Dr. Joseph Hecht's Archives

Echos of Long Toss and Towel Drills Past

Rich Harden was all the news yesterday even though there was nothing new going on. Harden was newsworthy because he's starting the spring camp with long toss rather than work off the mound like the other pitchers. He's been on an off-season strengthening program for an achy-breaky shoulder that everyone in Cubs camp is still struggling to label. It's kind of like having a family member with a psychiatric diagnosis in the 1950's. Nobody wants to label the poor fella because of the stigma and gossip. Sun-Times beat reporter Gordon Wittenmyer, in his blog, was irked that once again there was misinformation delivered this off-season regarding what the diagnosis of Harden's shoulder issues are.

Can anybody tell me what the advantage is in omitting those details and being vague about these things? It's not like the Cubs have to protect the information for the purposes of shopping Harden or for any on-the-field competitive reasons (scouts have eyes).

I've covered three other teams in my career, and the ones that were most up front about these kinds of things had the fewest headaches with the way the information got out. And the fans stayed well informed, without the yo-yo effect.

A Random Walk before Cubs Pitchers and Catchers Report

Some interesting storylines developing this weekend.

Alex Rodriguez, Donald Fehr and Bud Selig are going to have some splainin' to do with Sports Illustrated breaking a blockbuster HERE regarding ARod testing positive for two anabolic steroids in 2003 while with Texas. In fact, it's not just ARod but 104 players in total are on this list, which led to MLB adopting a random testing program for steroids in 2004. More than 5% of players tested were showing positive results in what was hoped to be proof that steroid use was nothing more than a rare situation. When the games biggest stars get pantsed as cheaters, in this case as defined by ARod turning his talents into $25-30 million/year contracts, the steroid era stain just keeps on spreading. Kind of like that pink spot in "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back".

When approached by an SI reporter on Thursday at a gym in Miami, Rodriguez declined to discuss his 2003 test results. "You'll have to talk to the union," said Rodriguez, the Yankees' third baseman since his trade to New York in February 2004. When asked if there was an explanation for his positive test, he said, "I'm not saying anything."

Primobolan, which is also known by the chemical name methenolone, is an injected or orally administered drug that is more expensive than most steroids.  According to a search of FDA records, Primobolan is not an approved prescription drug in the United States, nor was it in 2003.

Rodriguez finished the 2003 season by winning his third straight league home run title (with 47) and the first of his three MVP awards.

Because more than 5% of big leaguers had tested positive in 2003, baseball instituted a mandatory random-testing program, with penalties, in '04.

Truth or Consequences? This is the Katie Couric Interview with ARod after the Mitchell Report was released last year where he flat out denies using PED's. Here are three blunt questions he was asked in that interview:

Q: For the record, have you ever done steroids, Human Growth Hormone or any other PED's?
Q: Have you ever been tempted to use any of those things?
Q: Who do you think has the real HR record, Hank Aaron or Barry Bonds?

Bruce Levine
was on vacation (at the Dunes in Vegas) for his regular ESPN radio
"Talkin' Baseball" show. Jonathan Hood substituted and Len Kasper was
interviewed. Len did say they will have 9 Cub games on TV this spring starting with two from Las Vegas begining March 4th. ESPN-1000's website now has downloadable archives
to Levine's weekly show for those who need a "BRUUCE" fix.

The Waddle and
Silvy show, daytimes (locally in Chicago) on ESPN-1000 radio has a similar site that has archives.
Their show from Feb 4th has an interview with Steve Stone who typically
is critical of the Cubs (this time for trading DeRosa and not signing

In a separate interview (same show) they talk to Todd Hollandsworth who will
now be doing the pre/post game duties for the Cubs on Comcast Sports
Network. Hollandsworth should be a nice addition, replacing Dan Plesac who has moved on to the new MLB network. Hollandsworth had been a weekly feature on David Kaplan's WGN radio Sports Central show, which essentially turned into a test run for him getting the CSN job. Color me a big fan of Plesac's work and the new MLB network which just added Bob Costas to their talent pool this week.

Rock on Len. Roll on Bruce.

