Aside from a few workouts and some reporters’ questions about Wei-Yin Chen‘s newly repaired knee, there wasn’t much besides guys shaving their beards going on at Ed Smith Stadium yesterday as pitchers and catchers reported. However there was a story across the league which caught my attention; Philadelphia released Chad Gaudin after he flunked a physical. Obviously this is something with which fans of the Baltimore Orioles are very familiar – just ask Grant Balfour and Connor Jackson. (On a side note, we’re still waiting on the grievance that Balfour said he was going to file with the MLBPA…just saying.) So how exactly is this relevant?
The national media hammered the O’s in both cases – especially with Balfour. Part of this has to
do with the fact that the likes of Dr. Koko Eaton of Tampa publically decided to take up for Balfour, and thus called into question the Orioles’ physicals. Eaton’s past incidents with Buck Showalter regarding the Manny Machado injury have been well documented here and elsewhere. However that aside the reaction of the national media seemed to rev up a similar reaction from pockets of the fan base. Peter Gammonds of MLB Network was especially critical of the Orioles in print and on twitter – for what that’s worth.
What the media failed to mention was three different doctors had looked at the results of the physicals, including one that had no connection to the team. Ultimately many people just assumed that owner Peter Angelos didn’t want to pay the players and found a way out of the deals. My point at the time (and still) was that if it gets to the point that the player is taking a physical, the owner’s already signed off on it. Furthermore, the O’s had no way of commenting past saying that the deals were off due to the HIPPA laws (basically medicine’s version of attorney/client privilege). Balfour used those laws to his advantage, giving permission for Eaton to comment on the situation; naturally his commentary was fairly scathing towards the Orioles.
All of that aside, the same outrage from the national media doesn’t seem to be directed at the Phillies for in effect doing the same thing. First off, this isn’t totally an apples-to-apples comparison. In the Orioles’ cases the players failed physicals in anticipation of contracts. In Gaudin’s case he failed a routine physical that players are given when they report to spring training. Not that it matters, because ultimately they all failed their physicals and their deals were voided. So the point is that when the Orioles did the same thing it was national news, and not in a good way. But in Philadelphia’s case it’s a blip on the radar.
Ironically, the Orioles’ interest was peaked when Gaudin was released, however after seeing the results of the physical they decided not to pursue him. For whatever reason the O’s don’t have the rapport on a national level to get the benefit of the doubt. Look at last year’s situation regarding September 6th with the Ravens and the NFL. The Orioles had every right to the date, and in fact it wasn’t as simple as people like Roger Goodell and certain national media members made it out to be to get the date changed. (The opponent and the MLBPA would have had to approve it as well, neither of which happened.) Ultimately the O’s got the date but they also got the lion’s share of the blame nationally when in fact the controversy was ignited and sparked by Roger Goodell.
The point here isn’t to say “poor Orioles.” For all we know Grant Balfour will go on to put up Mariano Rivera-like numbers over the course of his two years in Tampa. Heck, for all we know Chad Gaudin might go elsewhere and do the same. However if he does, would that be marketed as Chad Gaudin, the one the Phillies let get away because of a shaddy physical, or Chad Gaudin, the one the Baltimore Orioles could have tried to sign after the Phillies released him? With that said, I have to wonder if Dr. Koko Eaton is planning on commenting on Gaudin, given that he seems to know so much about other teams’ physicals…