick Swartz was back in 2004, so that season I decided to monitor the team’s injury status carefully. Sure enough, Benito Santiago was hit by a pitch on June 18th and broke a bone in his hand; the original report was that he would be out 6-8 weeks. Now understand, broken bones are about the most predictable injury there is. The bone needs a certain amount of time to heal, and generally that’s all it takes – the timeframe is pretty stable. On August 3rd, Swartz was quoted as saying that Santiago should start swinging a bat by the end of the week. Instead, Santiago was done for the year. A 6-8 week injury took well over 3 months to heal.

(I must pause here to give a shout-out to Rotowire, whose excellent and completely archived list of daily player updates made much of this column possible.)

That’s a clear-cut case; there are a lot more injuries that have circumstantial evidence attached to them. Mike Sweeney signed a five-year contract after the 2002 season and then missed at least 40 games in each of them, but I think what bothered Royals fans the most was that when he was injured, he always seemed to be a week away from returning. Then that week would pass and he was still another week away; a two-week DL stint would turn into two months. By the end Sweeney earned the reputation of being a malingerer, but I wonder how much of that blame can be placed at the feet of the training staff.

Jeremy Affeldt’s blister problems came and went for the better part of two seasons – coming at a time when Affeldt looked like he could become a frontline starter if he could stay healthy – to the point where I started emailing Bob Dutton in frustration with medical advice that I hoped he would forward onto the team. (I know I said I wouldn’t bring my medical background into this, but this particular problem was right up a dermatologist’s alley.) It got to the point where I committed a terrible breach of journalistic ethics by approaching Affeldt in the Royals clubhouse in Chicago in late 2003 and introducing myself as a doctor who was writing about blister injuries in pitchers. My plan was to gently suggest the proper approach to his problem – something called a partial nail avulsion – but fortunately, by this point the Royals had finally figured out the solution on their own and Affeldt told me he was scheduled to have the surgery after the season. (To the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t had a blister since.)

But by far, the most egregious lapse in medical judgment by the Royals during Swartz’ time with the team, worse even than their mistakes with Crisp, is how they destroyed Jose Rosado’s arm. I can’t blame Swartz for what happened to Rosado in 1999, when he threw 120+ pitches seven times in the span of eight starts. But the following season, Rosado struggled in his first four starts and was noticeably laboring. He finally complained of a tired arm, and the Royals skipped his turn in the rotation one time. But they elected not to get an MRI, and on April 30th Rosado returned to the mound one more time. He gutted through 5.2 innings and even got the win, but afterwards his arm wasn’t tired; it was dead. Only then did the Royals get the MRI, and all you need to know about the results was that Rosado never pitched in the majors again. Rosado is probably the best left-handed starter the Royals have developed in the last 25 years – and his career was over at age 25.

You might be asking yourselves why I’m bringing up an injury that occurred nearly a decade ago. What does an injury that occurred in 2000 have to do with the Royals in 2009?

Nothing, if you’re Dayton Moore, or Trey Hillman, or Bob McClure, or anyone else that wasn’t a part of the organization nine years ago. The thread that connects Jose Rosado’s shoulder to Coco Crisp’s is a thin one…and it’s got Nick Swartz’s name all over it.

I’m not na├»ve enough to think that all of the Royals’ injury woes are the fault of Swartz, or that after firing him the team’s DL will magically empty. I’m sure that you can find some reason to absolve Swartz for every individual incident I’ve mentioned above. Maybe he gave good advice and it was ignored by the team. Maybe a player wouldn’t come clean with an injury. Maybe he did everything right and some unforeseen and unforeseeable circumstance destroyed his best-laid plans as a trainer.

If a batter goes 1-for-10, it doesn’t mean he’s a bad hitter. If he goes 10-for-100, it’s time to find a replacement. Swartz is like the batter who goes 50-for-500. The sample size is just too large. There are too many injuries that take longer than expected to heal. There are too many rehab snafus that deprive the Royals of their starting centerfielder, or destroy the career of a 25-year-old southpaw. There’s simply no way to wave off his track record as a stretch of bad luck, or to blame it on someone else. There isn’t anyone else.

