The Red Sox’ refusal to disclose anything about Chris Sale’s elective elbow surgery in the middle of a national medical-supply shortage is unacceptable.
New York Mets righthander Noah Syndergaard was scheduled for Tommy John surgery Thursday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in West Palm Beach, Fla. The Mets said that team doctor David Altchek would perform the surgery, even though the Florida governor has barred nonessential elective medical procedures in the state.
Doctors in Florida are empowered to determine what is essential, and a Mets official told the Wall Street Journal, "This condition fits within the essential surgery guidelines.''
Last Thursday, the Red Sox announced that Sale, who is in the first year of a five-year, $145 million contract extension, would require Tommy John surgery. When Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was asked about nonessential surgeries being put on hold in the middle of a pandemic, he acknowledged that he considered Sale’s surgery elective.
"Obviously something we’re mindful of,'' said Bloom. "No. 1, the difficulty generally surrounding elective surgeries with what our country is going through and also making sure that we’re doing this in a way that doesn’t put any extra burden on the public health system.''
Given the sensitivity of Bloom’s comment, it is difficult to understand why the Red Sox aren’t saying anything now. They won’t say whether the surgery has been performed. They won’t say whether it has been scheduled or postponed. On Wednesday, the Globe contacted Bloom, Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy, and vice president of media relations Kevin Gregg, and all issued no comment.
It’s an unfortunate response while we are in the middle of a global pandemic, with surgical supplies limited and citizens sensitive to the notion of rich and powerful folks receiving preferential medical treatment.
The Sox are a private company but very much a public trust. Accountability has not been a trademark of the ball club in recent years, but this is a lot different than ownership disappearing for two weeks after firing Dave Dombrowski. This is far worse. Sox fans have a right to know what’s going on with Sale — then make their own judgments.
Did the Sox go ahead and do the surgery? Are they waiting? Will they tell us when or where the surgery is scheduled, as the Mets did with Syndergaard? Where is Red Sox leadership?
It’s a decision that impacts Sale’s career and the Sox’ prospects for the next few seasons. Sports fans are mindful that waiting on a star pitcher’s elbow surgery is not in the competitive interest of the ball club.
But what the Red Sox do regarding Sale also speaks to the highly sensitive topic of special treatment for professional athletes. Many Americans were upset with the instant availability of coronavirus testing for NBA players and teams in the early days of America’s emergency.
Transparency regarding Sale’s surgery is not a medical privacy (HIPAA) issue. The team has already announced Sale’s condition. We know exactly what Tommy John surgery means. The Red Sox delayed the surgery last August, hoping for a non-surgical recovery. They delayed again at the beginning of March when Sale experienced pain while throwing. In the middle of a pandemic, does it need to be done now?
Please, let’s not have any headstands from doctors trying to tell us that Sale’s procedure is "essential.'' Bloom’s remarks from last week are clear. The Red Sox have acknowledged that this is elective surgery.
If the Sox postponed the procedure in the spirit of not putting any extra burden on the public health system, it would color the franchise as sensitive, fair, and willing to sacrifice baseball success for the greater good. If the Sox went ahead and did the procedure, there might be some blowback, though some fans no doubt would understand.
"No comment" is simply weak and unacceptable.
I’m not a fan of the Mets’ plan to go ahead with surgery on Syndergaard, but at least they didn’t hide.