I was thinking the Mets were getting the worst medical advice in the majors, but as it turns out, the Cubs didn’t even bother to employ licensed trainers. Thus giving the Chicago Sun-Times’ Jay Mariotti license to vent.
It’s hard to believe, even by Cubbie standards, that general manager Jim Hendry would hire a trainer who wasn’t licensed to practice in the state of Illinois and wasn’t equipped to treat a rash of injuries that helped wreck the 2004 season. But such was the charge made Wednesday by deposed assistant trainer Sandy Krum, who said he told Hendry in August about the professional shortcomings and behind-the-scenes bungling of the since-fired head trainer, Dave Groeschner. Krum is suing the Cubs in Cook County Circuit Court for wrongfully terminating his employment, and to some degree, we must consider the grudge of the source.
Still, Cubdom should realize by now not to disregard any story as too bizarre. This was the dysfunctional season, after all, when players feuded with broadcasters Steve Stone and Chip Caray, the Rev. Johnnie B. Baker lost control, a sulking Sosa quit on the team after ripping fans and media all year, and on-field oneupsmanship became a bigger priority than winning games. Why wouldn’t these vicious office politics also involve trainers? Who wouldn’t Krum and Groeschner be on the verge of blows as Moises Alou and Kent Mercker wanted a piece of The Evil Stoney? And why wouldn’t reasonable folks at least listen to Krum’s claim that Groeschner, who replaced Dave Tumbas last offseason, lacked the credentials to properly assess and tend to injuries?
To this day, I’m utterly baffled by a series of diagnoses that originally expressed optimism, only to unravel into long, distracting and suspicious stays on the DL. Prior was supposed to return in a week or so, then missed two months. Wood was expected to miss a start or two, then missed a couple of months. Sosa sneezed and wasn’t seen for weeks. Todd Hollandsworth went away and never came back. Why? Maybe now, we’re finally getting answers, disturbing as the suggestions seem.
“Not only did the Cubs break the law, but this activity indeed is what led to prolonged stays on the disabled list for the 2004 Cubs team,” Krum said. “After being informed by me, [Hendry] allowed a non-licensed athletic trainer to continue as head athletic trainer, knowing that this was against the laws of the state of Illinois.”
Do the Cubs think they’re above the law? More likely, they are too inept to know the law or do due diligence regarding the law, but there are larger issues here. In a city of world-class medical centers, several within a quick drive of Wrigley Field, the Cubs can’t find one decent trainer to make sense of it all? Ever hear of a sports team employing three trainers in a 14-month span? Incredibly enough, there’s mounting evidence that they were as sloppy with their medical staff as they were in obtaining building permits for the Crumbling Confines.