Besides, the burden of proof shouldn’t be on me to prove that Swartz deserves to go; it should be on Swartz and the Royals to prove he should stay. Swartz has been the trainer for the Royals FOR NINETEEN SEASONS, the last 15 of which represent one of the worst 15-year stretches by a baseball team in major league history. EVERY SINGLE person involved with baseball operations has been replaced in that span – why should Swartz be the exception? This isn’t a court of law, it’s a sports team – when you’ve been involved with a team that’s this bad for so long, frankly, you’re guilty until proven innocent.

I doubt that Moore is going to do anything rash in mid-season; it’s not his style, as we saw with Mike Barnett last season. And my brain says that the best time to make a move is in the off-season, when the Royals can overhaul their training staff with full deliberation and due diligence. But after what’s happened to Crisp, my heart wants to see blood.

The trendy rumor du jour for the Royals is that they’ve been decimated by injuries. News flash, guys: if what’s holding you back are all the injuries, then maybe the solution is to axe the guy who’s responsible for preventing them. Nick Swartz has been that guy for far too long. It’s time to sharpen the knife.

70 comments:

Mark said...

As always, excellent post, Rany. Swartz is a disaster. The details you lay out are damning. He NEEDS to be gone at the end of the year.

Keep up the excellent blog and radio show! Us pathetic Royals' fans are loving it!

Chris said...

I've felt this way for a long time also. The Royals have more day to dayers that turn into month to monthers. When the evidence is overwhelming like this is it can't be coincidence. Plus, how many games have we lost over the years cause we weren't playing with a whole 25 man roster. Hell, most years we weren't anyway.

Fire Swartz after the season if the Royals must but ABSOLUTELY do it before he ruins another Rosado (i.e. Greinke).

Scagnetti said...

First Time, Long Time Rany. Enjoy you stuff...

May the Swartz be with you!

I remember thinking this with Sweeney some five years ago.

Well argued, sir. I concur. You articulated EXACTLY what I've thought for some time...

Joe West said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you Rany! It is about time somebody said something about this guy. Talk about a guy who has miraculously kept his job. I never see him in the dugout. I've actually heard from clubhouse sources that he will show up late to games on certain occasions and leave early!

Joe West said...

Another thing, he should have been fired after the 2005 season when we used something like 60 players on the 25 man roster. I know most of those players were crap, but a lot of them went on the DL that year.

steak said...

In regards to Nick Swartz, I think his own personal fitness should speak to his ability to train others. I usually prefer to leave personal judgment of others to people with first-hand interaction with said person, and so I will have to note that I have not met Mr. Swartz. However, I HAVE seen him up close and personal during spring training games (not that being close would give me perspective of his rotund frame that I couldn't get from the nose bleeds), and it's fair to say his own physical discipline is lacking. I don't think it's a stretch to expect that the person in charge of keeping some of the world's top athletes healthy and in shape should himself make an effort at staying in shape. From where I sit, he appears to make none.

As you pointed out, Rany, this is the big league. Each role and position should effectively be filled by the roughly 30 best people at what they do. Why should Nick become the de facto trainer regardless of his track record; seemingly good or bad? Nineteen years without a re-evaluation of performance at one of the most coveted positions in sports medicine is a long time.

Note: The Yankees pulled four hamstrings to start the 2007 season before they fired their first-year conditioning coach. The Royals topped that four-time offense threshold myriad times over.

One final, and I think crucial note, is the fact that the Royals have a noted disadvantage in acquiring/keeping top tier players. It is an unfortunate disadvantage to playing in a smaller market, but is also all the more reason for the Royals to concentrate on succeeding in the margins. If we can't keep players like Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon, perhaps we can work to make it up by signing hidden/underrated talents (Meche), developing a strong farm (work in progress), and having the best back office/training program possible. Forget the notion that Swartz is an apparent liability. I say that if Swartz isn't one of the absolute best sports doctors in the majors, we start shopping. If we can't buy the best on-field talent, lets do our best to get the best behind-the-scenes talent.

Anonymous said...

