"Labrum? Fiddlesticks, no. I said 'Dabrum.' As in ancient Sumeria."

Just the other day, I was discussing in another forum how tedious blogging can become. I've been doing this about 18 months, and as I had earlier advised another blogger who had been at it three or six or whatever months longer than me, it doesn't matter if you've been doing this a year or three years---at a certain point, you become hooked. This is not to say that it's always an especially entertaining or creative exercise; as I said two sentences ago, blogging can get right tedious. And so it can.

Then days like today come along. Some might say there exists a wide chasm between stupidity and perfidy. These people, however, have no experience trying to sort out the still-developing Shoulder-Gate---or Majewski-Gate, or Kremcheck-Gate, or Krivsky-Gate, or Leatherpants-Gate, or whatever you choose to call it. What's the guiding principle here: caveat emptor or you lying sack of crap? As we might find out in the near future, there could be a surprisingly fine line between one guy knowingly taking on a health risk and another guy knowingly hiding a health risk.

At least those appear to be the alternatives, and some amount of reason dictates that they are probably insufficient.

Let's look at the allegation as it currently exists. This is from the lying sack of crap link above:

Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky would not say on Tuesday if the club will file a grievance over the Washington Nationals? failure to disclose that relief pitcher Gary Majewski, who has been sent to the disabled list, took a cortisone shot for tendinitis in his shoulder just days before being traded to Cincinnati.

. . . But the club clearly thinks it was wronged. Krivsky said he left a message for Washington general manager Jim Bowden Tuesday morning. He said he had not heard back as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.

. . . The Reds? medical director, Dr. Tim Kremchek, said on Tuesday that the team would have taken a closer look at Majewski?s health before completing the July 13 eight-player deal that sent Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez to the Nationals had they known Majewski was taking cortisone shots.

. . . ?I didn?t have any cause for concern based on the information we had,? Krivsky said. ?We felt like we did everything we needed to do before we made the trade.?

. . . Kremchek said he has never given a player from another club a physical before completing a trade.

"The way it works is the GM talks to the GM," Kremchek said. "If there's any issues, medical talks to medical."

In Majewski's case, Reds trainer Mark Mann talked to the Nationals trainer.

"(The Nationals) didn't allude to anything," Kremchek said.

Kremchek, who is a consultant for the Nationals, said his relationship with that team may end over this incident.

My apologies for the liberal use of quotations above. In truth, I could have quoted yet more stuff, because in between the elipses were quotations from Kremcheck to the effect that: a) Majewski is suffering from tendonitis, b) something that an MRI wouldn't reveal, but c) Majewski's shoulder looks "clean" structurally, and on that basis d) Kremcheck is of the opinion that "the deal likely would have gone through."

That last point is a bit cryptic within the context of the article. It could mean that Krivsky would likely have okayed the deal despite the fact that an MRI wouldn't have revealed tendonitis---which doesn't make sense, or is at best a tautology, because an MRI apparently wouldn't have revealed tendonitis, and accordingly Krivsky wouldn't have had any call to make on that front. What is more likely is that Kremcheck claims Krivsky likely would have signed off on the deal despite having knowledge of the tendonitis and, more importantly, the recent cortisone shots---in which case I wonder how the Reds could demonstrate harm.

Of course, there's a flaw in my thinking, which is that Kremcheck's opinion or speculation on what Krivsky would have done is neither evidence nor likely the team's official position. Just the same, it appears that Krivsky is backing down---while still pushing high-minded soundbytes---and acknowledging there's no structural damage, Majewski has a tired shoulder, he'll be back strong, etc. On this basis, Krivsky could be tacitly admitting he's a victim of bad luck or overly zealous trust, but not transactions fraud.

But the only way this is going to be a controversy is if the Reds decide to fight this, and as of this morning, it was definitely a controversy. According to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Gary Majewski was definitely hurt when the Washington Nationals traded him to the Reds July 13.

He knew it. It sounds like people in the Washington organization knew it. But the Reds did not know it - until Majewski told them Monday morning.

