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Doctoring the Ballplayers: Is Sox Medical Staff to Blame for Injuries?

ESPN beat-writer Gordon Edes shines a spotlight on the Red Sox medical staff, and the question of whether they hold any responsibility for the injuries that devastated the team this season:

The Red Sox have placed 19 players on the disabled list, which they have used 24 times. By the end of the season, they will have lost close to 1,000 games -- or more -- to the DL, the equivalent of over six seasons. Six Opening Day starters have wound up on the DL, as well as nine former or current All-Stars.

The last time Francona used the same starting lineup, including DH, in back-to-back games was April 12 and 14. His lineup Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles was the 95th he has used this season.

Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino on Friday acknowledged "the plague of injuries" endured by the Sox this season.

"It's obviously an area we have to examine,'' he said.

Lucchino said the team intends to review its medical staff after the season but insisted such a review comes under the heading of "due diligence.'' He also expressed confidence in the team's partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital.

Is there a smoking gun proving that it was Dr Gill in the study with the candlestick? Unfortunately not. The article details the treatment of Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Dustin Pedroia, but doesn't provide any conclusive evidence that the Sox medical staff acted improperly. Of all the injured players, only Jacoby Ellsbury and his agent, Scott Boras, fingered Dr Gill's staff. Nevertheless, look for more recrimination and accusation in the coming months.

Ultimately, the blame for this season will rest with two entities: Lady Luck, who decided that we should try to compete for the playoffs with half of Pawtucket's lineup, and the Red Sox front office, who like all great leaders must bear ultimate responsibility for the performance of their subordinates. My feeling is that, aside from fielding a team with many key elements over 30, there wasn't much indication that Theo et al. would have to worry about injuries. Perhaps when the injury concerns became more heated they could have moved more aggressively to reinforce the team; however, there weren't a plethora of great options on the trade market either. However, I don't have the full picture (and neither does Gordon Edes, or the rest of the beat-writing battalion).

It is certainly possible that the medical staff made mistakes in diagnoses that cost time from our players or hurt their recoveries. Likewise, it is possible that the training staff and the players themselves didn't work enough on conditioning, resulting in more injuries.

Like it or not, injury is an inevitable part of baseball, where players are expected to perform unnatural actions, like hurtling hundreds of balls at 90 mph, repetitively swinging a hunk of wood, or crashing into other players at full-speed (oh wait, that's Football; would somebody please tell Adrian Beltre that his position is third-base, not line-backer?). Some of this seasons injuries were entirely predictable - the 38-year-old Cameron's, for example. Others were freak occurrences that no one would have expected (Pedroia, Ellsbury). The most we can hope for is better play next year.