Yesterday at NBC I wrote with skepticism about Dontrelle Willis’ stay on the disabled list. Today Jayson Stark runs with that — and with a couple of other curious disabled list cases — and asks whether messing with the DL is a common form of shenanigans in Major League Baseball. While he asks a lot of the right questions, he calls speculation like mine “conspiracy theories,” and seems to come down more on the side of the Major League baseball who says this:
“We can’t talk about specific cases,” MLB’s vice president for public relations, Pat Courtney, told Rumblings. “But what we can say is that each DL placement must be supported by sufficient medical evidence, and it has to come from a highly qualified physician.”
In other words, the commissioner’s office is reviewing every case. And doctors are signing every form. And the players in question, their agents and the union have to be on board with every trip to DL purgatory.
and the Tigers, who say this about Willis:
“If somebody called me into court and said, ‘You’ve got to show me what you have to support this,’ I feel very comfortable in saying I could show exactly why we put him on the disabled list.’”
Sorry, still skeptical. I’m a friendly government attorney now, but I spent a decade defending civil lawsuits, a great number of which involved injuries. And I can tell you, you don’t have to be an anti-trial lawyer zealot to realize that you can pretty much get a doctor to say anything you want as long as it’s the right doctor. That’s why plaintiffs are usually subjected to independent medical exams from doctors who (and here’s where the “independent” part comes in) aren’t being paid by those who have an interest in finding an injury or seven. Even then it’s not perfect, but the IME process does cut out a lot of the baloney.
Does Major League Baseball have an analog to an IME? Maybe such a thing isn’t necessary as a matter of course — when a guy breaks his hand, it’s pretty obvious — but is there a procedure for such a thing in the event someone presents a prima facie case of DL shenanigans? Seems like in the case of Dontrelle Willis and maybe, as Stark notes, Oliver Perez and Chien Ming-Wang, such a thing would be pretty handy.