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The battered, bruised and repaired shoulder of Jesus Flores

I just filed a story on Jesus Flores, a catcher with an irrepressible good nature and, right now, a very worrisome shoulder. He also had lots to say, and plenty I wanted to print. Only problem: The story was given an 800-word allotment, and yet the story, the real story -- something messy and imperfect and poignant and open-ended -- required much more. So here goes...

Here are some of the things that I didn't come even close to writing about, but should have: How Flores, determined to come back from his September 2009 labrum surgery, elected against an offseason return trip to his home in Venezuela, because there he wouldn't have access to cutting-edge rehab facilities. And how Flores found an apartment in Miami, even though he knew nobody, and woke up every morning lonely but determined. How Flores paid for his own physical therapist, and eventually enlisted a group of Latin ballplayers (Alex Cora, Placido Polanco, etc.) as workout partners. How Flores took a taxi everywhere, at least until December, because his arm was still in a sling and so he couldn't get both hands on the wheel of a car. How Flores grew to like Miami so much, despite the "crazy" driving, that he now wants to buy a home there.

"Last year, after the season, whew, I was sad," Flores said, looking back. "Just me, I don't have family, I don't have nobody in Miami. Only, get out of bed in the morning, go to the rehab, do my exercise and my stuff, come back home, just reading and TV and PlayStation 3. Internet. It was lonely. But I was like, 'OK, this is only for you. This is your future, your work. You know, your job. You had to concentrate on what's best for you."

That's the Flores I know, and I gotta say, he's the kind of guy I'll continue to pull for even after I'm off this beat.

But right now, Flores is in a tough spot, and he has plenty to say about it. Almost too much to say. He's bitter about the injuries of the last year, and thinks (right or wrong) that they could have been prevented. Sometimes it sounds like he's blaming team doctors. Sometimes it sounds like he's blaming himself for continuing to throw when he sensed a bigger problem. Sometimes it sounds like he doesn't think anybody deserves blame, but just wants to let off some steam.

Anyway, before we get to the full body of Flores's words, let's get everybody up to speed on the progress of Washington's possible catcher of the future.

On Monday morning, the second day of workouts for the Nats' pitchers and catchers, Flores joined four other catchers in a bullpen practice area, where the mounds and plates run side-by-side. Five pitchers kicked the dirt and started working, and that's how it began -- a harmony of baseballs zipping back and forth, brisk but easy.

Except for one thing: Flores looked nothing like the other catchers. A middle-aged bullpen catcher, Julian Martinez, stood to Flores's right, as if looking to hold his hand. Flores gloved every pitch from right-hander Shairon Martis, his first partner in the bullpen, but he didn't throw a single ball back. Instead, he underhanded the ball to Martinez, who relayed it back to Martis. One member of Washington's front office called the scene "sad." Flores, for his part, said he's starting his career "from zero."

And the Nationals don't know what to think. They know Flores can throw 45 or 50 feet, and they hope he can throw 60 by the end of the week, but they don't dare say he'll be ready by Opening Day. In fact, they don't mention a timetable of any kind.

"We'll be very cautious," General Manager Mike Rizzo said.

My guess is, Flores will start the year on the DL. I'd put heavy money on that. The Nats view Flores as a slow healer, and they can't predict whether the months of injuries have eroded his ability. This offseason, they signed free agent Ivan Rodriguez and avoided arbitration with backup Wil Nieves. The Nationals want Flores, but no longer depend on him.

"With Mike going out and getting Pudge, it allows us to really take our time and let him get right," Jim Riggleman said. "He's had a lot of trauma to that arm in the last 10 months. Numerous rehab days. Just starting over two or three different times. So we really want to let him get right, no questions about it. Let him get 100 percent."

As I mentioned earlier, Flores keeps thinking, with some regret and bitterness, about all the reasons he's not 100 percent. The last day he felt healthy? That was May 9, a night when the Nationals played in Arizona. In the seventh inning, a Chris Young foul tip struck him in the right shoulder. Because of adrenaline, Flores didn't immediately feel much pain. He only exited the game in the middle of the ninth. X-rays taken later that night were negative. Washington thought he'd miss a game or two.

