Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels announced he's likely to miss Opening Day after experiencing discomfort in his pitching shoulder this offseason. But, ‘No biggie!’ Hamels and the Phillies would have you believe.
“I see myself pitching in April,” Hamels said. “I just wanted to be up front with everyone. ... Don’t feel alarmed.”
Hamels and the Phillies would also have you believe Hamels didn't undergo an MRI three months ago, when Hamels said the discomfort first arose. This, for their prized, home-grown, left-handed twentysomething inked to the largest contract in Philly sports history: six years, $126 million. No MRI, perhaps modern medicine's most revealing diagnostic and one that, for a pro sports team, couldn't be easier to get.
You might recall this seemingly innocuous report about Chase Utley, and the discomfort he experienced before the 2011 season, dribbled out on Feb. 28. Headline: “Utley says knee tendinitis is ‘minor blip.’”
Some excerpts, highlights in bold:
Said Utley: “I hope it's just a minor blip. I think we have the right people checking it out. I think the work ethic is going to be there in terms of trying to improve it. So in that aspect I think it's all good."
Said Charlie Manuel: "I think that all that can be taken care of. ... I'm concerned about it, of course. But at the same time, I feel just like I did [Saturday] before I knew anything [about the MRI]. It'll take a few days for him to get well, but he will, and we'll have plenty of time to get him ready for the start of the season."
Utley, you may remember, wasn’t ready for the start of the season. Or the next.
This isn’t about challenging the Phillies, who are no less believable than anyone else in pro sports. NHL injury reports seem a binary proposition: “upper body injury” or “lower body injury.” (And, I suppose, a third: “Brayden Holtby’d.”) Patriots head coach Bill Belichick consistently draws ire in the NFL for his injury reports. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly just so happens to forget to consult team doctors... ever.
The point is, when it comes to player injuries, nobody is entirely forthcoming. Everybody is thoroughly vague, at best, utterly misleading, at worst. Which assumes teams, players and doctors know the severity of an injury when they choose to instinctively downplay it. They don't. Often times, they can't. (All of which apply to the patently bizarre Roy Halladay injury saga that spanned 18 months.)
So for you, the fan scrounging for hope and the clinging to the A.J. Burnett signing – not so coincidentally leaked moments after Hamels was “upfront” – don’t buy it. You don’t necessarily have to break the glass and assume the worst. Just know, crossing your fingers for the best is just that – crossing your fingers.
Especially after the last time a Phillies star came up with a "nontroversial" injury in spring training.