October 2, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann (16) at the batting cage before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Brian McCann's Last Season In Atlanta?


Brian McCann’s shoulder surgery means he won’t be ready for the 2013 season. Was his injury mishandled by the Braves and could that lead to his departure for free agency> Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Brian McCann will miss the start of the 2013 season because management decided he should play through a shoulder injury when the right diagnostic test might have ended his season in August.

A story by Ken Rosenthal today (3.11.13)  included a report that Brain McCann knew he would need surgery on his injured shoulder during the season but the Braves disagreed and BMac felt obligated to play because the team was in the pennant chase and he felt he could contribute.

McCann told Rosenthal, “I knew,” he said. “I knew in August. Professional athletes know their body. They know what they’re feeling.”

The disagreement continued after the season. This is from my post the day McCann had surgery on the shoulder.

On October 6, McCann told David O’Brien

“We already basically know what is going to happen, what needs to happen,” McCann said. “I think it’s going to be [a matter of] how long I’m out for. Could be a couple of months, it could be a little more than that. Could be four or five months. We’ll see what happens. We’ll find out. I can’t really say right now, but I’m pretty sure surgery.”

In the same post GM Frank Wren had a different view.

“I think we first have to determine if surgery is necessary — that hasn’t been determined yet. . . From what we know it would not be a surgical repair. . .during the season we can’t do the MRI with injection because you’re down too long . . once he has the MRI and we know totally and get the medical report — but from what we know now, the prescribed treatment is rest.”

We also heard BMac didn’t have the contrast MRI that would have shown the tear because they the team didn’t want him to miss that much playing time. (Contrast MRIs require a dye injection and patients can have side effects including dizziness and nausea as a result, those may take a few days to subside.)  All of this isn’t new to readers on this blog of course.

I wrote often in August and September asking why the Braves didn’t sit the unproductive catcher and suggesting that it was a bad idea for both the player’s health and the Braves to postpone the MRI and the surgery.

In my August 15th recap of the game:

Nothing new on Brian McCann’s subluxation of the right shoulder. So you won’t have to look that up a subluxation is a “The atypical anatomic positioning of any joint that exceeds the physiologic but not the anatomic limit.  OR Incomplete or partial dislocation, as of a bone in a joint.” In other words the shoulder didn’t come all the way apart just far enough to hurt like hell when he moves it; you know like throwing or hitting.  I hope it doesn’t get worse but it is weakened state any high stress event might be too much.

A week later I suggested that “. . .Brain McCann has to hit or Fredi Gonzales has to sit him down and save his shoulder.

On September third I wrote about Fredi Gonzalez dissembling over the health of the team and included this bit on McCann:

“BMac has a cyst in his shoulder and a “frayed” rotator cuff. . . we don’t know what the damage on BMac’s is but judging by his swing it isn’t a minor thing. . . “

I know from personal experience what a torn rotator cuff feels like and how long the rehab is. I had an 80% tear repaired in January – pictures on request :) .  I digress.  We know now and they could have – should have known– then,  that according to Rosenthal’s report, “. . .McCann had a tear in his labrum, a larger tear than even the contrast MRI revealed.”

Another significant injury – this one psychological – was inflicted on McCann by Skipper Fredi Gonzales who started David Ross in the Selig death match contest. The fact the Ross was stellar behind the plate and along side it aside. Rosenthal’s story says that Gonzalez mishandled the situation enough that, according to teammates close to McCann, he felt slighted. McCann of course would never say that publicly nor will he speak ill of his hometown Braves or any of their personnel, that just isn’t his nature.

The whole idea that we were better off with McCann playing the way he did in August and September rather than trading for another catcher – there were a lot of serviceable backstops on the move at the time – or bringing up Jose Yepez doesn’t stand up to what happened and what could reasonably have been expected to happen.

July 20 19 79 71 15 21 2 0 9 21 7 13 .296 .354 .704 1.059 .240
August 21 20 82 72 1 13 0 0 0 2 9 15 .181 .280 .181 .461 .228
Sept/Oct 18 18 68 62 5 14 2 0 2 9 5 14 .226 .279 .355 .634 .255
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

While Mac had a good July after the his rest over the all star break The last two months were below replacement level. According to Fangraphs 21 major league catchers had 80 or more plate appearances in August. Of that group McCann 20th in BA and Slg % and 17th in OBP with a WAR of –0.3 In September 30 catchers had 60 or more PA and McCann was 29th in BA and 30th I slg%. He rose to 23rd in OBP but hold your applause, as you can see above that was a .280 and once again a WAR of –0.3 .  He was clearly replaceable on the field. The argument for his leadership and moral support is moot. He could have provided that leadership with is arm in a sling. It was plain and simply a bad decision, not by McCann fro offering to play but my the management team that allowed it.