Actually Rany, David Glass has been the de-facto owner since 1995. Glass was heading the Royals sales group and if you remember there were frequently rumors that he was purposely tanking the team in order to drive down the buying price so he could pick up the team himself on the cheap.

That said, I've fully supported the firing of the entire Royals' training staff for years, so thanks for writing this column.

You also might want to check out the injury database recently compiled that shows the Royals as having 29 more DL stints over the Swartz regime than any the next highest team in baseball.

Steve said...

I too thank you for writing this piece. I surely hope that somebody in the Royals Management Team take heed and then take action! I have felt for years that this guy and his staff are NOT getting it done.

BTW... along with your list... is there any chance that Guillen's fast decline into total lack of mobility is a training issue? Or is it just the lack of 'roids which was never "proven"?

Go Royals!!! C-ya, AusSteveW

Anonymous said...

I think you can add Alex Gordon to this list too, right?

He followed the same pattern: played on a lingering injury, got a few days off to rest, came back and played, then whoops -- off to the DL for major surgery.

He has the exact same "Did he make it worse by continuing to play?" issue as Crisp.

Anonymous said...

When I read the intro, especially the bit about complete job security, I thought you were going to name George Brett.

'steak' makes a great point about being the best in the margins. Teams that can't spend a great deal of money on proven players need to invest in their less expensive endeavors in an attempt to be the very best. The Royals should spend toward having the very best training program in baseball and hold these employees to very, very high standards.

Anonymous said...

So the big question now: has Farnsworth been ailing from a torn groin for the past month?

Curry Favor said...

Admittedly, when I read your lede I thought you were just hunting for a new angle for the annual mid-June Blame-a-thon most Royals fans masochistically exercise. However, your argument, specifically with regard to Crisp, has me convinced. Thank you for this informed blog.

One factor I think you may be underselling is a player's resistance to full-disclosure. In many ways I imagine being a trainer on a professional sports team is akin to being a veterinarian. And I say this out of love, and not contempt, for the athlete. Considering the way Hillman at the start of the season was constantly subbing or flip-flopping lineups with no two days being the same and no player apparently set in a position, if I were a player I would be hesitant to confess any problems to my coach for fear of missing playing time. I think this is exactly what happened with Mike Aviles. He needed so badly to prove that 2008 wasn’t a fluke.

I make the vet comparison because, like a cat or a dog, I don't think a professional athlete is always going to tell an attending physician what he/she needs to know, if anything. This is especially true if a player sees his playing time potentially jeopardized by the possibility of diminished confidence of a coaching staff.

I too have questions about how Guillen has been handled. His oatmeal-like speed in right field has become a significant liability. Plus, judging by the way he huffs and puffs just chasing down a single, his conditioning appears suspect as well. Additionally, one of my first thoughts as I got into your piece was the treatment of Gordon. How his injury plays out will be very telling (as if we didn’t have enough evidence of Schwartz’s ineffectiveness). I also wonder about Buck and Ponson and maybe now Farnsworth. At this point the injuries have piled up to such a degree that truly no one other than Schwartz is accountable. Conditioning and competent medical treatment always trump bad luck injuries. All of these injuries are not bad luck.

Again, thank you for this well-written and compelling blog. I just hope someone with influence greater than me is convinced as well.

GeorgeM said...

I agree as well. There's another thing to consider, too. As relationships with ballclubs go, the Royals don't seem to have a worse one with Boras than anyone else does, at least when it comes to signing free agents, but things got ugly when it came to the health of two of his clients: Beltran and Guiterrez. He refused to have both of them rehab with their team's facilities. Does he have a history of showing disrespect for the training staff of other teams as well?

Dave Farquhar said...

Rany, I've been waiting for years for you to write this entry--basically since you and Rob discussed Jeremy Affeldt's health way back when.

The Royals have a difficult time attracting the big-name players. In recent years, every time they've made a play for a marquee free agent, they haven't even been in the running. But what kind of staff could they attract if they committed Meche/Guillen-type money to it?

The Royals need to commit to having 90th-percentile guys (at least) at each position on the medical/training staff. They can't afford to destroy any more talent. It's not only unwise, it at least borders on unethical.