Well, we can address the first two points, at least temporarily: 1) the Majewski knew that he had been hurt, and 2) the Nats knew that Majewski had been hurt. As Capitol Punishment reveals in a Googling tour de force, the Reds most certainly should have known that Majewski had been injured. The injury, by chance, was tendonitis in his right shoulder. The Post reported it, and Nats.com reported it; hell, even Majewski himself reported it, in a guest column for the MLBPA's website.

Fay continued:

The Reds knew they had to do something about Majewski after the game, but until Monday morning, they didn't know why.

That's when Majewski told them about the shoulder. The shocking part is it has been sore since March and he had a cortisone shot just days before the trade.

As noted, that first part shouldn't be a shock to anyone not bargaining with his eyes welded shut. But the second part . . . ?

Hold that thought, because it gets a bit juicier---or perhaps got a bit juicier, as in the past tense. From an earlier version of the lying sack of crap article, also written by Fay, as excerpted in the comments of the engaging debate at Capitol Punishment:

Kremchek said Majewski was told to keep quiet before the trade.

"The troubling thing about this as much as anything ? was (Majewski) was told to keep it under the radar," Kremchek said.

"We asked him if he was OK, he said, 'Yeah, I'm all right.'"

Now, I could be missing something, but it would appear that this rather astounding accusation has been excised from the latest version (Tuesday, 6:38 pm) of Fay's article. As a Nats fan---even one cognizant that Jim Bowden might not lead the league in scruples---this excision is pretty comforting, because the Kremcheck's quote essentially alleged fraud.

[Parenthetically, I note that as far as accusations go, it's pretty clumsy. I'm trying to imagine how the Nats would have communicated this directive to Majewski not to tell:

Bodes: Yo, Tex. Hey, dawg. Over here.

Cameron Poe: Yeah?

Bodes: Got a request for you.

Cameron Poe: Sure. What?

Bodes: But it's like double-top-secret. Got it?

Cameron Poe: Sure, Jimbo. Sure.

Bodes: You're about to be traded.

Cameron Poe: I am?

Bodes: Yep. But don't tell yourself this, because you'll have to react like you're sort of surprised when the trade is announced.

Cameron Poe: Okay.

Bodes: More importantly, you know those cortisones shots you're taking?

Cameron Poe: Oh yeah, man. Those things are great. Sucks hard when they wear off, though.

Bodes: I'm feelin' ya, dawg. Just promise me you won't tell your new team about them, okay?

Cameron Poe: Sure, yeah. Whatever.

Bodes: While you're at it, don't tell anybody about the whole tendonitis in the shoulder thing.

Cameron Poe: If you say so. But I've got a question.

Bodes: Shoot, dawg.

Cameron Poe: The thing is, how can we keep this a secret? It's been in the papers. I even wrote something about it in a web diary.

Bodes: Oh, that? That's simple. The team we're trading you to, the Reds, they're all illiterate over there.

Note: I'm not implying that Wayne Krivsky is actually illiterate.]

Back to reality, there are a few questions that need to be considered:

  • Did the Nats withhold anything material, or were they merely not asked?
  • In the context of a grievance hearing, does that distinction make a difference?
  • If the Nats did not disclose anything about Majewski's tendonities, should the Reds nevertheless known based on public knowledge? In other words, even if the Nats were wrong not to disclose this, would the Reds' own (presumed) negligence bar a grievable claim? Stated another way, if the Reds should have known that Majewski was receiving cortisone shots back in May, was is the Reds' responsibility to make an inquiry into them now?
  • Let's assume that Krivsky indeed would have made the trade anyway had he known of the cortisone shots. Further assuming no actual structural damage (i.e., Majewski is "clean"), is it the Nats' duty to advise a trading partner on how to maintain its new acquisition, e.g., "Hey, Wayne: If you went him to pitch well, you really might want to pump some cortisone into that right arm"?
I'm certain there are other questions to be posed. I sympathize with Krivsky to an extent, and I am quick to remind myself that I'm no doctor, and I'm not Will Carroll. For all I know, this might be an entirely new injury. I'm an avid baseball fan, but I don't know nearly enough about pitching injuries.

