Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Radio Doctors: Felger and Massarotti

Physicians spend a lifetime training to diagnose and treat illness and injury. After obtaining a college degree with cut-throat premeds, physicians spend four years in medical school, and often five to eight additional years in specialty and subspecialty training. Then they have to pass certifying and recertifying exams to demonstrate some standard of competence. It's hard to get it right even when you have the opportunity to examine the patient directly and access medical testing. 

Evidently, it's a waste of time. The Radio Doctors can skip that final decade of training and experience and jump directly into practice. "What do you mean?" 

When Mike Napoli injured his fourth finger on his left hand in May 2014, Tony Massarotti proclaimed something to the effect of "pop it in and play". How did that work out? Napoli had his least productive season in years. Why? 

Although all of our fingers are important, grip strength is largely a function of the outer fingers. Try grasping a bat with just your thumb and inner two fingers...not too successful. Sprains and dislocations of the outer fingers are very limiting for a baseball player. 

Doctor Felger loves to comment about basketball players. When Marcus Smart suffered a severe ankle sprain, "he went down like he was shot", Doctor Mike lambasted the player for a lack of toughness. Hall of Fame coach Pete Newell had a saying about playing the game with your feet. Footwork, balance, and maneuvering speed were Newell's triad that the sport demanded. The injury was a major setback for the developing guard, but to Felger, M.D. he was just another soft NBA player. 

The latest episode of the Radio Doctors has Jimmy Garoppolo sitting out with nothing broken. Surely, it's part of the dreaded Eastern Illinois Syndrome, first highlighted by Tony Romo. 

Once again, Doctor Felger calls out a player for a lack of toughness with his AC joint separation. He insinuated that Tom Brady would be out there playing with the same injury. 

Here's an illustration of what Garoppolo's MRI probably looks like. 

Of course, the Radio Doctors have sustained injuries, too. You don't see them miss shows because of a paper cut, hangnail, a cold, or bruised egos. They're in the A-hole and B-hole chairs every day, dealing not with J.J. Watt but the ultimate tough guy, Carlton from Norwell. 

It's not about anatomy, physiology, or empathy. It's about ratings. And, to their credit, the Radio Doctors have delivered. Maybe they should be in Obstetrical Radio, where it's all about delivering? 

Seriously, we shouldn't confuse entertainment with facts or the individual differences in response and healing to injury and illness. Pro sports are among the greatest reality shows on television. But everyone knows that you can play 'hurt' but you can't perform injured. I'm no Orthopaedic genius but if you want truly uninformed sports medicine commentary, tune in to the Radio Doctors. And to paraphrase the great Mickey Mantle, who told Roger Maris being hounded by reporters during his pursuit of 61, "hit 'em with your wallet." 

Sunday, September 18, 2016


As of this morning, the Red Sox have eighty-four wins. That was my preseason projection. Sometimes, you take your medicine and move on. 

What went well? The Red Sox have gotten MVP caliber seasons from Mookie Betts and David Ortiz and a possible Cy Young performance from Rick Porcello. Sign him to a long-term extension? Done, by the vilified Ben Cherington, now of the Toronto Blue Jays. 

How good has Betts been? Jacoby Ellsbury's magnificent 2011 season carried an 8.1 WAR. With two weeks left in the regular season, Betts is at 8.5. Willie Mays in 1954, at age 23, had a WAR of 10.6. Certainly, that's not saying Betts will be Willie Mays; it's just a reference point. 

I think of a WAR of 5 as all-star caliber play. Anything over 8 puts you at a possible MVP-type season. 10 is god-like. Babe Ruth had nine WAR seasons over 10. Willie Mays had six. Mickey Mantle had three. Carl Yastrzemski's 1967 campaign was 10.2. His next highest season was 8.2. 

Since returning from knee surgery, Craig Kimbrel has been lights out with 14 1/3 innings of one-run ball and twenty-seven strikeouts. David Price hasn't been lights out, but he's been excellent down the stretch, discounting yesterday's so-so day. 

Hanley Ramirez has twenty-six homers, 102 RBI, and has been steady at first base. We expected that? Dustin Pedroia is competing for a batting title, has a WAR of 5.5, and has his career average is back over .300. Xander Bogaerts had seven homers in 2015 and hit his 20th yesterday. 

The naysayers will say, "none of this matters; the season isn't over." The 1964 Phillies proved that chicken-counting can go bad. But I...was...wrong. 

Saturday, September 03, 2016


The Yoan Moncada countdown is on. You won't convince me that Travis Shaw (three extra base hits, five RBI last night) isn't feeling it. I won't suggest that Shaw has rested on his laurels; maybe competition will help him focus. 

Supposedly, Moncada's English has advanced very well. I don't know whether that's an advantage. Were I sharing media advice with him, I'd suggest some shoulder shrugging and a big dose of "I don't know."

Expecting a lot from a kid isn't realistic. But with John Farrell seeing his managerial mortality dwindling, he has an entirely new attitude toward young players. His perceived mistreatment of a younger Bogaerts and Bradley is unquestionable. But a drowning man who refuses a life preserver is not simple; he is a fool. Of course, a drowning man wearing a bullpen anchor needs more than a life preserver. 

In a way, I feel a little bad for Farrell. A little. He has 'mean reversion' going for him on David Price, but against him on Steven Wright and Rick Porcello. But nobody thinks his game management, especially his use of the bullpen, passes muster. When you use up Junichi Tazawa like a box of tissues, you need a new box, not used tissues. 

Farrell got his reputation for being a tough guy, "John Wayne" Farrell. Get in people's faces, especially after the 'chicken and beer' era. That dog don't hunt. 

In a large sample size, Farrell is a .500 manager, managing in a city where .500 reminds fans of Dan Shaughnessy's "Loserville" mantra. 

It is only fitting that Farrell's future probably hinges on a final Armageddon weekend against his former team. 

All of us should root for Farrell to succeed improbably rather than fail conventionally. Boston's destiny links inextricably to Farrell's. The 2013 horseshoe supported by overachievement by an unlikely cast created high expectations. Two years of abject failure disheartened even the most optimistic fans. 

After the West Coast swing, the Red Sox finish the entire month with 23 games against AL East rivals. John Wooden's father would remind them, "Don't whine. Don't complain. Don't make excuses." Put up or shut up.