Ben said...

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=7274

Ben said...

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=7274

steak said...

Thanks Ben.

"Recognizing that health is something that seemingly any team can decide to make better by making a small organizational commitment and an only slightly larger budgetary commitment makes it even more frustrating that a mid-market team would be on the trailing edge. The facts show that the Royals, among many other problems, still have this one to deal with. "One of these days I'm going to lay this hammer down," Steve Earle sings. Today is not that day."
-Will Caroll

Apparently I'm not the first person to make this claim.

OJ said...

I can sense the bitterness and frustration seeping in.

Please do not give up the blog, Rany. No matter how bad the Royals are, I still want to read this blog. It is a shining beacon in a sea of darkness!

Anonymous said...

Rany, I don't disagree with your post at all (in fact, I have thought Swartz needed to go for years now); however, wanted to raise the possibility at least, that the Royals reluctance to put players on the DL when needed might stem from the fact that the high minors are always COMPLETELY BARREN of even replacement level players to take their place, thus 75% of player "A" is better than 100% of the crap we have in AAA to take his place (or the crap on the bench in the majors, for that matter).

Granted, it's entirely illogical to risk further injury to a player you have so much salary invested it - but heh, it's the Royals; "illogical" often rules the day.

Chance said...

I could not agree more, Rany. And, excellent points raised about the comparatively low cost of hiring the best "staff" relative to the best "players". We need the best scouts, coaches, trainers, Hell, we need the best guys selling beers at the "K".

I wonder if this ghastly reputation as a medical wasteland is known to players throughout the league, and if that plays a part in them not wanting to come here?

Unknown Royals Fan said...

Good blog, Rany. My own zeal to blog about the Royals has about left during this swoon. I, too, have thought that Swartz needed to go, and like "steak," I've wondered about the logic of having a fat tub o'crap in charge of conditioning and the physical wellness of world class athletes. Our DL problems are both legendary and inexplicable - we continue to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results.

Will said...

This was something that simply HAD to be written about. Thank you, Rany.

Two quick points:

- I too think AG needs to be a part of this discussion.

- Yes, in retrospect, many of the annoying things about the Sweeney Era now need to be reconsidered.

Anonymous said...

Do we need to mention Juan Gonzalez?

Anonymous said...

Granted, I have probably been warped by the era of "defensive medicine", but it is amazing to me that with the investment that is made in professional athletes, an MRI is not a mandatory step in any injury evaluation. Granted, an MRI is not the best imaging choice for every injury, but at the same time there does not seem to be any credible long term risk as there would be for a CT. It is expensive, but it costs less than one at bat for a player.

Bottom line, I would think that if you have any injury that does not go away after three days, an orthopedics consult and MRI should be mandatory steps. Anything else should be the exception, rather than the rule.

Shelby said...

Rany, if I were you, I'd try to hide if I were to see George Brett in public.

Dan said...

GREAT point, Rany! Hadn't even thought of this, but it makes a lot of sense. The sad thing, at least personally, is that Joakim Soria is now the "Royal I'm most giddy about watching" -- a crown vacant since.....Jose Rosado! (no, I'm not Mexican)

Oh, how I hope he doesn't suffer the same fate...

BHWick said...

While our training staff has been a problem for 6 years plus... wouldn't Hillman be hurting and not helping in this situation?

A manager and coaches would also have a good amount of judgment as to if someone should play or if they're due to go on the DL.

Swartz has been with the organization for as long as i've been alive, if I recall correctly.

marbotty said...

It's nothing serious!

No, wait, that's what we heard preceding every major injury the team encountered over a span of the last 15 years. Hadn't heard that lately, though -- must be that Nick's come up with better euphemisms, despite seemingly not being any more effective in the training department.

The suprise to me isn't that Rany's posting about this now -- instead, it's that this post was even necessary. I thought Swartz had been correctly identifiec as a menace about 7 years ago, and I guess I naively assumed he got his walking papers once Moore came on board.

Hmm, maybe this post was necessary after all///

Jeff said...

