The San Diego Padres have a history of dealing with injuries poorly. Now, it’s catching up to them.
The symptoms of this problem began with the hiring of A.J. Preller as general manager. Preller was suspended 30 days by Major League Baseball in 2016 for not disclosing medical info regarding Drew Pomeranz before Preller dealt him to the Red Sox. That was the first red flag.
While he’s avoided suspension again since the signs are there that the Padres continue to be a franchise that exercises poor judgment when it comes to injuries. Whether it be sweeping it under the rug or sheer incompetence, there are several examples of this franchise being less than forthcoming or straightforward in dealing with injuries to their players.
In 2020, there was Mike Clevinger. Acquired at the deadline from Cleveland, Clevinger made just four regular season starts for San Diego before being put on the shelf ahead of the Wild Card series against the Cardinals. Even with elbow concerns, the Padres allowed him to pitch again in Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Dodgers. He lasted just one inning, walking three, and the Padres were forced to have yet another bullpen day. It became clear he needed Tommy John surgery, and he missed the entire 2021 season.
Would things have been different had he not pushed it with that start in the playoffs? He had pitched just one inning in nearly a month before that start. Did those two one-inning outings cause him to miss 2021? The Padres sure could have used Clevinger during last season’s collapse.
Dinelson Lamet is another example of poor elbow management. The team and Lamet were understandably hesitant, as Lamet had Tommy John surgery in 2018. In 2020, like Clevinger, Lamet left a start early with an ailing throwing elbow. However, initially, the team called it “biceps tightness.” Perhaps to mask the true issue of the elbow, since that is usually an injury that causes panic among the fans. The team and Lamet opted for platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatments instead of shutting him down for surgery or further rest. He then began 2021 in late April as a reliever.
Since that mysterious injury in late 2020, he has not been the same. The spin rate on his slider went from 2,614 rpm in 2020 all the way down to 2,284 rpm this season. After finishing fourth in NL Cy Young voting in 2020, he has made just nine starts in two years since, with a 5.46 ERA, including a long stint in the minor leagues this season. How did he go from Cy Young candidate to middling reliever?
2021 also saw the team deal with their star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.’s shoulder. The issue first flared up in early April, and he was placed on the 10-day IL on April 6 with left shoulder inflammation. He went on the IL twice more for the same issue, as his shoulder kept popping out. The doctors called it “shoulder subluxation.” The team, and Tatis, opted not to have surgery to repair it. Each time it happened, the team reassured the fans that it could be healed with further strengthening. To this day, he still has not gotten surgery.
Perhaps the issue could have been completely resolved had Tatis and the team opted for surgery immediately after the season. Maybe he doesn’t get on that motorcycle in the offseason if he is busy rehabbing a surgically repaired shoulder.
That leads us, of course, to his wrist. Yes, the injury to his wrist is entirely on Tatis. Being reckless on a motorcycle after the Padres handed him a gaudy $340 million contract was downright irresponsible and selfish. He let the team and fans down. The timeline for healing might be different had there not been a winter lockout this past offseason, all the way up to March. However, the team has refused to be transparent and forthcoming regarding his healing process.
Time after time, the media and fans are promised an update from the team regarding his progress, only to get radio silence. Even this week, AJ Cassavell reported on Tuesday that the Padres would get an update that following day.
Fernando Tatis Jr. had another scan and met with his wrist surgeon again yesterday in Arizona. Bob Melvin says the club won’t have an update until team doctors have taken a look and all parties have conferred, but expect an update on Tatis’ next step by tomorrow.
— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) July 12, 2022
However, as it has become custom with this team, no such update came in the promised timeline. Time after time, the Padres have pushed back Tatis’ scans or at least updates on the results. For whatever reason, the franchise feels the need to play it very close to the vest and be coy regarding their injured superstar. This leaves fans assuming the worst, and the anger is starting to build against the front office.
You all want a Tatis update (and so do I). As of now, there is none, Bob Melvin said.
— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) July 13, 2022
Plus, there were fan videos showing Tatis swinging a bat before the team had officially cleared him to do so.
— Average Takes (@AverageTakes_) June 22, 2022
The team quickly backpedaled, saying it was merely a “systems check.” However, they acted flustered when pressed about the video.
Tatis is not ramping up towards a rehab stint. He still isn’t even taking full swings against live pitching. He is a long way away from playing in a Padres uniform. Some are starting to doubt if he will even return at all this season. The timeline is now early August, best-case scenario.
The Padres refuse to give timely, consistent updates on one of the most recognizable and infectious superstars in sports.
That is not the most recent example. It’s not just an issue with Tatis, as we saw with how they handled Clevinger and Lamet. They traded Chris Paddack to the Twins, along with Emilio Pagan, in exchange for Taylor Rogers. Paddack made just five starts for Minnesota before it was revealed he needed a second Tommy John surgery. He will be out until perhaps 2024. Some wondered if this was yet another shady deal done by Preller.
Starter Chris Paddack, dealt by the #Padres to the #Twins on the eve of the season opener, underwent Tommy John surgery that sidelines him until 2024. The Padres got an All-Star closer Taylor Rogers in the deal. The Twins got 5 starts.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) May 18, 2022
This season, Manny Machado went down with an ankle injury on Father’s Day. He went 11 days between playing days and was not put on the IL. This left the Padres’ bench short a bat for nearly two weeks.
The most recent example is Jurickson Profar. After that nasty collision with C.J. Abrams last week, the team handled it very poorly for the entire world to see. Typically, with any injury involving the neck or spine, the player is immobilized to prevent any possible further, more serious damage. In this case, the Padres’ training staff allowed Profar to move about and even stand before collapsing and needing a cart to take him off the field.
The slowmo replay of the collision is bad, but somehow not as bad as how the injury was handled. I don’t know why the hell the trainers let Profar get up at all, let alone walk unsupported. And it sure as hell shouldn’t take ~15 minutes for the med response cart to come out! https://t.co/0krfa3rQHi
— Marisa J (@littlespider9) July 8, 2022
This is perhaps the most egregious and public error the Padres have committed in regards to injuries. Frankly, that was unacceptable malpractice. Profar suffered a concussion, which is serious in itself. But the fact that he suffered only a neck strain aside from that is fortunate, especially for the Padres’ staff who handled him poorly.
What is to be done about this? Is there one person to blame, or is it a systemic issue?
Preller’s history is not exactly unspotted. This was a problem long before Bob Melvin. The Padres continually misjudge injuries and fumble the public relations tactics along with them.