Ben Sheets Work Comp Case

Free agent Ben Sheets is hurt and has a torn flexor tendon origin at the elbow. The injury happened last August, he tried to play thru the injury and his last Brewer appearance was 2.1 IP against the Cubs on Sept 27th. Missing the playoffs after 8 seasons as the Brewer ace plus being in a free agent year must have been nearly as painful as his elbow. Yet circumstances of impending free agency may have created some controversy as to who is responsible to pay for treatment of Sheets elbow malady. After all, if Sheets was still under contract with the Brewers and if they thought his injury needed surgery,  wouldn't he have already undergone the surgery that is now proposed for him? The Brewers did offer Sheets arbitration, which he declined and no surgical decision was made as his season ended nor at the time he declined arbitration. This implies that the Brewers medical staff didn't think his elbow needed surgery and would heal with rest. So in looking for a new employer, the Texas Rangers were readying a 2 year deal when Sheets physical exam (functionally a second opinion) set off alarms.

From the above article:

Talks between the Rangers and Sheets reached an impasse within the past several days, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions. The two sides were close to agreement on a two-year deal, according to a major-league source, but they already had concerns regarding the right-handers' checkered health history. It is believed that the physical examination revealed the tear and caused the Rangers to scotch the deal.

The surgery, to repair Sheets' partially torn flexor tendon, is expected to be performed by noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala. Sheets' agent, Casey Close, could not be reached for comment, but sources say that he maintains Milwaukee should pay for the surgery since the injury stems from his time with the Brewers. While that dispute is resolved, Sheets now hopes to have the surgery next week, sources say.

Brewers assistant GM, Gord Ash in an mlb.com article added:

We're working our way through all of the details and we don't know the answer yet," Ash said. "Major League Baseball has regulations related to workers' comp and there are procedures and protocols that have to be respected. We're working our way through those so I can't give you much insight other than that.

I always wondered if pro baseball players who get injured are covered under workman's compensation? 

Jim Hendry's Plan #44

Before I get to what's going on with Aaron Heilman's knee, I've got a few odds and ends to mention.

I've figured out what the heck Cubs GM, Jim Hendry, is up to this offseason. In a nutshell, in an attempt to beef up the middle of the lineup he wanted to add one of the all time great sluggers to the Cub lineup. Unfortunately Hank Aaron is just about to turn 75 years old. So this great idea came to him in a dream...swap out Hanks (Blanco, Williamson) and accumulate Aarons (Miles, Heilman). Voilà, plan #44!

The newest acquisition (Aaron Heilman) grew up as a Cub fan. It seems that this is the first directive from Tom Ricketts, all new organizational members must be diehard fans.

On to Aaron Heilman's medical issues. I've not been able to find a precise diagnosis to his 2008 left knee ailment other than it being labeled tendonitis. This LINK goes to an article from Sept 12th, 2008 discussing what problems Heilman was dealing with last year.

Last night on WGN radio, David Kaplan interviewed Aaron Heilman and specifically asked him about his knee problems. All we got was "athlete speak." It does seem that they have a therapy treatment plan that was worked out for him to address his issues this offseason.

Kaplan:  In terms of your knee. I'm reading an article on ESPN today, it said knee pain played a role in your 2008 struggles. Would you agree that your knee was a problem and how is it today?

AH: Right now it's great. I feel healthy, everything feels good. I struggled a bit early on in the season trying to figure out a routine that would work best for me. By the end of the year I had figured that out. It certainly took a lot longer than I thought it would and that I hoped it would. It certainly wasn't 'the' factor that caused me to have a year I wasn't particularly pleased with. When you are going through something like that, you're trying to figure it out, you're trying to do different things every day, you don't really quite have a routine because you're not sure how you're going to feel the next day, that can play a role into it.  We've got all those issues hammered out. I'm looking forward to staying with a good program, staying healthy all year and just going out there and competing. 

Tendonitis refers to inflammation of a tendon and there are several tendons around the knee. The largest two are the quadriceps tendon (which inserts into the patella/kneecap) and the patellar tendon (which goes from the patella to the tibia below the knee).  Tendonitis of either one is common. There are also hamstrings (medial or lateral) and even the gastrocnemius which is more of a calf muscle but the tendons go behind and above the knee attaching to the femur.

Update on The Latest Cub Unicorn

There is this article in today's Sun-Times about Rich Harden's winter rehab. He's working on a  6 day a week strengthening program that could be the most rigorous of any Cub this offseason. It's designed to "ease" him up to pitching conditions "by the end" of spring training. Fine. I remember this somewhere in the not too distant Cub past (including the Larry Rothschild quotes). Flushed with a strong sense of Déjà vu, I finally saw some new information in the article:

But sources also confirmed Saturday that Harden has a tear in the joint, just severe enough that some players might seek surgery but slight enough to be in a range often treated effectively with a strengthening program, therapy and a well- managed work schedule.