Compared to other teams we are ~8th on the list for having the most days/trips/average days on the DL

http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2009/6/4/896616/dissecting-the-disabled-list-by

Top Ramen said...

Ever since Trey was quoted as saying that Crisp only made it about 10 injury free games into the season, I've been wondering if it was another Rosado situation:

"You don't need an MRI, it's nothing serious.....just rub some dirt on it"

jjf3 said...

completely pointless thought: can fans sue a team for being criminally incompetent on behalf of the team's injured players, should they choose not to?
(Kinda kidding...)

I know MRI's and CT scans are expensive for us mere mortals, but for a team that spends thousands of dollars per AB or inning pitched, that number looks incredibly small compared to the alternative...

I find it hard to believe that any MLB organization, in this day and age, doesn't realize the potential cost associated with not minimizing injuries and DL time...and then there's the KC Royals...

(and this is not meant as a direct attack on Mr Swartz. While I suspect this isn't the case: for all we know, he's requested MRI's the first time each player's complained of pain, and been told "its too expensive" - there is the chance he's attempting to keep his job in an environment which doesn't allow him to do it properly. Again, not what I personally believe, but what do we really know?)

GoBabies said...

I got into this argument over @ Royals Review a few weeks ago.

I am of the opinion that a good training staff is so familiar with a players mechanics, that when a player is hurting THEY will notice it before the coaching staff often.

The argument took place when the Soria injury first flamed up (errr, was announced publicly) and some posters were adamant that the coaching staff/player should point out to the training staff when a player is favoring something.

I think this is a total farse. I played collegiality, not even at the highest levels, and our training staff on more than one occasion pointed out to the coaching staff that pitcher x didn't look right because he was favoring this or that, or the same thing with hitters.

And for the argument that 'maybe the Royals players aren't being forthcoming with their injury status' that points to a flaw in the system also if that is really going on. IT shows me that a) they don't trust the training staff to fix it right, and quickly, or b) they don't trust the Manager/GM to give them time to recover w/o losing their job. It's not like they can't stand missing out on all these nail-biting pennant chase games we are in!!!!

Mac said...

From an orthopedist's standpoint, I've often wondered about the Royals' training staff. Players always try to minimize their injuries and keep playing, but they Royals seem to have so many lingering injuries that just get worse over time. A team with a deeper minor league system would probably deal with injuries better, but KC just can't stand to let their few marginal players take the time to heal early on with no adequate replacements.

Labral injuries like Crisp's and Gordon's are hard to diagnose, even with MRIs, but there are just too many damned sore backs and strained muscles and rotator cuffs on this team. It smacks primarily of lack of prevention/conditioning, then slow recognition by the trainers, and hesistance to accept the need to heal. Affeldt's fingernail was a great example (despite even seeing a "fingernail specialist" in New York during that time).

Really though, a team that has a long history of weak minor league rosters are much more likely to sit on an injury for longer, hoping that it will sort out. That doesn't excuse the lack of conditioning though.

At least an injury as a Royal put a fortunate end to Chuck Knoblauch's career.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Rany. I've been preaching this to friends for three years now and it's been microscoped. It's about time. Keep the pressure on. Get rid of the head trainer, the conditioning guy, and everyone else that evaluates wellness. Bring in a new regime!

Limestone said...

It does not make a bit of difference. Dayton has shown he is bad at his job. Allowing Swartz to maim our players further is not even on Moore's radar.

dave said...

New topic! How about which players are traded before the deadline? I'm guessing at least one of DeJesus or Teahen, hopefully one if not both of Guillen and Jacobs, Mahay, possibly Cruz, and one of Bannister or Davies. Who am I missing? Possibly John Buck when he returns? What about dealing Soria if he strings together 5, 6, 7 saves in a row? What good does a dominant closer do for a second to last place team? He'd bring a king's ransom in return.

irishguy said...

Folks, Rany admits very early that he hasn't seen any medical records. Until you can do that, it is impossible to say what Swartz did or didn't do, and thus impossible to judge the job he is doing, either as a fan, a medical professional, or Swartz's immediate supervisor.