From there, the prognosis for Flores worsened. In late May, Flores resumed throwing. He attempted a rehab trip the minor leagues. He batted 11 times. His shoulder pain worsened, and his next examination revealed setback No. 1: A stress fracture. Rizzo called the news "devastating." Flores missed another four months. Only in early September did Washington bring Flores back for a last gasp of action, adding him directly to the big league roster on Sept. 4, strictly as a pinch-hitter. He batted three times. He complained of more shoulder pain. His next examination revealed setback No. 2: A torn labrum. Orthopedist James Andrews conducted SLAP (superior labrum from anterior to posterior) repair surgery on Sept. 16. And Flores was devastated.

Asked if he thinks the labrum injury was preventable, Flores said, "Oh yeah yeah yeah. If I would have stopped throwing."

Flores called the series of injuries "stupid."

Why?

"You're the doctor," he said. "You tell me one thing, and it was labrum... I was getting worse every day; I wasn't getting better. And I was telling them, 'Hey, I'm not feeling good. Something is in there, something is in there.' And they kept saying, 'Don't worry; don't worry, you're gonna be fine. It's tendinitis, it's tendinitis.' Then they send me to Dr. Andrews. He wanted to see the MRIs, X-rays, everything, instead of just moving your arm around."

"Well wait," I interrupted. "You had the foul tip in Arizona. Injury No. 1."

"Yes," Flores said. "And I kept throwing. Because we didn't have another catcher, remember. Just Wil Nieves and me. So I had to keep throwing because if something happened to him I had to play. We were in San Francisco for four more days, and then when we came back to Washington I saw a doctor."

"So you didn't see a doctor until four or five days after the foul tip?" I asked.

"Well, I saw a doctor in Arizona but they didn't figure out anything. There was no diagnose -- how you say it? -- diagnosis?"

"So then did you see [team doctor] Wiemi Douoguih when you came back to DC?" I asked.

"Yeah. I had a bone contusion. What's the word, when you got hit by something? A bruise, yeah... But I was throwing, like, different. And I told them, 'Hey, I want to play.' So sure. I was doing all the exercises, everything. So okay, they send me to Class AA. So when I was in Class AA, it was different; I was in the game and, you know, the intensity is different from when I was just doing throwing practice. But I asked the doctor, 'Hey, can I play?' 'Yeah, yeah.' He said the pain would go away; it would take a while but it will go away. But he should have told me, 'No, let's wait. Let's wait. You're not feeling right yet.' Take another month off. But no. And that's when I got the fracture. Then four months to recover from that. Then when I started doing that throwing program, then I got the labrum."

Whew. There's a lot there to digest. It's clear Flores blames himself as well as the team. He also says he's learned a lesson now, because this time around he wants to be slow and deliberate with his recovery. In fact, he's not putting a date on when he might return.

"My guess? I mean, it depends," Flores said. "Right now I don't want to rush. I want to go step-by-step. I'm feeling good, but I don't want to take any steps back. I'm not saying nothing right now. I could say April, but I don't know. It depends. Because another thing is, I'm not a second baseman, I'm not a shortstop; I'm a catcher. I need to throw. A lot of stuff that I have to get used to again. I'm not used to blocking the balls, catching the balls, throwing to the bases."

Second-guessing the treatment of injuries always leaves me a bit uneasy, because it's easy to buy into players' gripes after the fact. Memory is selective, and sometimes players hurt themselves by not saying enough about their pain. Before writing any of this, I approached a member of Washington's PR staff and requested to speak with Dr. Douoguih, simply to get a more accurate record of events. Instead, the team authorized Rizzo to speak on behalf of the team's medical treatment staff. Rizzo said he understood Flores's frustration, but emphasized that the team never put him under undo risk. "We've handled Jesus's case with extreme caution," he said. "He's one of our best and brightest prospects, so we went to great pains to do our due diligence to tackle the problems that he had. It was just an escalation of problems, one after the other. But we were certainly following the correct protocol."

