As Ricky would say to Lucy, "Let me 'splain."
My New York franchise has a team doctor who I've been seeing. I have no reason to believe he has given me poor care or done anything unprofessional. Dr. McGee is, in my opinion, an honest man who genuinely cares about the people he examines.
However, in my meeting with the team the other day, they produced a "second opinion" from an unknown doctor. Now, if the second opinion is about me, you'd think I would have been there for the examination. It is, after all, my arm we're talking about.
The team is now stating that the second opinion they acquired is based upon Dr. McGee's MRI and examination notes. Dr. McGee thought I was rehabbing well and would pitch pain-free this year. Of course, I had my setback which turned out to be scar tissue breaking up, but that's temporary. I should be throwing balls around from flat ground at this time next week.
The team says no. In their opinion, which is based on this second "independent" opinion (and probably upsets Dr. McGee, their official team physician), I'm done. My elbow is a minefield. Take one wrong step and BOOM! Because of this assessment, they've asked me to either retire or expect to be on the disabled list, unavailable to play, for the entire season. In either case, they wouldn't be on the hook for my $9+ million 2008 salary (if I retire, they don't have to pay me; if I'm on the DL all season, insurance will pick up the tab).
I think upper management is full of...crap. They won't tell super agent, Jack Perry, or me which doctor rendered the second opinion (it took 2 days for them to admit publicly they even had the second opinion - this after stating, in effect, that I lied about that part of our meeting). Jack subsequently filed a grievance with the union.
I've never been involved in a grievance with my employer. So far, it's not fun. We are in dispute with one another and I, as employee, am basically forcing them to lay out all of their cards. Employers don't like to have their decisions questioned, especially by employees who have no problem letting the world know what's going on step-by-step via the Internet. If this were a marriage, it would be one on the rocks.
I do not want a divorce.
Yesterday, I suggested two reasons why they might be doing this in the first place.
1. They want to save money.
2. They don't want me on the team anymore.
I just thought up a new one (after subscribing to Paranoia Magazine last night):
3. They don't want me on the team anymore, but fear the public backlash of cutting me, so they hope I will ask to be either released or traded.
I'm not sure which is their truth. My truth is this: I like my house. I like my town. I like playing in New York. While I didn't want my supposedly last active off season to be marred by one public dispute after another with team management, it's not enough to make me ask to be released or traded. I don't want a divorce. I want to work this out.
The grievance process is how we'll do our counseling.
Back to my new doctor. In the grievance, it states the second opinion must come from an independent party. The team doctor is their party. Their "second opinion doctor" is... well I'm not sure what he/she is. But we're disputing anything that person said about me (aside from mention of my thinning scalp). The true second opinion will come from a doctor both team and player/agent agree upon.
You'd think I was negotiating for a $150 million contract extension.
Jack was on the phone with GM Alvin Kirby nine times yesterday. Jack said total speaking time was well over 3 hours. They had real issues with various points of the grievance, which I won't go into publicly unless Alvin does first. Mainly, the team wouldn't agree to any of the doctors Jack suggested. In turn, Jack wouldn't agree to their suggestions. It's like I'm the one on trial and prosecution and defense attorneys are interviewing potential jurors. That's what this is. This doctor will be the jury determining whether or not I'm guilty (can't pitch ever again) or not guilty (will pitch).
After wrangling and all that, the doctor chosen was Dr. Leslie Hoffman. She's based in Tampa and is an orthopedic specialist. I was the first big league player she ever examined (she's focused on professional tennis and NHL players). Nonetheless, she's a professional and, like I said, a respected specialist. I flew down to Tampa and had a lovely time in first class talking to a woman who works for a pharmaceutical company about marketing cough medicine to healthy people.
Dr. Hoffman did what Dr. McGee did - MRI, lots of poking and prodding and stretching and twisting. She spent 20 minutes and then did it again. We should have the results back today.
My mother once told me that honesty is the best policy. I wish the team had come to Jack and me and told me what they really wanted in the first place. Instead, they went the messy route and will be wiping egg off of their faces for a while. Because in the jury of public opinion, they have so far shown that they are guilty as charged.