Is there a doctor in the house? Not for what ails the Phillies on the field. We know pretty much what the cure is for that. No, we're talking about the front office and medical staff.
An interesting piece showed up in this morning's Inquirer regarding Indians' reliever Joe Borowski, whom the Phillies nearly signed last off-season before declining on advice of medical counsel. CLEVELAND - The Phillies could have used Joe Borowski.
They actually had him, but they decided after a physical in November that his shoulder did not look sound and backed off a two-year, $9 million contract with an option for a third season. Borowski eventually signed a one-year, $4.25 million contract with a $4 million option for 2008 with the Cleveland Indians. He is 0-3 with a 6.33 ERA with 20 saves in 22 opportunities this season. His ERA is high, but drop two bad appearances, and it is a respectable 3.18.
Borowski said he was happy with the way things turned out, but that doesn't mean he's not puzzled by what happened with the Phillies.
"My physical was just the doctor [Michael Ciccotti] pretty much hanging off my arms and not moving me whatsoever," Borowski said. "That's the funny part. He said I did so-so on my physical. What else does he want me to do? Jump through hoops?"
"With all due respect to the player, he's free to speak as he sees fit," said Ruben Amaro Jr., the Phils' assistant GM. "We are fully supportive of Dr. Ciccotti and his ability to diagnose our players and free agents. We are very confident in his findings."
The Phillies had Borowski undergo an MRI exam on his shoulder.
"They came back with another offer," Borowski said. "Then everybody knew that same day that I supposedly failed my physical when it was supposed to be hush-hush. There were a lot of funny things. That's why I think it worked out for the best. You don't want to be involved in stuff like that."
Borowski stopped just short of flatly declaring the Phillies leaked the results of his physical, but his message is unmistakably clear. It's difficult to know what their motive might have been, but Borowski is happy to have landed on the shores of Lake Erie instead. Did the front office wish to justify their decision not to offer Borowski a deal with misinformation or were they simply bargaining? As we all know n0w, under different circumstances the Phillies declined to have Freddy Garcia undergo an MRI prior to trading for him and his shoulder "pathology" despite ample reports about a declining fast ball and a known history of high mileage. It appears they ordered an MRI for the wrong guy.
Then there is the Tom Gordon situation. Some reports have indicated the veteran closer failed to let the Phillies know how bad things were with his ailing shoulder at the end of last season and during the Spring. It's one thing to expect your average patients to be responsible for their own health maintenance and an altogether different situation regarding professional athletes who have state of the art facilities, trainers and doctors available year round and should be monitored by the teams who invest heavily in them. What good is a medical staff if they cannot closely monitor players with a history of visits to the Disabled List? The Phillies have also signed a number of lesser players over the last few seasons who turned up in short order with arm miseries. Is the scouting department failing to do its homework? Does the medical staff only get involved when big dollars are at stake? Or is this part of the front office's pattern of deliberately ignoring health issues, preferring to gamble that one of these days they will find a diamond in the rough? This is a complicated issue involving large doses of disclosure and concealment on both sides. Generally, how many players, especially ones in a contract year, are willing to acknowledge serious medical problems on their own? On the other hand, it would appear obvious that any team willing to spend a lot of money or trade players or prospects would go to great lengths to insure the commodity they are receiving is medically sound. The Phillies appear to have played that game pretty loosely when it suited them.