By Chico Harlan  |  February 22, 2010; 5:59 PM ET
 
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Next: The classic Nationals prank on Eddie Guardado

Comments

When/if Flores comes back, I hope his attitude hasn't taken a beating from all this.

Posted by: Juan-John1 | February 22, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Wow, looks like Rizzo was side-stepping that one! And they are still pretty thin depth-wise at catcher. I thought Orr was supposed to be trying to learn that too?

Posted by: periculum | February 22, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

This sounds bad -- something tells me that jFlo's career in dc will be short and not so sweet; he may never get over his concerns about how this all went down.

Posted by: swanni | February 22, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

The arm strength to make throws to 1B/2B with confidence will be the last hurdle for Flores; That might take until June or July, even with ML-level rehab equipment & trainers. At least he's able to keep his recieving skills sharp in Viera, even if he isn't allowed to throw.

I'd expect him to start the year on the DL, then possibly get optioned to HAR/SYR in June for some real-game work before coming back to DC later in the year.

Posted by: BinM | February 22, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

@BinM appears right in what he seems to infer.

They REALLY DO seem to need Flores ... in spite of the points made on Mark Z's blog about Norris somehow displacing him.

They probably will need both and should one fall then they seem to need to find a near-term replacement ... not a 17 year old long-term project? And Norris is still a long way out.

They just aren't mentioning him ... making me wonder if Nat's management also may feel they are jinxed?


Posted by: periculum | February 22, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

I think BinM is right -- I would not expect Flores to playing anywhere for some time. I think that he's going to be in Viera for months. If he can barely throw 60 feet now, he is not even close to being able to play on any minor league level. Rehab and extended ST. Maybe the kid can come back in the second half, but he is going to need a lot of time in the minors when he is finally healthy to get back to form.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 22, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

MASN announced their spring training broadcast schedule -- and the tally:

Yankees games - 6
Nationals games - 4
Orioles games - 4
Red Sox games - 3

Typical. The Nats and Orioles play a total of 8 games combined (4 each) The Orioles play 2 each against Boston and NY. The Nats play 2 against NY, 1 against Boston, and 1 against the Braves.

I don't really begrudge MASN the right to maximize their viewers and ratings, but I hate the overexposure of the big 2. Fox and ESPN do the same thing.

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 22, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Will Derek Norris start the season at AA or AAA?

Posted by: peteywheatstraw | February 22, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like a lot of freak bodily stress compensation causing all of these maladies. Most doctors probably have never experienced anything like it. Just my guess. Please keep tossing it underhanded until it's well healed.

Posted by: richs91 | February 22, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

The signing of Pudge looks a little smarter now - not brilliant mind you, just smarter. I imagine that Nieves will get 1-2 starts per week, especially in day games following night games, day games after a travel day, or day/night doubleheaders as the season moves forward. He's never been much offensively, but won't cripple the team with his defense.
Not that he would, but Riggleman could also consider batting Nieves 9th, if he pairs up with either Marquis or Martis in the rotation; That could be interesting.

Posted by: BinM | February 22, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

@Biscuits: Remember back in the day, when NBC used to stand for "Nobody But Cincinnati"?

Posted by: BinM | February 22, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

@petey: Just my opinion, but I've got Norris starting the 2010 season in POT, with Ivany as his backup. However, he might flip positions with Peacock, who I have pencilled in at HAR.

Posted by: BinM | February 22, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

I'll just pony up to MLB for the HD unlimited service I guess ... using non-local to avoid potential black-outs.

Posted by: periculum | February 22, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

And even that sort of assumes they've correctly diagnosed all his injuries and he is actually getting better. I really hope he is, but I don't think the FO is convinced that's the case.
**************

I'd expect him to start the year on the DL, then possibly get optioned to HAR/SYR in June for some real-game work before coming back to DC later in the year.
Posted by: BinM | February 22, 2010 6:52 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 22, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

And Chico, was that headline a play on the Leonard Cohen line?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 22, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

@BinM,

Where are you putting Sean Rooney ... who seems to be next after Norris in the catching prospect chain?

Posted by: periculum | February 22, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/leonardcohen/democracy.html

It's coming from the silence on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 22, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Egad, me thinks Flores may have had something else stolen from him last year ... his name, "Jesus", by Strasburg ...

