bgh gave us the run down on carpenter's injury history yesterday. last night, one of our resident ortho-types - scoot - put up a fantastic fanpost, outlining the anatomical/physiological issues behind carpenter's continuing peripheral neurological issues.
to sum up for those too daunted to read scoot's fanpost (which you should really, really do), the words "worst case scenario" get tossed around at one point. there's also a mention of a 2-3 month rest period, followed by a warning that further surgery or retirement are likely outcomes in the event the rest treatment fails. to me, it reads like a long, anatomically illustrated plea to sign roy oswalt.
of course, all the typical disclaimers should attach. scoot has not - to the best of my knowledge, at least - personally examined chris. but i'm sure even those of you without medical certifications of any kind have figured out that chris carpenter is not so much a person as a real-life re-telling of "candide" by some perverse novelist-orthopedic surgeon with an unusual interest in baseball. whatever the worst possible thing is that could happen, it was almost certainly going to happen to carpenter. most cardinal fans who've been paying attention for the last nine years could guess that once they sent carpenter back to st. louis, the news was likely to be either dire or just plain awful.
rick hummel has an article up that outlines some of the parameters of the injury. rather than being related to his bulging disc, the nerve problems appear to be independent of the disc problems. and a timetable of months is being considered for his return. surgery is not considered an option right now.
needless to say, this is exactly what one hopes to hear about the 37-year-old pitcher one has just signed to a two-year extension.
while it's hard not to get down about losing one of the best starting pitchers on the team for half a season or more, the cardinals are much better positioned to absorb this loss than they were a season or two ago. last season, when adam wainwright went down in spring training, the club turned to kyle mcclellan who wore out quickly and was barely replacement value in the time he spent on the mound. this season, the club has lance lynn lining up to take the reins in april; later in the season, if things get dire on the starting pitching front, you might even see shelby miller take the ball. i'm sure that's nobody's plan A or plan B in the front office, but if injuries force the issue, we could see that happen. both are likely to fare far better than replacement value, though neither is likely to approach carpenterian levels in a first season of starting games.
and suddenly, roy oswalt looks like a pretty serious option. you'd certainly have a pretty good case to make to bill dewitt, were you john mozeliak, that the cardinals had gambled on carpenter's health in his two-year extension and probably lost. in carpenter's absence, dropping $7.5m-$10m on roy oswalt doesn't seem like a terrible idea, especially if we can con . . . erm, convince baltimore to take kyle mcclellan and his salary.
the truth is that the cardinals are right on the threshold of being very good playoff contenders. in the event they make the playoffs, the increased revenue from reaching the postseason will almost certainly offset the added salary demands. on the other hand, given the rumors that oswalt intends to sit out till june, the cardinals may have to play a waiting game. that has its own hazards for roy; the cardinals might find they really like lance lynn, starter, in those three months. and, as the time oswalt can contribute shrinks, so will the willingness of teams to pay big money.
does it strike anyone else that the lance berkman-bud selig blowup was much ado about nothing? i admired berkman's follow-up to his conversation with selig in which he admitted that "extortion" was maybe not the best word choice ever, but that the sentiment was correct. i think it would've been hard to object, if berkman said that MLB "strong-armed" the astros into accepting the league change, etc. and i think any reasonable person who heard the comment did not really believe that bona fide extortion was taking place. an ordinary reader understood that using the word was a colorful way of saying that MLB exploited its monopoly powers over baseball which apparently congress gave to MLB by never taking the exemption back that it had not really granted in the first place (hooray, SCOTUS! now hold that the congress clearly intended to exempt me personally from paying income tax because they have never rescinded that exemption either.) to persuade the astros to accept a league change. now, that little bit of semi-voluntary compromise cut the purchase price on the astros by about 10%, so it wasn't a total loss to the new ownership, but it's hard to deny that MLB's unique powers impacted the sale terms substantially.
mostly, the whole kerfluffle reinforced the public perception that selig is an oversensitive, humorless megalomaniac. anybody who runs something big, like MLB, is going to get criticism. responding directly to it only makes you look weak for troubling yourself. lance berkman is one of 750 major league baseball players on active rosters at any one time in MLB. taking the time to worry about one piece of minor, hyperbolic insult looks petty.