As it stands, however, it seems curious to me that the Krivsky didn't exactly corner and pin down Bowden over Majewski's health. Krivsky sounds a bit too innocent and aggrieved to be believed.

Update [2006-8-8 22:24:49 by Basil]: In an article at Nats.com, Bowden, not surprisingly, denies any wrongdoing but, surprisingly, denies Krivsky has even called him over this. This claim directly contradicts Krivsky's statement that he called Bowden and has not yet received a response.

While I'm at it, here's a stray thought about Kremcheck, other than that his name must be Slavic for "Oh, damn." (Nothing against him, but every time you'd see his name mentioned, you'd figure a Nats' pitcher was in deep d'oh.) It appears that he did not treat Majewski, and I recognize that there exist some privacy issues concerning treatment (even, perhaps, when it comes to a professional baseball player), but Kremcheck is sure as hell familiar with the Nats. He's the Reds' team doctor, and he's a consultant for the Nats. (Or perhaps he used to be, as of now.) This isn't a matter of filing out a cold request in triplicate and waiting six-to-eight weeks for a reply; Kremcheck knows the Nats, how they operate, etc. If, on behalf of Krivsky, he asked Bowden to level on Majewski, and instead Bowden withheld something truly material, then I'd think there might be something here. But I'm interested in knowing how Kremcheck actually figured into this, aside from apparently redacted claims of outright fraud.

Update [2006-8-8 22:42:22 by Basil]: A commenter at Capitol Punishment believes I have misinterpreted Kremcheck's quote that I analyzed above about whether Krivsky would have gone ahead with the deal. It's certainly possible I did. The article itself reads vaguely, but I could be applying an interpretation that's not there. For completeness, and because I really should quote the passage directly since it yields some big ramifications, here's the quote in context of the article:

Kremchek added that an MRI would not have revealed the tendinitis in Majewski?s shoulder, and that he thinks the deal likely would have gone through.

"His shoulder looks clean," Kremchek said. "It would have been (Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky's) call, but I imagine we would have made the trade."

My confusion over this quote is the part about it "being Krivsky's call." If there's no MRI, or an MRI that doesn't reveal tendonitis (since tendonitis wouldn't show up in an MRI---and, yes, I steadfastly spell that word with its proper "o") then there's no call to make, right? Krivsky makes that trade; his understanding of that trade is not altered from what he claims it was. If, however, Kremcheck is saying that Krivsky probably would have still gone ahead with the trade knowing there was tendonitis, then the point about harm arises. Of course, it makes little sense to go ahead with a trade when you know a guy has tendonitis . . . except it appears to be maintainable, a pitcher can remain effective with proper treatment, etc. Go back to that first excerpted quote; Kremcheck apparently said the Reds "would have taken a closer look" had it known of the cortisone shots, not that it wouldn't have made the deal. A "closer look" arguably implies a "call," and Kremcheck had said that it would have been Krivsky's call but that Krivsky probably would have okayed it. That's the best way to explain my initial understanding of Kremcheck's quote.

At least that's how I view it. I could be wrong, and I want to be honest about my confusion here.

Update [2006-8-8 23:3:11 by Basil]: Yes, another update. Just received Bowden's statement on the issue in a press release:

?It was disappointing to read Wayne Krivsky?s remarks this evening about the trade of Gary Majewski. I never received either a call or a message from Wayne, but when I read his comments this evening, I called him and reminded him that the Cincinnati Reds had received all of the medical information they requested, both before and after the trade. It is also worth remembering that Gary pitched for us right up to the trade and has continued doing so for the Reds up until now. I was pleased to learn this evening from media reports that there is in fact no injury to Gary.?

"[N]o injury" I suppose means no structural damage. I don't know; I'm already sort of tired of this. Go ahead and fine the Nats. It's not my money.

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