Posted by: periculum | February 22, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

... or You get your way at Ourisman Chevrolet starring JimBo's second wife Joy.

Posted by: periculum | February 22, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

They kept Norris the full year at Hagerstown due to concerns about his defense. Don't think all the concerns have been answered, so expect a full year at Potomac in '10. Harrisburg in '11. Shot at Majors in '12.

Posted by: VladiHondo | February 22, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

MLB Trade Rumors:

"Nats pitcher John Lannan has decided to part ways with agent Andrew Mongelluzzi and latch on with Brodie Van Wagenen of Creative Artists Agency, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Lannan will be arbitration-eligible after the 2010 season and become a free agent after the 2013 campaign."

Posted by: periculum | February 22, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

What about Switch-hitting, HAR starting catcher Sean Rooney?

Posted by: periculum | February 22, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I'm sort of assuming that Flores will go on the 60 day DL, keeping another spot free on the 40 man roster and allowing him to rehab without pressure and wondering if / when he might get the call. It would also let Nieves relax, play his 2 games a week and let the staff and the catchers get into some sort of rhythm and rotation.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Detwiler go 60 day DL, and maybe even Wang also. We have so much up in the air, especially with the starting pitching, we might need the 40 man spots.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 22, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

"Signing Pudge" was the short version of this story, as several people (I seem to recall you one of them?) noted at the time.
**********
The signing of Pudge looks a little smarter now - not brilliant mind you, just smarter....
Posted by: BinM | February 22, 2010 7:35 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 22, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

@An Brisocia Mor:
[ Means get some Brisocchi because he will give you indigestion]

"Before you guys go spouting off about how supposedly high the Nats ticket prices are, you really ought to go to the web sites of the NY and LA teams and do a section-by-section comparison of seat prices. Nats prices are way lower than those parks. Nats prices are in line with Baltimore, actually."

My season ticket seats in Nationals Park are $20/game. Comparable seats in Citi Field are $36. That's almost double, not 'right up there.'

Posted by: nunof1 | February 22, 2010
____________________________________________________________

From Federal Baseball (left-hand side)

according to a Los Angeles Times' article by Bill Shaikin entitled, "Dodgers' payroll plans are detailed", Washington is on par with those big market teams when it comes to average ticket price, as Mr. Shaikin writes:

"The Dodgers' average ticket price last year ranked eighth in the majors, behind the two New York clubs, the two Chicago clubs, the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals, according to Team Marketing Report."

Posted by: periculum | February 22, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

@Peri...Average can be a funny term, here. What is the divisor? Let's remember, also, that LA & NY have much bigger parks. Boston & ChiNo always sells out. Philly sells out (now, didn't used to.) I'm not sure that I buy the validity of ChiSo. BTW, there are no $2,500 tix at Natls Park.

Also, food prices are reasonable on South Capital St. I know that there are folks who holler about the cost of beer, etc., but they haven't been to SF or some of the other parks.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | February 22, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

As I said, periculum, before spouting off maybe you might want to do a little research and comparison of your own, instead of just blindly accepting as gospel what some writer in LA tells you. Dodger Stadium, being built 50 years ago, doesn't contain the modern luxury boxes and club seats like Nationals Park does. When this writer calculates average ticket price, is he doing a weighted average, or just a straight average? Because the high prices for a relatively small number of seats at Nationals Park would make a straight average ticket price higher than an average ticket price weighted by number of seats per section would be. To get any value from a comparison, you really need to look at apples vs apples, oranges vs oranges. There's no evidence this guy did that.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 22, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

@An Broscia Mor,

I see what they meant ... you do seem to be an arrogant, pretentious prig aren't you? Is it genetic or did it just happen during the course of things?

I think the LA Times reporter probably did a great deal more research than you ever have in order to support his story. You of course just "spout off" without any real research, facts at all. No
links references. Just annoying garbage spewed from your end of this dark and murky Sargasso.

If you have evidence to refute what he said then produce it.

Posted by: periculum | February 22, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Dodger Stadium has 2 sections in left field that they call Mannywood, and these tickets are $99 each.

