The Dodgers Should Revamp Their Medical Staff

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The Dodgers have made some radical front office changes since the World Series ended last month including the addition of a new general manager and a newly created President of Baseball Operations position. Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi will be working with Josh Byrnes, the new Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations as well as Gabe Kapler, who was hired as the Director of Player Development. Billy Gasparino was also brought on board as Director of Amateur Scouting.

Interestingly while the front office has gone through major restructuring this offseason, the Dodgers announced that their entire coaching staff will be back in 2015

Aug 1, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Paul Maholm reacts after sustaining an apparent injury after a collision at first base in the 7th inning during the game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

without any changes. That means Lorenzo Bundy will be waving everyone home again in 2015.

There hasn’t been any major changes to the roster as of yet, but I would be surprised if Andrew Friedman and company don’t work to shape their own roster this winter bringing their fresh perspectives and strategies to the table. While there is no guarantee that these new Dodger executives will put together a World Championship team in 2015, I am pleased with the talented baseball minds the owners have brought to the Dodgers.

Another area which the Dodgers should look to upgrade is the medical staff. Ownership has attracted some of the most sought after front office executives, and they should have a training staff which is equally impressive in order to provide the ultimate in medical services for the players.

Stan Conte, Vice President of Medical Services, quietly took over for the departed Sue Falsone, and there hasn’t been any major additions to the staff since Sue moved on from the Dodgers. While some have blamed Falsone for the Dodgers’ myriad of injuries during her tenure, the medical staff as a whole should be held accountable including Conte.

Current Dodgers Medical Staff:

Vice President, Medical Services

Stan Conte

Assistant Athletic Trainer

Nancy Patterson

Assistant Athletic Trainer

Greg Harrel

Massage Therapist

Ichiro Tani

Strength and Conditioning Coach

Stephen Downey

Strength and Conditioning Coach

Brandon McDaniel

Head Team Physician

Dr. Neal ElAttrache

Team Physician

Dr. John Plosay

Team Physician

Dr. Brian Shafer

Team Physician

Dr. Mary Gendy

Team Physician

Scott Takano

Administrative Assistant, Medical Services

Andrew Otovic

I’m not a medical expert, so I can’t offer a complete explanation of why the Dodgers have had so many injuries over the past few seasons. What I can argue is that the Dodgers should look to bolster their medical and training staff in order provide top notch services not only to treat injury but also in prevention.

I can only imagine what a difference a healthy Matt Kemp would have made to the team in 2013 if he had not been rushed back so soon from his shoulder injury. His initial shoulder injury and subsequent ankle injury was not the fault of the medical staff, but his care after including his continued playing time after the shoulder injury was a bad call by the medical staff.

Don Mattingly‘s reluctance to take injured players out of games also contributed to the injury roll call, but it is the medical staff’s job to correctly diagnose said injuries while shutting down injured players when needed. I use Matt Kemp as an example, because as we saw from The Bison’s 2014 season, he is an integral player on this team and should have been allowed to fully heal and rebuild strength before being thrown back out on the field.

The plethora of injuries over the past few seasons has been detrimental to the Dodgers’ success. We saw the Dodgers scramble to fill in their rotation after a multitude of pitchers went down late in the season. In early 2013, the injuries to their pitching staff spurred them to use pitchers we never would have thought they would have to use so early in the season.

2013 was largely defined by injuries for the Dodgers. Even though they came back to go on that historic winning stretch, if they had been able to curb some of the disability list stints who knows what could have been. Hanley Ramirez started off the season already on the D.L. after hurting his thumb during the World Baseball Classic, and that was just the beginning of the train of injuries to follow.

Chad Billingsley was out of the picture after just two starts. Josh Beckett succumbed to his thoracic outlet syndrome early on. Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly were extremely rusty throughout the year. Hamstrings were strained left and right as Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford all missed time. A.J. Ellis, Jose Dominguez and Jerry Hairston Jr. all strained either their oblique, quad or groin. Matt Kemp’s ankle was disintegrated on a lackadaisical slide, and Hanley got hurt again while diving into the stands in Chicago. Yasiel Puig‘s hip was hurting for parts of 2013 and 2014, and Adrian Gonzalez‘s neck was bothering him in 2013 as well.

Average days lost to DL per season courtesy of Fangraphs.com

The Dodgers’ bid to get to the World Series was all but destroyed after Andre Ethier couldn’t start due to an ankle injury, and Hanley’s rib was cracked in Game 1 of the NLCS.

While some of the injuries were of the freak variety and couldn’t be prevented, the treatment after such injuries is where the medical staff came up short.

According to sportsinjuryalert.com, in 2013 the Dodgers lost 1,209 days lost to the D.L. with 25 D.L. moves and an average of 48. 36 days per D.L. stint. The MLB average for number of D.L. moves in 2013 was 17.13. Only the Yankees had more D.L. moves in 2013 than the Dodgers with 29.

Fangraphs.com also had some eye opening disabled list data compiled. From 2010-2013, the Dodgers lost the fourth most days to the D.L. in the Majors behind the Red Sox, Yankees and Padres.

While the Dodgers did get healthy in the second half of 2013, only making three D.L. moves, the injuries ultimately plagued them well into the postseason. 2014 was another injury riddled year, and while not as bad as 2013, the injuries to the pitching staff were damaging.

The Dodgers need to decrease the days lost to the D.L. in order to play deeper into the postseason. While constructing a roster with less injury prone players is a part of that, the unforeseen injures also need to be tended to by expert medical staff who have not only the player’s wellbeing in mind but also the greater good of the team.

I cannot pin the injuries on any one of the medical staff members, but I feel as though the Dodgers could bring in some additional reinforcements for 2015 and beyond in order to curb as many injuries as humanly possible. The Dodgers have a world class training facility, and they now have a top notch front office. I would like to see the Dodgers look to strengthen their medical service staff, because you never want to depend on Carlos Frias during a pennant race.

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