St. Louis manager Tony Walnuts on Dave Duncan: ”It’s not personal. It’s business. Now get the fuck outta here.”
Joe Strauss of the Stl-Post Dispatch reports today some news that can only be seen as a silver lining, should it happen, to the North Side of Chicago. Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan missed the Astros opener last Tuesday for “personal business,” and may move on from St. Louis. Duncan has been with Cards mgr Tony La Russa since Tony Walnuts’ 1983 White Sox. While the two have succeeded where ever they’ve gone, Duncan has not been happy with Card GM John Mozeliak’s keeping the Cards minor league pitchers outside the loop of Duncan and his staff up top. There’s also the issue of Chris Duncan’s treatment by the STL media and fans over his work last year, which was brutal. Although Chris D had a great 2006 (the Cards last postseason year), 2007-2008 saw a drop in production that Cardinals fans and management did not forgive. It only came out post-season that Chris Duncan played 2007 with a double-hernia, and currently, other ailments.
Cardinal management has a history of covering up injuries, and one wonders, had the media been informed, if Chris Duncan would have been derided, then traded, so cavalierly? Would the fans have piled on? All of which might make you think, “that’s baseball, deal with it.” But, when the guy has delivered, and his dad is a key asset to your playoff bids (if one can go by the numbers found here), who can actually turn a John Smoltz around at this point in his career, you might want to come clean for once or simply let reporters know off the record out of simple personal loyalty to the Duncans. Chris Duncan has already been released by Boston. Then Tony La Genius offered a heartwarming embrace of Dave Duncan. “I’ve told him before that our personal relationship never stands in the way of the professional,” La Russa said. “Nothing has changed, and nothing will change about that.”
Well, certainly Chris Duncan found that out. La Russa has a reputation (around here anyway) for pushing injured players into playing when they shouldn’t. Indeed, Cardinal casualty Scott Rolen currently warms the Reds bench due to post-concussion syndrome. Tony Walnuts’ comments below on Chris Duncan appear as willfully ignorant as his comments after Jose Canseco outted Mark McGwire’s steroid use (basically, HUH!?!? On my team?!?!?). That said, the Cardinals bad news is good for the Cubs. Hopefully Dave Duncan is eyeing an AL team. Who knows, maybe Duncan spent his first missed game in decades in Chicago to discuss the team’s new ownership and future. Joe Strauss reports the following:
After blasting 22 home runs in 280 at-bats in 2006, Duncan’s breakout start to 2007 was sabotaged by a double hernia that neither player nor team confirmed until the younger Duncan submitted to surgery that September.
The conspiracy of silence repeated itself last season when a herniated cervical disc left Duncan with excruciating pain in his neck and numbness in his right arm and hand. He required surgery to replace the defective disc with a prosthetic, a first-of-a-kind procedure on an American professional athlete.
When Duncan’s performance began to erode again this season, the club never acknowledged a physical issue.
However, Duncan was scheduled to leave the club in Houston to be examined by his St. Louis surgeon, Dr. Dan Riew, the day after learning of the trade. (Dave Duncan had pushed for the exam.) Fearing what an examination might reveal, the younger Duncan refused to attend the appointment.
Dave Duncan reacted harshly upon learning of the trade the night of July 21. While reporters were shooed from the Minute Maid Park visiting clubhouse, Duncan lashed out at the team’s training staff in front of players for its handling of his son.
Reminded that Chris consistently denied his injuries when queried by reporters, Duncan insisted, “At some point the club should protect those who don’t protect themselves. Chris didn’t protect himself. And no one else protected him either.”
La Russa says his understanding of Chris’ hernia and cervical condition was less than total.
“Until the end I didn’t know the pain he was in,” La Russa said. “I would have never played him if I thought the hernia would become a double hernia or if he was having trouble sleeping at night. (Chris) shares that (responsibility). But by doing that, my respect is magnified for him. He thought, ‘If I could walk, I’m going to go out there.’”