If Stan K finds out about this, he'll set up "Hammertown" in two sections of left field and double the prices for those seats.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 22, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

If you check out: http://www.flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/info-ticketprices.html it shows the Nats as having among the most expensive single game tix in 2009. Not sure that is despositive of anything really, but the walk-up folks can get close if they spend the money, I guess.

Who cares what the exact ranking is, the Nats are charging a premium price (well into the top half in ticket price no matter how you spin the numbers) for a lousy product. And I think it is fairly safe to say that Nats ticket prices rank much higher than Nats payroll ever does.


Posted by: dfh21 | February 22, 2010 11:10 PM | Report abuse

Periculum, I don't know why I am wasting the time responding to you because you sure seem like your mind is closed already like a steel trap. But I just took at the Dodgers' ticket prices on their web site, and pretty much across the board they are the same or (mostly) higher than the Nats prices for comparable sections. The only exception would be the Presidents Club, for which the Dodgers don't have a comparable section. This supports my original assertion that the LA writer's unspecified way of calculating an average price is making the Nats prices seem artificially high in comparison with the Dodgers. I already gave my own empirical evidence of how the Nats prices were much lower than the Mets, contrary to the assertion of the original posting that started this discussion.

And BTW, I'm not An Briosca Mor.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 22, 2010 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Getting back to something more relevant to this post:

http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/

BeyondTheBoxScore did some research into injuries and the Nats had a WAR for games lost to injury that was the 4th worst in the majors just ahead of Baltimore, Texas and the Mets.

They were the second worst for payroll lost due to time on the DL just ahead of the Dodgers.

Posted by: periculum | February 22, 2010 11:26 PM | Report abuse

http://teammarketing.com.ismmedia.com/ISM3/std-content/repos/Top/Fan%20Cost%20Index/MLB/MLB%20FCI%2009.pdf

These guys are pretty much considered the authority on the price of the game.

It breaks it down in terms of average ticket price and average premium ticket price. Nunof1's online ticket site shopping notwithstanding, Nats were on par with the Dodgers in 2009 (and a lot higher than Baltimore).

LA has a playoff caliber club with star power and big history in a huge market. The Nats? Uhhm . . . we have the Presidents Race.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 22, 2010 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Dodger Stadium has 2 sections in left field that they call Mannywood, and these tickets are $99 each.

If Stan K finds out about this, he'll set up "Hammertown" in two sections of left field and double the prices for those seats.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 22, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

I hope not, my seats are in "Hammertown"!

Back to Dodger Stadium arguments, they did lower their beer prices last season. Two bucks a beer lower, to be specific. I would certainly appreciate that kind of PR gesture from the Nats.

Posted by: Kev29 | February 22, 2010 11:31 PM | Report abuse

To all of those complaining about Nats ticket prices, you have to realize two fundamental truths. (a) They're only charging what the market will bear, and (b) In comparison with those other big cities, everything costs more there (and in DC) than in the rest of the country. Housing, food, transportation, other forms of entertainment. Everything costs more here. So given that, it's still possible to find good seats at the ballpark at a reasonable price. Perhaps you would prefer a situation like the Capitols, where it's hard to get a ticket in the first place, and on top of that the greedy owner is RAISING ticket prices for his sold-out arena by up to 33%? The Lerners have actually held the line on ticket prices, and have even lowered prices in many sections for two straight years. So it's hard to say that they have been totally unresponsive to fans' discontent with on-field performance.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 22, 2010 11:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm no doctor, but I'm quite certain Flores did not receive adequate care. However, I'm not so sure that he can blame the injuries on his poor care. I find it unlikely that his stress fracture occurred spontaneously without a little help. Either the fracture started with the foul ball or the labrum tear was already there -- or, both. Those conditions might have worsened because he continued to throw when proper diagnosis would have put him on the shelf.

I'd guess his arm was fractured by the foul ball. A lot of fractures don't show up immediately on x-rays, particularly a fracture that reacts and can worsen, like a stress fracture. The labrum tear? Dunno. That might also have already been there when he had an X-ray. After all, it wouldn't show on an X-ray. As a professional athlete, his level of care should be different. Based on his symptoms, either a further X-ray should have been ordered, or an MRI.