Which of course renders Rany's orginal post baseless, uninformed, and borderline unethical for a medical professional.

pjbronco said...

When you mix and incompetent trainer and a clueless manager, you get Gil Meche and his sore back throwing over 130 pitches to unnecessarily finish a complete game. Then the next two starts he gets absolutely tagged. This is a really bad organization.

gsmith601 said...

I really really hope the Royals look at an overhaul of their staff. Isn't their some Atlanta Braves refugee Dayton wants to work with again.

Greg

rather rapid said...

And Condelezza Rice is responsible for the Iraq war.

Rany fails to explain how a man trained in applying ankle wraps has this sort of team influence.

The poster Go Babies, who apparently has been there, gives a hint of what really goes on. The training staff "assists" the manager. It is the manager who constructs, defines and supervises the policies involving conditioning and injury prevention, which includes team injury reporting policies. Was it Nick Swartz who made the decision to continue to play Gordan, Soria, Tejada, Crisp, Farnsworth or Swartz that pitched Meche 132 pitches in a meaningless game. Is it Swartz who designs inseason conditioning, or does Swartz merely carry out the manager's orders?

If Rany would first define what Swartz's job is, the post might have been more helpful.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, most teams had a team doctor. I don't believe that the Royals have such a person. Perhaps they need one. However, I always thought it was rather embarrassing when the Royals would come out on opening day and their 2trainers, Nick Swartz and Frank Kite, looked like they were contestants in a Humpty Dumpty lookalike contest. I suppose if they are good at their jobs, it doesn't matter. It's clear that the Royals don't handle their injuries well. However, it's not clear whose fault that is.

Steve said...

I wish the Royals could get Andres Blanco back.

Anonymous said...

rather rapid, I think you misunderstood GoBabies' comments. He was saying that his experience was that athletic training staffs worth their salt are similar to good veterinarians; they are both capable of identifying problems without their subject communicating them. It is possible that over the course of Swartz's career he has advised the team properly, and all of the managers/GMs ignored his advice. It is not likely, however.

The role of the athletic trainer is to inform the team of the existence and severity of injuries, and advise of the proper action to take. As I said before, it is possible that the team has consistently ignored good advice that Swartz has provided. The history that Rany has laid out suggests that this is improbable. Even if that's the case, it may be necessary to bring in a head athletic trainer whose advice will be heeded.

irishguy, I'd argue that Rany has gone to great lengths to avoid being unethical. What if this post was made by some other Royals blogger? I think it was clear that the facts being laid out were being presented on face value only.

Ron said...

I think you may be tremendously overestimating the power and authority of the trainer on a MLB team. I remember Mickey Cobb's main job used to be to come out with a silver tube of cold spray of some kind and apply it to injured fingers, shins, etc. The trainer is not a physician...I don't believe most are even nurses, are they? I'm not even sure you can legitimately call them part of the "medical staff." I think their primary role is to help players rehab according to doctor's orders, keep track of tongue depressors and make sure the whirlpool is hot.

One thing that has changed under Hillman is all the secrecy. I don't ever remember the Royals making such a great effort to "trick" other teams by keepin secret a player's injury. It makes Hillman and Royals seem paranoid. If a player is injured, just announce it and play ball. Trying to fool everyone may lead to playinig people too much after they are injured and making the injury more serious than it needed to be.

Dave said...

Peter Gammons says Teahen is the hottest name talked about right now following the DeRosa trade. I give him less than a week in a Royals uniform. Dayton will maximize his value opening up 3rd for Gordon. No more pitching! We need offensive prospects!

Ron said...

I think you are greatly overestimating the influence of the Royals trainer. I recall Mickey Cobb's main jobs seemed to be coming out on the field with a silver tube of some cold spray to apply to a player's injured finger, shin, etc. That, and going to the movies a lot with George Brett on road trips. Isn't it a stretch to eve say Nick Schwartz is a part of the "medical staff?" He's not a physician, and I don't believe he's even a nurse. His primary job is to help make sure the players rehab according to doctors' orders, give a rubdown or two, and make sure the suana is heated up to the correct temperature. Blaming him for the Royals' injury woes seems like a gigantic stretch.

