Updated: March 21, 2013, 10:01 a.m.
Setting aside the Hanley Ramirez World Baseball Classic thumb disaster for a moment, the Dodgers rushing Carl Crawford into action is the baseball equivalent of cutting off your nose to spite your face. It’s cutting off your elbow to spite your season, is what it is.
Crawford had his Tommy John August 23, 2012, and if the Los Angeles braintrust has its way he’ll be celebrating the seven-month anniversary of the surgery while playing left field in a Spring Training game, Dodgers vs. White Sox, Saturday at Camelback Ranch, 7:05 p.m.
The club’s stated goal for the former All-Star? To be able to hit the cutoff man. Repeat: If Crawford can hit the cutoff man, he’s good to go. And what could possibly go wrong?
Among the many reasons for my being as pissed as I am about the Ramirez injury – and you really don’t want to get me started – is that it’s robbed me of the line about Hanley being Crawford’s cutoff man on most plays, and that God only knows if the shortstop will be anywhere near position to take the throw.
So much for that. Ramirez jammed his left thumb diving for a grounder in the WBC final last night in San Francisco, in the rain, and is out two to 10 weeks. That’s the preliminary, anyway. We’ll know more in a few hours. I’m guessing four to six weeks.
Update: Ramirez will have ligament surgery; Dodgers say he’ll miss eight weeks. Prediction: They’ll have him back in seven.
With Ramirez out, the domino effect puts Luis Cruz at shortstop to start the season (which is fine in and of itself), with some combination of Juan Uribe, Jerry Hairston, Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and even Elian Herrera at third. Except, Hairston and Schumaker are supposed to be playing some left for Crawford if he’s not on the Opening Day roster, and even if he is, for defense in the late innings, because hitting the cutoff man isn’t going to save you a ballgame.
And Hairston’s supposed to spell Andre Ethier against the occasional left-hander. And Schumaker’s supposed to give Matt Kemp – he of the surgically-repaired left shoulder – a day off every so often. And Schumaker’s supposed to play second for Mark Ellis against the occasional right-hander,or a lot of them. And Juan Uribe shouldn’t be a Dodger in the first place. Get the idea? It’s a bleeping mess, independent of Crawford’s health, not to mention Zack Greinke’s, which we won’t, or Chad Billingsley’s, which we won’t.
Every piece of a roster puzzle affects another. That’s just baseball, and all 30 clubs face the same challenges in preparing for a new year, give or take a few rehabs. They don’t all hurry their players along, fingers crossed and eyes closed, which is no way to drive the team bus. The Dodgers do. Not always, but more than enough for my comfort, and they’re doing it now with Crawford.
Sure, maybe he’s 100% and ready to face the Giants April 1 at Dodger Stadium. Maybe. Or perhaps they DL him for 15 days – or 30 – easing up on the pedal. But this business of Crawford’s hitting the cutoff man – which he may not even be ready to do consistently in a few days, much less weeks – is complete folly.
He’s got to be able to throw from the left field corner to second base on the fly. He’s got to throw from deep left center to third base to prevent the stretching of a double. He has to keep a runner from tagging up at second and going to third on a routine fly ball, and he’s got to throw a man out at the plate on a first inning single.
You can’t blame Crawford for doing his best to get out there asap, and if anything he’s to be praised for trying. But it doesn’t matter what the ballplayer says or wants. That’s what doctors are for. A trainer shouldn’t be making the call – not really – and to a lesser extent neither should a general manager trying to please all parties, nor should a skipper with six months to go on his contract. A physician – an objective conservative doctor – or better yet, doctors plural; should.
Here’s to hoping cooler heads prevail re Carl Crawford. Cooler, smartest-person-in-the-room, eight-years-of-medical-school-slash-specialty-training, no-agenda cooler heads. And the Dodgers will be better for it in the long run. In the short run too.