Posted by: fischy | February 23, 2010 12:09 AM | Report abuse

If Flores doesn't come back (and with labrum surgery for a catcher, there's no certainty), it'll be one more Jimbo deal (albeit for little money) that didn't pan out. I know -- it was long shot to begin with. And I'm sorry for Jesus, because it seemed pretty clear that he could hit.

Nobody seems to have mentioned what a great post from Chico this was. I appreciate it, as I do his sincere appreciation for Flores' openness.

Posted by: nats24 | February 23, 2010 1:04 AM | Report abuse

In what sense are they charging what the market will bear? They virtually never sell out, and their season ticket holders are plummeting, in my view largely because the team is lousy and the prices are those charged by successful teams. The market has two sides, and the people who buy, not the people who sell, get to make the decision about what the market will bear.

Posted by: markfromark | February 23, 2010 7:31 AM | Report abuse

In what sense are they charging what the market will bear? They virtually never sell out, and their season ticket holders are plummeting, in my view largely because the team is lousy and the prices are those charged by successful teams. The market has two sides, and the people who buy, not the people who sell, get to make the decision about what the market will bear.

Posted by: markfromark | February 23, 2010 7:31 AM | Report abuse

@nats24 --You're right. It's a great read. From what I've seen, folks in this blog holding a big chip where Chico is concerned. Nats fans are lucky to have a writer of his talent on this beat for however long this lasts.

Posted by: fischy | February 23, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

It is nice that the Nats are not raising ticket prices, but even given a flat pricing system since they opened the new park the tickets remain more expensive than most clubs charge today. And while it is true that this is an expensive market generally compared to Cincy, for instance, most MLB clubs do not have the very favorable rental terms that the Nats enjoy in DC. And, could the Lerners even think about raising prices after back to back stinker seasons during which they skimped on payroll, and even skimped on the front office?

Lerner ownership boils down to not being smart enough to build this thing on the cheap. It is that simple.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 23, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

"In what sense are they charging what the market will bear?"

Because, in Kasten's words, they are getting the attendance they deserve. They've had the worst record in MLB for two straight years, yet they are at roughly 50% capacity. If they were selling out, they would not be charging enough. If the ballpark was empty, they'd be charging too much.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 23, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Here's my question -- when did Flores first get an MRI on the shoulder? Labrum tears are only diagnosable with an MRI, and even the standard MRI sometimes doesn't catch them, but there's an MRI with ink that is better. If he only had an MRI in September, that's inexcusable. Perhaps it wasn't indicated after the very first injury, but if he doesn't recover quickly, don't they have to pull out all the stops to see what is wrong?

Labrum surgery can be career ending. I fear we may not see Flores play at Nats Park all season. What a shame.

Posted by: Section222 | February 23, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

nats24, no way can you blame Flores' status on Bowden. Flores was a Rule 5 guy who turned out to be a quality player in the bigs after skipping a couple of levels, then quickly turned into a good starting catcher: good hitter, good arm, adequate defense.

What's Bowden got to do with it?

BTW, you are right about one thing. This was an excellent post and it's kind of sad the Post didn't have room for it in print. Must have needed the room for ice dancing...

Posted by: baltova1 | February 23, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

So, unless the ball park is empty the prices are not too high? Rigghhhttt. That makes sense.

Posted by: dfh21 | February 23, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

I give Kasten credit for saying the team will get the attendance they deserve. It's a contrast to the grumbling of Senators owners.

Lower ticket prices might do little to increase attendance. The team's real miscalculation has been in underestimating the importance and urgency of fielding a strong product in a market that has not seen the postseason since before old people were born.

Posted by: KenNat | February 23, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

"Here's my question -- when did Flores first get an MRI on the shoulder? Labrum tears are only diagnosable with an MRI, and even the standard MRI sometimes doesn't catch them, but there's an MRI with ink that is better. If he only had an MRI in September, that's inexcusable."