Anonymous said...

Meche still ain't right, I'm thinking... If his back were really good, he'd be able to stay down and drive that ball low into the SZ. Injuries happen with all sporting teams, but Rany's right, it's the constant lingering & (from the outside looking in) misdiagnosis goes back to the training staff.

Anonymous said...

One thing that I think wasn't evaluated is the type of players who are on the Royals roster. Coco Crisp has had a history of injuries before joining the Royals and so have a lot of players that we have traded for or gotten through free agency. I think of Juan Gonzalez as an example. Since we are a second tier team the only free agents and trades we get are second tier talent we end up with the worn out type of players who may be on their last legs aka Jose Guillen. They will require more medical attention and be off the field more because of this.

We could have the best medical staff in the world but broken down bodies are going to have problems and blaming that on Swartz is far-fetched and reaching a conclusion based on only limited knowledge.

What we need are younger, better players who have a greater health potential than the broken down has beens that are regularly showing up on the Royals.

Anonymous said...

And this morning I read in the Star that Meche is going to decide today if he will pitch on Wednesday. That he has a dead arm. I guarantee he will be on the DL before the end of the week.

This team is in total disarray. When do the Chiefs start?

Chiefdom said...

Rany, could you please give us whatever info and thoughts you have on the Chelsor Cuthburt signing?

Anonymous said...

As a fellow athletic trainer in the business, and a loyal Royals fan for life, reading this article and all the comments, I am obviously disappointed. Disappointed in many ways actually. For the past several seasons, I too have questioned some of the decisions made by the medical staff regarding certain players and their playing status. They just didn't make sense to me. I was crossing my fingers that it wasn't at the sole responsibility of Nick Schwartz. As a professional, we are in this together. We support each other in our work, and continue to improve our education to become better athletic trainers. So, after reading this rant, I am hoping my worst nightmare hasn't come true.

Secondly, on another note, it is disappointing that many of you fans do not know what an athletic trainer is, and the role an athletic trainer provides in a sports organization. We aren't simply here to tape ankles, wrap ice bags, and make sure the whirlpool is at the right temperature (Ron, you are extremely misinformed). Athletic training is a profession that is growing dramatically around the world. We do not limit ourselves to working only with sports teams. Check out our professional website, www.NATA.org. It has great amounts of information regarding our profession, our roles, our education, our history, our future.

Lastly, though all of you certainly have some sort of negative vindetta against Nick Schwartz and his potential poor medical decisions over the past years, do not let that hinder your abilities to support the profession of athletic training. Many of you probably have kids out there, some in high school or college. Most often, these places will have on staff (or hire) a certified athletic trainer to take care of your kids. We are well-qualified members of the medical community, and take pride in our efforts to ensure a safe environment, and provide quality medical care to our athletes or patients.

Don't forget to thank your athletic trainer! Have a great day.

bankmeister said...

As per your tweet about them being pissed, who communicated this to you?

bankmeister said...

Limestone, pjbronco:

Wow. That's all I have to say.

Anonymous said...

wish i could remember ALL of my names and passwords, but i can't so i'll just have to be anonymous again...

i was the one thinking Gil wasn't right after his last start, then i saw another anonymous post this: "And this morning I read in the Star that Meche is going to decide today if he will pitch on Wednesday. That he has a dead arm.". i guess a bad back won't get him off of the hill, so now he has to say his arm is 'dead' to get some rest. YIKES! THIS IS NOT GOOD AT ALL.

Just in case you guys/gals haven't played enough to know, when your back isn't good, the power can't transfer properly from the legs and you HAVE to use your arm to throw. if you're using less than your whole body, you ain't pitching, you're throwing. oh yeah, if you can't bend in the middle (back) the ball stays way up in the zone. just like Gil's last start. when he was doing his best to imitate pitching while throwing with a lingering back issue. the boy's got guts, that's for sure.