Whether the season would have ended differently is also moot. The point here is that Mac will not make opening day and may miss a month of the 2013 season. If the right decision had been made in August he’d be ready to go now and might look more favorably on the Braves during negotiations after this season

That’s A Wrap

McCann told Rosenthal and has told anyone else that would listen that his desire is to be a Brave for life but he realizes “. . .that it’s a business, and that it’s out of my control.”  I’ve said for a long time I thought Mac would leave for a bigger payday that then Braves will offer him. As I noted on Saturday Chipper Jones told Jim Bowden on XM radio he thinks so too. In the grand scheme of things The Rangers and Yankees will both be shopping for a catcher with open wallets and Mac will get $17M for five years or so. I think the Braves know this privately and aren’t willing to go there. They will make him a good offer but it will be hard to resist a huge payday just because you don’t want to move. The larger question for the Braves is whether they’ve allowed payroll restrictions imposed because the team owner is a corporate board in Colorado instead of a baseball fan who wants success to change their approach to the players well being.

I know some will disagree but I don’t believe this situation would not have occurred during the streak when Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz ran the club. It’s well documented that Cox held players out longer that the medics required and  wasn’t afraid to go the the minors and get a player or ask JS to make a trade to fill the void. That administration took a long term view when it came to the health of the players. This situation and their insistence that Jason Heyward continue to play in 2011 even though his shoulder obviously needed repair, bring into question whether the Gonzalez – Wren administration feels the same way.

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Tags: Atlanta Braves Brian Mccann FanSided

  • fireboss

    Not implying management doesn’t care about the players health just that financial pressure have given them a short term view of priorities instead of a long term plan for success.

  • rick staley

    Very astute assessment of the Braves failure to make an acquisition for a catcher to help the team all the while relieving an injured player who had given his all for the team to that point of the season. Everyone watching the Braves when Mac would swing and miss at a curve or slider down and away saw the agony of his facial expressions.

    As a result, his free agency will more than likely be to costly for the Braves to become serious contenders. He knows they ignored his overall health privately, and they will not have the necessary means to cover his next contracts demands…imho.

    • fireboss

      Thanks. I’m relatively certain that after Molina got his big contract the Braves decided Mac was a gone goose. They couldn’t trade him because he’d been injured in 2011 and fans would have screamed bloody murder. Half a dozen catchers moved at or after the deadline for players to be named yet Wren did nothing. The Braves will make an offer probably three at 15 with a fourth option but that would sign Mac unless he has a crap year. Rangers have wanted him a long time and could give him 5 or 6 because of the dufus hitter the AL uses. My hope is that Gattis learns to be a good game caller because his bat is about ready. Sadly Bethancourt might never hit at the major league level .

  • Lee Trocinski

    Definitely a “Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t” here. If McCann rebounds this year, he’ll get that big contract in another city. If he struggles again, I doubt the Braves will want to pay him a shorter $10M/yr contract, where another catching-desperate team may do so.

    • fireboss

      I suspect the Rangers are readying a jersey as we speak. That’s why Pierzynski got a 1 year deal. Opposition in the form of a rebuilding Yankees team but I expect with that choice I’ll be able to drive to Arlington and where my McCann jersey there next year

      • Jeff Schafer

        I see it a little different…if McCann comes back strong this year, yes he’ll get that big contact somewhere but if he has another average year I don’t think he’ll ask for a bank clearing contract. The Braves will reward him for his work and he’ll stay a Brave.

        Just my opinion but I think the Braves will realize at the end of the year he’s our best option moving forward and resign him.

        • fireboss

          You assume he has to ask. He is going to have a good year. For the first time since the ASG in 2011 he’s healthy. Hitting the ball in the cage and BP like he’s ready to play according to Fredi. An AL team that can catch him 81 games and DH him the rest of the time can give him a longer contract for more money. He is bound to get a raise from his 12 million this year. Molina got 17 Mac is worth at least 15 without sounding greedy. The Braves aren’t going to give him 5 years but the Rangers – who covet him- will. I’d be shocked it he was in an Atlanta uniform next year. . .Unless we get an owner willing to overpay to keep him