Well, the other question you'd have to ask then would be when did he tear his labrum? He was cruising along fine until he got hit by the foul ball, but maybe his labrum had already started to tear then. But he didn't go to the doctor complaining of pain, he went to the doctor because of the obvious foul tip injury. The doctors treated that. Maybe they did an MRI. But why would they do the special ink MRI if the foul tip injury wasn't something that would tear a labrum? They set him off rehabiliating the foul tip injury, and as Flores says at this time he was telling them he wanted to play. And he did, until it became clear he couldn't. So he went back to rehabilitating the injury they thought he had based on the diagnosis they had done. So maybe in that attempt to play or in his rehab he either tore his labrum or aggravated a tear that was already present even before the foul tip. Once it became clear that his rehab wasn't working, they did more tests and found the labrum tear. So yes, it's unfortunate the way this all played out. But really, unless you're advocating that they should immediately do every possible test and send the player to Dr. Andrews any time they report anything above a hangnail, I don't see how the doctors could have prevented this from happening. Especially since their preferred initial advice would have been to shut him down completely until he was totally healed from the foul tip, but Flores wasn't buying that because he wanted or felt he needed to be playing.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 23, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

What a great post. Totally pulling for Flores to make it all the way back - terrific stuff in here about him really taking ownership of his career by staying up in Miami.

Posted by: Section220 | February 23, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

One of my pet peeves is the oft whispered line from unnamed sources saying a player is injury prone along with the inference that a player may never make it because they are injury prone. One of the few really wise things I remember Bowden saying at one point was "don't blame the player for the injury, its not the players fault". Sure you can fail to take care of an injury and then fault can be assigned. But stop with the whispers that infer some failing on the part of the player because he gets injurred.

Posted by: natbiscuits | February 23, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I love Flores but he is always injured, Im optimistic that IROD will help him learn the game and bring a positive attitude into the picture.

I still think Norris will be the catcher of the future though....perhaps by OD 2011 maybe.

Posted by: Redskins2Win | February 23, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure there is an inference that he is injury-prone, but rather that he is slow to heal. That is just a physiological thing, as some people do come back from injury faster than others. I don't know that anyone is nailing Flores for being hurt.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | February 23, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Nats24, great post by Chico. I for one, will miss his writing and I wish him well at his next gig in Asia.

As for the ticket price dicussion, the Nats appear to be in the top 10 in average price but, in the bottom five in money being put out in payroll. Seems pretty simple to me. Uncle Teddy is laughing all the way to the bank.

Posted by: Section505203 | February 23, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

It was clear from the start this this whole situation was handled improperly. I remember at first he just got hit by the ball had a bruise and would miss a couple games. Then every time his name was mentioned it was to extend the amount of time he would be out.
Should have taken a more cautious approach with him. Diagnose is that how you say it, the issue first before you start setting a comeback date. He should never have been playing in September.
As far as blame is concerned these problems are always going to happen, problems are misdiagnosed and players are to stubborn to shut themselves down.

Posted by: Stu27 | February 23, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

"It was clear from the start this this whole situation was handled improperly....As far as blame is concerned these problems are always going to happen, problems are misdiagnosed and players are to stubborn to shut themselves down."

Well then, what would you say they should have done instead so the situation would have been handled properly? Or is there no way it could have been handled properly, if these things are always going to happen?

Posted by: nunof1 | February 23, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

@nunof1,

According to the stats I posted the Nats are losing something very near and dear to the hearts of the Lerners through so many mis-handled injuries ... especially on the pitching staff: $$$$$

They lose games and payroll to injuries way more than most teams in major league baseball.

That says they need to send their guys to the very best ... stop pinching pennies by sending them to consult with experts with less than adequate expertise. And don't wait to send them because it might just be a "bump or bruise". Be proactive.