Dr. James Andrews, paging Dr. James Andrews!

btw: i can say for myself, i really appreciate the anonymous athletic trainer's note. i think i assumed y'all have a much bigger roll than just ice, tape and water temp., but still largely unsure. thanks! my thanks to you does not absolve GMDM from thoroughly evaluating the training staff during and at the end of this season. this current post of Rany's isn't the first time i've read about the R's having a training staff the MLB industry does not think very highly of across the board. not to mention the lingering injuries (fingernails, backs, shoulders, hips) that just... linger.

Ron said...

My apologizes. I did not realize the athletic trainer was the primary source of medical care and advice for professional sports teams. I now understand the Royals rely on Nick Swartz to handle medical issues for the team and, if any player has a poor result for a medical condition, the team's athletic trainer bears the primary responsibility for this.

Given this new information, my suggestion is that the Royals consider consulting a licensed physician whenever a player has a medical problem. Who knows? The outcomes might improve.

BTW, if the athletic trainer does not wrap ankles, maintain the supplies and equipment in the training room, who does? Perhaps one of the beer vendors stops by and takes care of these things before and after each game.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Ron. You were probably that kid that got beat up at recess constantly during your younger years, then got promoted to toilet swirlies and wedgies during your high school days. I wonder what it must be like to be such an ignorant D-Bag such as yourself........hmmmm.

Shelby said...

Mitch Maier is up with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth....I will bet my life that he does NOT get a hit or even get on base.

Anonymous said...

Rany, If you don't call for Hillman's head on a platter after this disgusting 2-1 loss to Minny, I will be very disappointed. This was the most disgusting display of fundamental baseball I have ever seen. I've had enough. I'm done for the year as a royals fan, it's single A ball.

Envious of the Pirates today said...

No timely hitting and unearned runs = another loss. What a surprise. Same old Royals...another day, another loss.

Anonymous said...

Make some trades, Dayton!

Anonymous said...

I would keep: Grienke, Meche, Hochevar, Bannister, Soria. Gordon, Butler, Kaaihue, Callaspo, Bloomquist, Maier, 2 of the 3 catchers, and a couple other warm bodies to make a 25 man roster. Everybody else at MLB or AAA should probably be traded, released, waived, DFA'd, tasered, etc.

Scott said...

And now Aviles, who started hurting in SPRING TRAINING is out 9-12 months with Tommy John surgery. Yet ANOTHER player where our staff thought he could play through it, then thought he needed rest, but now needs major elbow surgery. This is a joke. I'm glad you wrote about it, as I've been having this argument with my friends for a while now about Schwartz.

I don't understand why you wait until the end of the year. He's obviously not doing ANYTHING to help the royals. Why not bring in some community doctor on a rotating basis, like they do with Buck O'Neill's seat?

Jay in Houston said...

how long before boston releases julio lugo? would love to get that guy for the league minimum.

he's vastly superior to any of the duds we're trotting out there regularly.

this royals team is as bad as any in the last 10 years, which is saying something.

read joe poz' description of the offense getting worse the more dayton does.

really wondering whether he's the right guy now. 3.25 mil for jacobs to block kila. send him down. if he refuses, cut him. we can't afford to have him blocking anyone anymore.

Anonymous said...

another 120 plus pitches for Meche coming into the game complaining of a dead arm! Brilliant limit him to 100 and then get him healthy and trade him!

scagnetti said...

From Aviles, re: TJ surgery...
"When I got a second opinion, that's when we found the tear."

hmmm

Anonymous said...

I'd trade Callaspo now while his offensive value is high. Granted he is probably are best hitter right now but he offers nothing else and may bring back a decent return. I can't even believe you included Maier on your keeper list!

Anonymous said...

I said keep Maier because (1) he has little/no value, and (2)someone has to play outfield. He makes the minimum and apparently they have NO ONE ELSE or they would already be playing (I hope).

donopunk said...

Over the years you don't know how many fellow Royals fans have made the comment "the Royals need to fire their trainer" and this is just said on intuition from following the Royals from year to year.

Anonymous said...

You could always move Swartz to 3B, and let Owen be the trainer. It wouldn't be any *more* harmful, at least.

JayHawklet said...

Another guy you completely forgot was Miguel Asencio. They destroyed him.