Last week, Denard Span finally landed on the disabled list one day before rosters expanded and 18 days after initially suffering a shoulder injury back in early August. Not the medical staff's finest hour, probably, but the uproar I saw amongst casual fans and hardcores alike sort of left me dumbfounded.
My Twitter timeline exploded with rants against the team doctors. Commenters here at Twins Daily vented in similar fashion. Clearly folks are fed up with the strange injury situations that continue to arise with this club. That's understandable. Still, I'm wondering if we haven't reached a point where people are jumping the gun a bit to crucify the medical staff for every mishap.
Here's a fact: medicine is an inexact science.
Here's another: the members of the Twins' medical staff are highly trained experts who have reached an elite level in their profession. Most of them have been around for more than the past two years, yet the implication seems to be that since the start of 2011 they've just forgotten how to properly diagnose injuries.
The truth is that this staff made mistakes before 2011 – as does every other staff in the league – and they went largely unnoticed because the Twins weren't one of the worst teams in baseball. My sense is that the higher incidence of injuries in the past two years and the club's struggles overall are causing a lot of people to exaggerate the role of the medical staff in lingering ailments and goofy DL management. It wouldn't be a unique case
As an example, let's look at this latest situation with Span. The fact that it took the doctors so long to properly diagnose his sprained sternoclavicular joint is concerning, but the outfielder didn't make their jobs easier by backing out of an MRI
due to claustrophobia. Additionally, we simply don't know whether the Twins would have shown the same patience and deference to Span if the games actually mattered and they were legitimately hurting themselves by tying up that 25th roster spot. They weren't.
Sure, there have been examples where the team's medical staff has pretty clearly erred. Those extend back past 2011. Like I said, it's an inexact science. But frustration seems to have some people believing that we're dealing with a bunch of quacks who have completely lost the ability to competently do their jobs, all while the numerous execs running the organization have failed to notice or care.
Pretty ridiculous notion born out of a scapegoat mentality, if you ask me.
To be clear, I'm not saying that the Twins' medical staff compares well to the rest of the league. They might even be among the worst. But I don't believe we have the evidence to make that assessment. Judging a doctor's performance isn't like judging a pitcher, or hitter, or manager, or GM. Each situation is unique and there are lot more factors in play than some would assume.
Maybe after this season ends the front office will clear out the entire medical staff and bring in new faces across the board. I'd say that's unlikely, and I doubt it would meaningfully resolve any of the real problems plaguing this organization.