• Twins injury policy needs rehabilitation

    Denard Span
    On Thursday night, Denard Span played in his first game in 10 days since injuring his clavicle on a Jeff Keppinger line drive on August 12.

    Spanís absence triggered yet another debate amongst Twins fans and pundits alike who questioned the teamís inability to properly handle their disabled. Rather than place Span on the DL a day or two after the injury appeared to be more than simply a day-to-day situation and keep the dugout stocked with healthy bodies, the Twins allowed the situation to drag on for over a week Ė culminating in an MRI attempt that never happened because of Spanís claustrophobia.
    Of course, Span is not the Twinsí first encounter with a prolonged injury this year either.
    Prior to Spanís ordeal, it was Trevor Plouffe who had the extended time off. On July 20, Plouffe bruised his thumb on his throwing hand and left the game against the Royals early. The prognosis at the time was that it was originally thought of as day-to-day. It took seven days before he was placed on the DL only to finally return on August 13.

    Before Plouffe it was Justin Morneau who, at the end of April, re-injured his surgically repaired wrist. Morneau missed three games in May in addition to five calendar days before the Twins ultimately made the move to put him on the DL.
    At some point, these missed games add up.

    Clearly, Iím not a doctor. I diagnose most injuries regardless of the severity with Vitamin I (Ibuprofen) and a few (dozen) Grain Belt Premiums. The Twins, on the other hand, have (presumably) a well-paid, well-educated medical staff that should, by most accounts, identify and set out a clear path of recovery. Yet, somehow, these injuries and ailments Ė no matter how seemingly minor Ė continue to drag out and leave the team short-handed for extended periods of time.

    Truthfully, I have no idea on how the internal decision process is made to DL or not to DL but it appears that the team puts the onus on the players on these ostensibly innocuous injuries. It harkens back to 1993ís The Program, in which James Caanís character asked one of his football players if he was hurt or injured; the difference being, if he was hurt, he could still play. In Span, Plouffe and Morneauís case, the players communicated to the medical and coaching staff that they were simply hurt and that they could play in no time. The response from each was ďIíll be fine in a day or two.Ē

    For instance, the Star Tribuneís LaVelle Neal wrote that the team was counting on Span to let them know if or when heís able to suit back up:

    The Twins want their players to be honest with them, and they believed Span when he told them he would need just a few days before returning to the lineup.
    Like Span, Plouffe told reporters and coaches that he would expect to miss ďa dayĒ at that time. Ron Gardenhire told reporters after the game that ďWe've all done that as a hitter -- you get a deep bone bruise right in there and it's pretty painful. So we'll give him a day or two with a little ice and treatment, and he should be back in there."

    Similarly, after the decision was made to send Morneau to the disabled list, then acting manager Scott Ullger told reporters that ďItís up to him to let us know when he can play.Ē

    This has become a crappy policy. After two seasons it is obvious that the players cannot be counted on to do this kind of determination. They have machismo and often millions at stake. They certainly WANT to play, thereís no question there. To be fair, the players are the ones actually playing and feeling the pain so they should have an open dialogue with the coaching staff but, ultimately, should they be the influential factor when contemplating the well-being of the roster?

    Again, Iím not a doctor Ė if you needed the reminder. I am a baseball analyst who relies on statistics and data and I have little to no baseline to judge or rate the Twins organizationís methods against another. There is no Wins Above Replacement Level For Guys Your Just DLíed found on Fangraphs.com. A measuring stick does not exist (it should and some enterprising researcher needs to take up the cause). What does seem obvious is that playing short-handed hinders the team to some degree.

    Now, whether or not summoning someone like Clete Thomas or Chris Parmelee would have changed the outcome is certainly debatable but it would seem that continuing down this path regularly puts a team in a deficit. Had this been a contending team, a few games lost because of the disabled list indecision could have cost them vital ground in the standings.

    The policy in the Twins clubhouse regarding injuries needs to be re-examined and return rehabilitated in 2013.
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins injury policy needs rehabilitation started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 25 Comments
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      It would be really interesting if there were a way to compare the results of various medical staffs. I think most of us generally grumble about what has/is going on with injuries on the Twins. I just don't pay close enough attention to other teams to know how that compares.
      Baseball Prospectus (now Rotowire, I believe) handed out the Dick Martin Award each year to the best medical staff. While the total numbers are no longer available, this 2009 piece/chart shows how much difference in time lost there was between the best (291, CWS) and the worst (1,451, NYM).

      Look at the Royals last year. After years of losing more than 1,000 games each year to injury, they pared that down to 271 thanks, in part, to the hiring of a new training staff in 2010.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Really interesting article, Parker. Thanks. Do you know if the 3-year and 5-year stats to which they refer are available somewhere? It would be interesting to see how the Twins rank. It would also be interesting to see if there has been any movement in their position.

      I also thought that the statement about confidence in younger players was interesting. But it also seems like teams with younger players should have less games lost to injury just as a matter of course.

      One other thing, won't KC be really adversely affected this year given their rash of TJ surgeries? And how does that tie in to the new training methods?
    1. Madre Dos's Avatar
      Madre Dos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Elizabethton's Trainer was named the Appalachian League Trainer of the Year... I wonder if he would consider the big league gig?
      Ryan's home is in minneapolis i'm sure he wouldn't mind coming home (and the incrase in pay would also be nice). we'd misshim here in elizabethton - he has been with us several seasons.
    1. joeboo_22's Avatar
      joeboo_22 -
      I get the part where athletes have to be honest with their injuries, but from my personal history with a few injuries that is hard to say. If someone ask you can you go tomorrow? IDK, I cracked a rib (or 2 or more) this past fall. 2 days later I could barely move, and couldn't laugh, or do anything. 5 days later I felt fine. But 5 days after that they really started bother me when I re-injured them stretching. So I understand the whole thing can be hard. But when a guy can't participate in batting practice on his 5th day, he should be DL'd. The Twins aren't in a race, they are in the bottom 5 of all of baseball. If you take a guy, DL him, get him 100% that is fine. What if he came back too early and screwed something up in his shoulder and had no trade value over the winter and had to miss time next year?
      Now I do understand the part of who to call up, but the Twins send down Carson's when Span came back so they could have called up a pitcher. they could have called up an infielder, they could have called up Parmellee and seen if how he handles RF. This is the time of the year, in this type of year where you see what you have. Having a guy be day-to-day for 11 days doesn't help you in that path.
    1. SpantheMan's Avatar
      SpantheMan -
      If a player is truly DTD then don't DL him. If he is butera or some other bench player, then DL them if they are going to miss even a few days. Since they are so close to replacement level, when if they play at 90% that provide basically the same value as a tripple a player. With a starter, I would say if they are going to miss at least 7-10 games, I would rather DL them and have them get fully healthy and rested. Span was a unique case because avoiding the DL might have helped his trade value slightly
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