Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi and Philadelphia GM Pat Gillick are dirty, stinking liars.

B.J. RyanFirst Gillick lied about the severity of closer Tom Gordon’s shoulder injury, claiming in spring training that there was no injury and after a couple of reporters ran into Gordon on his way to the doctor.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Clearly, the Phillies’ 39-year-old closer was not right during spring training. As it happened, he flew home from Florida for a medical exam on the very same day a couple of reporters, including The Inquirer’s Jim Salisbury, were flying north to attend the memorial service for John Vukovich.

If the reporters hadn’t seen Gordon in the Tampa airport that day, no one would have known about his trip to Philadelphia.

The Phillies clearly planned to pretend it never happened. When they got caught trying to sneak Gordon to their team doctor, they pretended it was not a big deal.

More recently, Ricciardi revealed the Jays were not up front with the media and fans about closer B.J. Ryan’s injury, which he suffered during training camp. Ryan is now on the 60-day DL. When he was first diagnosed, the team claimed he had a back problem. Now, the story has changed.

From the Winnipeg Sun:

“First of all, it wasn’t B.J. Ryan’s back that was bothering him,” Ricciardi said on the radio. “It was his elbow that was bothering him. So we said it was his back so we could have a bit more time.

So what’s up with teams inventing stories to mask their players’ injuries? What’s to be gained?

In the Phillies case, it may be that they felt they needed to honor a promise to Gordon to give him every chance to close.

The Phillies promised Gordon he would be their closer when they signed him to a three-year contract that now appears a tad over-optimistic. If you break promises like that, word gets around. Future free agents might be less willing to come here if they don’t think they can take your word.

In the Neverland of guaranteed baseball contracts, no one seems to factor in harsh realities such as sore shoulders and diminishing returns. The Phillies felt obligated to honor the code until Gordon, following his own code, stopped trying to pitch through his physical problems and admitted he was hurting.

Tom GordonBut why not tell the media that, yes, Gordon is hurting, but he’s going to try and pitch through it. Why lie?

Why did Ricciardi lie about the nature of Ryan’s injury?

Moreover, why do fans get upset when general managers lie? Do we feel we have a right to the truth? Why? Because we pay tickets? Because we pay taxes on stadiums?

All I can think of is, fans want teams to be honest about player injuries so that they can know how loud to boo when that player struggles. If a player is pitching through an injury, we’ll boo less heartily than if the player sucking for no good reason. If we boo a guy really loud and it turns out he was playing hurt, we feel bad. And GMs should do their best to spare us that guilt.

Is that too much to ask?

6 Responses to “Why do teams lie when players are hurt?”

  1. Danny O says:

    What, no credit to eagle-eye Orrock here?

  2. Nick Kapur says:

    Wow. I mean, really, wow…

    This is the most glaring case of nepotism I’ve ever seen!

    Jon Schuerholz Jr. is a 27-year-old non-prospect with career minor league batting average of .225 and a .314 career OBP. And absolutely no power whatsoever – 4 home runs last year in 445 at-bats.

    Why is this guy even anywhere near Triple-A ball? His last season that could even vaguely be called “good” was four years ago in low A ball, when he hit .251 and OPS’d only .656, but at least had a reasonably decent OBP of .356 and stole 25 bases.

    In the three seasons since that time he’s batted .207, .245, and .184, yet for some reason he’s been steadily advancing another level up the minor league ladder each year!

    At this rate I’m just going to go ahead and make the call that he will be the Braves starting 2B in 2008.

  3. This had me laughing out loud. Great article Coley…I don’t even know what else I should say.

    I feel like I should be defending my man Schuerholz Sr but this is indefensible.

  4. Why should they potentially tip off other teams that players are fighting through an injury? Once it becomes apparent, in Gordon’s case for example, then it should probably be made public and the player should be moved into a less important position. Philly fans were pissed that Gordon continued to close (in reality, blow) games when it was obvious he didn’t have his stuff. Now Ryan Howard is trotted out there in the cleanup spot despite his continuing leg problems. In the end, I don’t think it’s a matter of truth, but money. Like you said, money is put on the table for a guy to do a particular job. Teams like the Phils will ignore performance and defer to experience and promises.

  5. Nick Kapur says:

    Oh man, you left out Riccardi’s best line!

    He said something like, “It wasn’t a lie if we really knew the truth.”

  6. Danny O says:

    This is how I felt when Wickman lost the ability to close games for the Braves a week and a half ago. My friends and I are speculating madly: maybe he’s had too much work this early in the season, perhaps he’s got a nag leftover from Spring Training, maybe his elbow imploded, maybe he lost the magic and is months away from retirement, or could it simply be that the Braves not being able to hold a lead is the first sign of the apocalypse?

    And then the Braves put him on the DL and tell everyone he’s been suffering from tightness in his upper back for a while. Well, damn, let a fan know something before I start praying to a new god!

    But, I understand why the Braves would play it like this, cause they don’t wanna tip the other team off to any sensitive info. Don’t they have rules about this in the NFL?

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