Gordon Wittenmyer in the Sun-Times doesn't give enough info to make me absolutely certain but the implication is Harden is putting up with a "Kerry Wood type" rotator cuff tear. I do recall that Harden underwent an MRI/Arthrogram after the season to better assess his shoulder issues and before the team decided to pick up his $7 Million option. The press was told this on October 8th:

General manager Jim Hendry said an MRI-arthrogram on Harden's shoulder revealed no tears of the labrum or rotator cuff, referring to Harden's problems as "subtle instability in the shoulder."

At the Cubs Convention yesterday GW's article says "sources" confirmed Harden has "a tear in the joint." This implies the rotator cuff tissue has an area that is showing structural damage on the MRI/Arthrogram, but not involving the full thickness of the cuff tendon and thus without any detachment from it's insertion on bone (greater tuberosity). Any surgical repair has to take down some degenerative tissue that is worn but not detached. The results of surgery on that type of situation would be iffy for a high end starting pitcher, especially if they were counting on him for 2009. Hence he's on a non-surgical treatment protocol analagous to what Kerry Wood went through after his MRI/Arthrogram in July 2006.

January, Chicago's Hottest Month of the Year

I love baseball newsy days in January. I love roster moves. You can see that I don't even mind listening to a baseball guru or two.

Fox's Baseball analyst, Ken Rosenthal was on WGN Radio's "Sports Central" show hosted by David Kaplan tonight. For those not able to listen, here's a summary of his take on all things recently swirling in Cubsville. He takes on Milton Bradley vs Lou Piniella (a dangerous mix). Could these two ever be as lovable as Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson in the 2003 film, Anger Management? Somehow, I just can't see LouPa getting Bradley to sing, "I Feel Pretty".

Plus a bit more on the shrinking odds to acquire some guy named Jake.

On to the details, after the jump...

Fleita Afoot

The weekly radio baseball gabfest known as "Talking Baseball" (ESPN AM 1000, Chicago) hosted by Bruce Levine (and frequently Chet Coppock, in the role of sidekick) is a nice source of Cub information. Of course you have to wade through lengthy questions that often take minutes to unfold. Interviews with management are usually cloaked in generalizations, clichés and unrequited hope.

This saturday's show featured an interview with Cubs Vice President of Player Personnel, Oneri Fleita, as well as some discussion on the management's thinking behind the recent Mark DeRosa for prospects trade.

Fleita was not going to short change us on clichés like  "You've got to play the games" and  "Everybody starts in first place." Still it was good to hear about prospects in the news like Josh Vitters and the 3 newest pitching prospects acquired from Cleveland.

Bruce Levine updated and opined about the state of the Cubs roster changes including keeping the roster flexible as well as the progress on acquiring a sense of left handedness with attitude (feisty Milton Bradley, scrappy Aaron Miles and the even scrappier Mike Fontenot).

He also has an opinion about Jake da Ace, aka he-who-must-not-be-named.

The incredibly wordy play by play after the jump...

Is the Car Jumper a Cub?

Update (11AM, CST): Cubs.com site makes it sound official. Per ESPN, Gathright will get a one year deal at $800K. Gordon Wittenmyer at the Sun-Times also weighs in with this confirming article, as does Paul Sullivan from the Tribune.

This is far from being confirmed, but I have found several links saying the recently non-tendered KC Royal, Joey Gathright will be finding his way to the Cubs roster. Apparently a report by Jesse Rogers on WSCR-AM mentioned that he's been signed (around 6pm Monday evening). Carrie Muskat then posted this odd mention of Gathright at Cubs.com. Noting that the 27 year old speedy, no power, lefty hitting OF could be added to the roster soon. She also reminds us that Gathright played for Lou Piniella and stole 20 bases for Tampa in 2005. Finally, in an interview with Joe Castellano on XM radio monday night, Cubs superscout Gary Hughes (special assistant to GM Jim Hendry) mentioned that "we're going to add a speed guy". He didn't name names but it sure seems odd to have this confluence of soft information match up all at once.

Maybe Jim Hendry wants Gathright for his jumping skills. You can see his famous car jumping video here. The Cubs can use anyone who can top Dodger pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and  Gathright garnered attention when he jumped over Kuroda avoiding a tag in a spring training game last year. It certainly isn't based on his hitting prowess, 263  .324  .308  are his career splits vs righty pitching.

