Commentary

Sox docs must be held accountable

Pedroia situation another example of mistakes made by team medical staff this season

Updated: August 27, 2010, 4:34 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- So it looks as though Dustin Pedroia does not make it to September, his fractured left foot back in a protective boot and surgery now admittedly an option. That revelation comes just one day after Red Sox manager Terry Francona -- who has had to answer more medical questions this season than a third-year resident at Massachusetts General Hospital -- said folks raising the possibility of an operation were "reaching."

After having scans of Pedroia's foot sent to specialists to get a second opinion, official word now is that Pedroia will be in the boot for seven days and then be re-evaluated. Unofficially, there are people around the club expecting that Pedroia will indeed require an operation, raising all kinds of questions about the wisdom of his attempted comeback, one that lasted just two days.

[+] EnlargeJacoby Ellsbury
AP Photo/Charles KrupaBoth Jacoby Ellsbury, left, and Dustin Pedroia came off the disabled list only to be placed back on it shortly thereafter.

Prediction: You will hear lots of talk that Pedroia was overeager in trying to get back on the field and help the team win. From the outset of the foot injury, he spoke openly about wanting to beat all forecasts regarding his return and was disappointed when it took him more than seven weeks to play again in a Red Sox uniform.

But after the fiasco of Jacoby Ellsbury's premature return after he fractured four ribs and had a fifth fracture go undetected, the burden of accountability falls squarely on the Red Sox medical staff, which hasn't been in such an uncomfortable position since Nomar Garciaparra declared about one of its predecessors, "Our doctors are killing us.''

No one who has taken the Hippocratic Oath has ever said it was within their power to stem the Biblical plague of injuries that has afflicted the Sox this season. In the future, Adrian Beltre will play with a warning label affixed to his uniform, after singlehandedly taking out two Sox outfielders, Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida, in collisions.

This season has turned into a baseball version of the kids' board game "Operation" with no shortage of body parts to set off the buzzing red nose of the patient: abdominal tear, kidney stone, elbow ligament, broken thumb, torn thumb muscle, two fractured feet, hamstrings, neck, back, hip, chest, groin, mono, leg infections. Gray's Anatomy transformed into Tito's Anatomy.

But while trainer Mike Reinold, for example, has been widely praised for his shoulder program for the team's pitchers, it is fair to ask why both Ellsbury and Pedroia appear to have placed themselves at risk of further injury when neither should have been playing, and why outfielder Mike Cameron will soon be going under the knife after club officials maintained all season they didn't believe an operation would be necessary.

Finger-pointing is often a convenient outcome for a team frustrated by its inability to field a healthy team, but in both the case of Ellsbury and Pedroia, there are people close to the situation who have told ESPNBoston that egregious mistakes were made -- mistakes rectified only when outside opinions were enlisted.

Yes, second opinions are routinely sought in professional sports. But certainly for Ellsbury, who didn't find out about an additional fractured rib until he saw Dr. Lewis Yocum at the urging of agent Scott Boras, and now possibly with Pedroia, who wasn't supposed to be cleared to play until doctors were satisfied he was no longer at risk, it's fair to ask if those opinions came too late in the process.

Sports columnists whose medical knowledge extends to their ability to Google are advised to proceed cautiously when raising questions about the competence of people recognized among the best in their profession, as team doctor Thomas Gill and his staff are. But the question here is not what a typist thinks, but the confidence of those players who place their health in the hands of doctors employed by the club for which they play.

Ellsbury missed months and was vilified foolishly as being soft. He says he has no intention of returning until he is fully healthy, and will rely on Yocum as much as the Sox medical team to make that determination.

Now Pedroia, whose toughness has always gone unquestioned, may miss the rest of the season after having already sat out the better part of two months.

He may well be reluctant to be as open as Ellsbury in raising questions about his care. But somebody should.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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