Posted by: periculum | February 23, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Nunof -- I'm certainly not advocating an MRI after every injury worse than a hangnail. I am advocating the best available diagnostic test whenever a seemingly minor injury isn't healing as the initial diagnosis would lead you to expect. I'm particularly advocating an MRI when a shoulder has been injured. We are talking about a wealthy professional baseball team here and a player who could be worth millions of dollars whose throwing arm is integral to his performance. Seems to me that spending a few thousand dollars for the right kind of MRI once that "bruise" didn't heal would have been prudent. I agree with you that we don't know when the labrum tore. And we may never know. But we could know, if someone would ask, when Flores first had an MRI and whether it was the right kind of MRI for this injury. Since we don't know the answer to that question, I'm not prepared to conclude whether this was a tough break, or the team's fault for not taking it seriously enough. And you probably shouldn't be either. But if he had even a slight tear in May and aggravated it when they brought him back to pinch hit in a meaningless September game, that's really, really bad.

By the way, I tore my labrum 2 1/2 years ago and had surgery two years ago. I have regained the range of motion, but it still hurts, and I know I couldn't throw a baseball with that arm. Luckily, I can easily raise a beer from the cup holder to my mouth, which is pretty much all I need for the baseball season.

____________________________

"So yes, it's unfortunate the way this all played out. But really, unless you're advocating that they should immediately do every possible test and send the player to Dr. Andrews any time they report anything above a hangnail, I don't see how the doctors could have prevented this from happening."
Posted by: nunof1 | February 23, 2010 9:38 AM |

Posted by: Section222 | February 23, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

nunof1,

Simple enough. The player sits himself down. Or every diagnose is spot on the first time.
That is why these situations will continue to happen. Most of the time the diagnoses is correct, not all the time.
Rarely does a player sit himself down. You head Flores say it himself, we only had two catchers Nieves and him. But Flores could have said F that im not risking my career if it hurts every time i throw.
Bottom line is both sides messed up and that will continue to happen.

Posted by: Stu27 | February 23, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"By the way, I tore my labrum 2 1/2 years ago and had surgery two years ago."

Why did it take six months between them diagnosing your tear and the surgery? Or did it take six monthe for them to properly diagnose the tear? Seems it took less time for Flores's tear to be found and operated on, despite the complication of a completely different injury existing in his same shoulder at the same time. So maybe he really was getting better than your average medical care after all.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 23, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

speaking of teaching pigs to sing:
www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/imply.html

IMPLY/INFER
These two words, which originally had quite distinct meanings, have become so blended together that most people no longer distinguish between them. If you want to avoid irritating the rest of us, use “imply” when something is being suggested without being explicitly stated and “infer” when someone is trying to arrive at a conclusion based on evidence. “Imply” is more assertive, active: I imply that you need to revise your paper; and, based on my hints, you infer that I didn’t think highly of your first draft."

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 23, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

When is an injury not an injury? The player has a tough call to make, especially starters, and most especially catchers. It's a hard job. They hurt all the time, on a good day. But they're tough guys, and they play anyway, because that's the culture. They are risking their careers by not attending to injuries as much as they could, but they also risk their careers if they're perceived as soft, or not willing to play hurt, or fragile. So they have real incentives to not report everything worse than a sneeze. It's better than it used to be, by all accounts, but I don't see it going away soon.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 23, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

nunof1 -- You can't be serious. I'm not a professional athelete, that's why. I hurt my shoulder in a recreational activity. It didn't effect my ability to make a living, or the investment my employer has in my performance. And actually, once the tear was diagnosed (through the right kind of MRI), the surgery was scheduled pretty quickly, as was Flores'. It's a serious and painful injury. Thanks for the sympathy.

I have no doubt he was getting better than average medical care. Is that really the standard you think is adequate? Seriously?
_______________________________

Why did it take six months between them diagnosing your tear and the surgery? Or did it take six monthe for them to properly diagnose the tear?Why did it take six months between them diagnosing your tear and the surgery? Or did it take six monthe for them to properly diagnose the tear?
Posted by: nunof1 | February 23, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Section222 | February 23, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

"the team never put him under undo risk" er, undue?

Posted by: tk001 | February 23, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

"undo risk" = no harm, no foul?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 23, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

no, no: an undo risk is the opposite of a do-over.
Thank you very much.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | February 23, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

INFER/IMPLY

Infer would be reading between the lines. Imply would be writing between them.

Posted by: miseaujeu | February 26, 2010 8:17 AM | Report abuse

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