And on the 12th day of Christmas, Jon Daniels said to his impatient, yet hopelessly captive audience, "Hey, you know that shiny new pitcher you all asked for in your Christmas letters? You know, the one that's currently on backorder?"
"Well, he's possibly also defective, so don't get your hopes up too high."
ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote on Sunday that the protracted medical records of free-agent right-hander Ben Sheets were evoking concern on the part of his potential suitors, which in turn should elicit little more than a dismissive "So? What else is new?" from the astute hot stove observer.
However, the key revelation to take away from Olney's superficially innocuous update is not the concern itself so much as it is the unsettling disclosure that Sheets's previously troublesome right shoulder is evidently more alarming than the irksome right elbow soreness -- which was ultimately attributed to a torn flexor muscle -- that preempted what would have otherwise been his first-ever trip to the playoffs.
Sheets, as you may recall, had his 2005 campaign cut short in late August by a torn right latissimus dorsi muscle (an integral component of the shoulder joint), began the 2006 season on the 15-day disabled list due to a right posterior shoulder strain, and then, after being activated on April 16th, went down less than a month later with right shoulder tendinitis that cost him nearly half the season. Chris Neault, a friend of Baseball Time in Arlington and frequent contributor to the Hardball Times, attempted to identify the predominant weakness in his kinetic chain back in early May:
Why do these injuries continue to mount for Sheets? The culprit appears to be his high arm slot. Although it’s partly responsible for the large 12-to-6 curveball, it’s also responsible for taxing the rotator cuff to the max. As a rule of thumb, the higher the arm slot, the harder the rotator cuff and biceps must work to stabilize the head of the humerus. This places stress on the rotator cuff interval, which includes ligaments in the front of the shoulder that also add stability.
Latent rumblings persist that Sheets's back is also a source of some concern; agent Casey Close confidently asserted back in November that no structural damage was inflicted by his client's most recent elbow-related malady, but widespread apprehension over his rotator cuff being a potential ticking time bomb would go a long way towards explaining why the market for his services has been so lifeless to date -- and, for that matter, why the Rangers' outward show of interest in his services has appeared lukewarm from the outset of this entire saga.
Maybe Nick Piecoro was onto something, after all.
And then as he turned to walk back into his workshop, Daniels bellowed, "Oh yeah, and you're not getting a Manny doll, either!"
SI.com's Jon Heyman apparently generated some buzz after a Sunday television appearance on the newly launched MLB Network (during which it was alleged that Texas was interested in Ramirez), but Daniels promptly refuted that assessment, explaining that while the Rangers have "looked at some right-handed options for the lineup ... [they're] not pursuing Manny at this time." Not that there was ever even a minute chance that such a marriage would occur, mind you, or that such a marriage should occur even under more ideal financial conditions.
● According to Daniel Barbarisi of the Providence Journal, the Red Sox and estranged captain Jason Varitek are believed to be discussing the possibility of the 36-year-old backstop returning to Boston on a short-term commitment as a result of Varitek's (and agent Scott Boras's) failure to obtain a big-money deal in a tough economy. His reprisal of the everyday catching gig in Beantown wouldn't entirely preclude the tiresome idea of a catcher-for-pitcher swap between the Rangers and Red Sox coming to fruition at some point before Opening Day (after all, Varitek isn't a solution to their long-term catching conundrum -- not at his age and current level of production), but it sure diminishes whatever likelihood might have been existent to nearly nothing.
● Although the Nationals have reportedly made a late push to acquire free-agent outfielder Milton Bradley, all indications continue to suggest that the Cubs will ultimately sign him sometime this week.
[Update: FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal reports that the Cubs have reached an agreement in principle with Bradley on a three-year, $30 million deal.]
● Finally, Rangers vice president of media relations John Blake has been charged with the arduous task of sifting through the deluge of audition tapes -- which reportedly number well into the triple digits -- that have arrived in Arlington since Victor Rojas swiftly vacated the broadcasting chair alongside radio play-by-play legend Eric Nadel for a lucrative studio gig with the MLB Network. Team president Nolan Ryan and (of course) Nadel will have a say in the process, which the Rangers presumably don't want to allow to drag out late into the month.
Hey, winter's back.