If the Pitcher Jumping, Car Jumping, 5th OF is signed to a contract, does that hasten, ala Snagglepuss, an exit - stage door left for Felix Pie?  I'd like to see Pie get one more chance but it seems like he may literally as well as figuratively be running out of options. In any event, it's hard to get too worked up over the 25th roster spot in December, particularly when the starting right fielder has yet to be sorted out.

I've put my notes from the Gary Hughes interview after the jump...

Dead or Not Dead

So ends the saga of Jake Peavy to the Cubs for 7 or more players. But is the deal really dead? In fact, even the Brian Roberts deal isn't exactly dead. These kind of non-transactions take a "life" of their own. So I thought we might play a little game. One of the more common cliche's is "the best trade is often the one not made".

The Best of TCR: The Hendry Chronicles

Everthing Arizona Phil writes in the comment section is worthy of a Best of TCR article. But this Best of TCR writeup is to show that I can find a post when news is particularly thin (beyond those gimme's from our TCR guru in the desert). Thanksgiving weekend is usually a desert of baseball news unto itself. Thus to brighten our tumbleweed desolate weekend, my long time friend, The E-Man steps up with a summary of Bruce Levine's ESPN AM-1000 saturday morning "Talking Baseball" weekly radio show. Enjoy (except for the part where he says that my season tickets will be more expensive). Take it away E-Man:

Just heard Hendry on WMVP this AM with Bruce Levine.

Jimbo came on the show...

- no slam dunk with Marmol as closer. He is not "set to close", but it is Lou's decision. They (Marmol/Gregg) may share duties. One may close more in the beginning of the year than the other.


Recent comments

The first 600 characters of the last 16 comments, click "View" to see rest of comment.
  • oh man, early on it seems like he made at least 1 stupid baserunning blunder per game and almost every single one turned into a positive for the cubs. it was magical.

  • You can't prove the peformance is because he played the OF. You just can't. Sorry.

    BTW, Bryant hit .168 in July playing 3B exclusively.

  • Not surprised about Lester but bit surprised about Hendricks. Guessing that if something happens to Arietta right away they go to Lester but if they've burned relievers and are in extra innings they go to Hendricks.

  • My kids' 8:30pm (ET) bed time will be waived tonight (They are Rizzo & Castro fans). We'll get geared up in our Cubs apparel and will watch this as a family. I am stoked. Go Cubs!

  • Bryant: Base running adventures.

  • Remember Bryant's home-away splits, too.

    Wrigley: 21 HR, 59 RBI, .311/.408/.629
    Road: 5 HR, 40 RBI, .243/.333/.360

  • Good Lord this season has flown by so far. I need more Cubs gifs--the four on the MLB.com article today are not enough. I need a 100 best moments of the season listicle of gifs.
    Rizzo: The slide, the catch.
    Russell: All the defense.
    Bryant: Pelting the video board.
    Soler: 125 MPH ground balls.
    Schwarber: DINGERS, surprising LF catches.
    Fowler: Walks, the many walks he should have had on 3-2 BS strike calls.
    Baez: That 3B play.
    Ross: Walk-up music? Bullpen appearance?
    Denorfia: Walk-off.
    Castro: Walk-offs.

  • No evidence other than 8 hits and 0 HR in 45 AB....

    I just think hitters like their routines -- think Boggs or Ted Williams -- and messing with that routine adds an element of change. I want my best hitters in their normal routines.

  • evidently i was busy burying context and meaning.

    i was excited about this playoff season kicking up in the drama of that environment, but it was stated insanely muddled.

  • Woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep in excitement/anticipation. Go Cubs Go!

  • The only issue with this dead horse is that there's no evidence that his performance during those games is solely due to playing the OF. I would tend to agree that I'd rather see him play 3B, though.

  • What do you mean by new format in this instance? The second wildcard team with a one-game playoff has been around since 2012.

  • Doubled over with anxiety today. GO CUBS.

  • Illuminati.

  • May the best team win, and subsequently humiliate the Cardinals.

  • I love arriving here first thing in the morning, adding a few moronic posts (moranic for any Cardinals fans who may be trolling), and reading the sage posts of all you guys. Most knowledgeable fans on any forum, by far. So post like crazy today and help give TCR some visibility!

    I told my wife last night that I'm going to need a support system for tonight's game. Tonight is going to be a lot harder on me than it is going to be on these rookie bad asses.