Dept of “What Kept You?”

The only question I have about Nick Swisher’s decision to have arthroscopic surgery on both knees, which ends his season, is “What took so long?”It’s been obvious, for months, that something was wrong with Swisher.

Swisher has almost always been a player who starts well. He hit .296 in spring training (.906 OPS) In spring training and has (except for 2011) , always come out of the gate decently (and usually well). This year he hits .211 with no power and he can’t bend over to pick up a ball. I am:

  • Not a professional coach, scout or trainer.
  • Not a Nick Swisher fan (I couldn’t mimic his batting stance or tell you if he has any unique mannerisms)
  • Wearing trifocals
  • Watching them play, most nights, on the 32″ non-HD TV in my bedroom,

And yet I can see that the guy isn’t close to 100%– maybe not 50%. He’s lumbering around the field, can’t hit low pitches and seems uncomfortable taking a big swing (which always means it’s a leg issue). I’d like to think that the Indians have ultra-high-def footage– at least for the games they play at home– of both home plate and the mound, so they can break down mechanics and identify stuff.

But they just let him continue– gave him a couple of cortisone shots, put him on the DL when it was obvious he couldn’t function.

This gets into an issue I’ve argued with both agents and team execs. Baseball contracts are guaranteed (assuming you don’t violate your contract), so the team can’t refuse to pay the player no matter how he performs. But since teams own the performance come what may, they should also have some control over the player’s behavior.

Yeah, I get that Nick Swisher is a gamer. He probably watched Pride of The Yankees too many times and never noticed that Lou Gehrig had some seasons (1929, 1933, 1935) where he was clearly playing hurt and it was hurting his results (not to mention Cal Ripken). But stubbornly insisting on playing through an injury (especially something that requires rest or surgery) hurts the team. And obligating the team to pay him that performance– at a rate based on his healthy production– is unfair.

Not to mention that if a player has surgery, he can often (not always) come back and play well.

I get told that you can’t order a player to have surgery and if you put him on the DL over his objection, the union gets involved. What I also notice is that the Indians seem to have move of these events than most teams. Swisher (both this year and last), Justin Masterson, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez. There have been bad years where the team announces, as soon as the season ended, that the player was battling i all year long and now he’s going to have surgery.

Maybe it’s just a subjective impression– exacerbated by bad luck or proximity–  but other teams seem to be able to tell players “Look, something is wrong and we need to shut you down and get you to a doctor.”

Coupled with all the other examples of wishful thinking that take place on this franchise (“We can sign John Axford and get through a year with him as the closer.”), you’d have to figure this is more on the front office.


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