Amaro Full-Blows It On Biddle’s Brain

Among the bizarre health issues that have befallen Jesse Biddle in the last couple years, (you may recall he basically pitched through whooping cough in 2013), getting a concussion from a hail stone takes the cake. He was pitching well at AA Reading early in 2014, then he got plunked fleeing for cover from his busted up car during a wild storm, and his season all but fell apart.

After a skipped start, Biddle returned to pretty horrific mound results and trouble throwing to the bases. About a month later he was shut down for what the team initially deemed a “mental break”. It was later revealed that Biddle was suffering with post-concussion symptoms, and suddenly his problems seemed less like a guy who was overstressed or overthinking, and more like a guy with a brain injury.

So on Thursday, when Jim Salisbury published an article about Biddle and his mindset, and Biddle described going to a concussion specialist and being diagnosed with a concussion, it wasn’t surprising.

“I believe with the way it lines up, I was concussed and I was pitching with a concussion,” (Biddle) said. “I saw a concussion specialist and he said I had a concussion.”Jim Salisbury

Pretty straight-forward. Then Salisbury quoted GM Ruben Amaro, which, unsurprisingly made my head hurt like I myself had been hit with a giant ball of ice.

Amaro this week acknowledged that Biddle had “concussion symptoms,” but added, “I don’t know if it was a full-blown concussion.” He went on to say, “That wasn’t the reason we gave him the break.”Jim Salisbury

There are a couple things I don’t like about this. First off, yes, there are differing levels of severity of traumatic brain injury. But when the injury in question was followed by “concussion symptoms”, many of which can cause the very issues Biddle was facing last year, what is the point of Amaro parsing the diagnosis of a head injury as if he’s a medical professional? It’s also kind of baffling that he would use the term “full-blown concussion” so casually. Google finds about 13 thousand references to the phrase, compared to some 16 million for “concussion”. So yeah, he’s basically making things up. About one of his players’ brains. Wise.

Next, and from a purely franchise-centric position, what good does it do to push the narrative that Biddle needed a “mental break” that was not fueled by concussion symptoms? If Amaro ever wants to trade Biddle, he’s just reiterated that the time off was necessary because Biddle wasn’t able to mentally handle the game. Most teams don’t covet players who come off as mentally weak, and Amaro has just told the league that his guy is just that. When there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation to get around it, Amaro has devalued his player by tagging him with a negative. Savvy.

Biddle PitchingBut ultimately the most frustrating part of all of this is that Amaro is pushing what is already an unfair stigma against a young man who does not deserve it anyway. Biddle’s issues were physiological, not chemical or otherwise “mental”, and those who have any of these issues don’t deserve to be called out or shamed by anyone, let alone their employer, and let alone to a major media outlet. Amaro goes out of his way to tell us Biddle was having trouble getting himself in a mental position to compete, thereby diminishing what Biddle has been saying since last year, that his concussion was at least a significant part of the trouble.

And why? There’s nothing to suggest Amaro is mad at the player. That he’d slam him for spite. There’s no upside to pushing this particular narrative to the league or the public. And so, the only reason that I can think of is that Amaro himself can’t handle the pressure of a microphone in his face.

So, Mr. Amaro, perhaps you ought to give yourself a month away from the media. I think you’re in dire need of a “mental break”. You’ve been fine working behind the scenes. Go ahead and make a trade. Grab someone off the waiver wire. Take a trip to see the next International free agent.

Just do whatever you can to keep your full-blown mouth closed. Especially if you can’t keep your goddamned foot out of there.

Photo credit to Tug Haines, (@photugraphy) Reading Fightin’ Phils, via MiLB.com.

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20 comments

  1. Renmiked

    March 13, 2015 08:03 AM

    Just more evidence of why Amaro should no longer be running this team. As GM, he cannot blow off a head injury like its a sprained ankle. The fact that his thinking hasn’t evolved on this issue, like so many others, is no surprise. Isn’t he setting the tone for how the organization as a whole handles this, and by his comments isn’t he ignoring all current information on concussions? There is zero excuse for being that ill informed in his position.

  2. Romus

    March 13, 2015 08:19 AM

    The more I read Ruben Amaro’s statement the more I see ‘covering your liability a__’ innuendos in it. Not sure from whom the organization would be liable to…MLBPA or the player/family, but he seems to skirt around the culpable issue….that one specialist, a month or so later after the incident/fact, deemed it a concussion, but at the time in May of the hail storm and injury, the Phillies medical staff may have not.
    ‘Concussion like symptoms’ is so nebulous a statement.
    In any event, IMO, it is a well- prepared statement coming from the collective agreement of the medical and legal departments of the organization.

    • Brad Engler

      March 13, 2015 08:33 AM

      I don’t think I buy that. If it were well-thought out , would he be making up medical terminology?

      • Romus

        March 13, 2015 08:54 AM

        I may be incorrect on this, but I think Biddle may have went to a specialist outside the organizations ‘network’ chain of recommended physicians. Which he has every right to do as a second opinion. But then it puts the org in a very precarious position for liability issues, thus the terminology….’concussion like symptoms I don’t know if it was full-blown concussion’ and not the terminology ‘he experienced a concussion’
        Amaro is admitting that the org is very doubtful he experienced a concussion and will not accept that fact.
        And just not sure what medical terminology he used that has not been used in the past for standard everyday terminology from non-mediacl personnel when it comes to that scenario?

      • Steve

        March 13, 2015 09:47 AM

        I agree Roms, sounds like he was trying to comment on the situation without actually saying anything definitive. As Brad points out, he has no motive to slam the kid, and if the Phils are really convinced he cant pitch in the majors, than they would at least try to create the facade that he can to make him tradable. The word “concussion” gets everyone excited, and i have a feeling the Phillies dont want to be liable for lasting symptoms Biddle might experience. They wont admit that they may have mis-diagnosed it.

      • Brad Engler

        March 13, 2015 10:39 AM

        Romus, As Winks pointed out on Twitter today, Mike Drago reported it as a concussion the week it happened. No delay there. How and when Biddle saw a specialist I do not recall and can’t seem to find.

      • Romus

        March 13, 2015 02:33 PM

        Brad,
        Interesting.
        Reading the article….
        readingeagle.com/sports/article/fightin-phils-pitcher-jesse-biddle-suffers-concussion-after-getting-caught-in-hailstorm
        Assumed the incident was May 22-Thursday…boards the bus to Akron with concussed symptoms..diagnosed in Akron, missing the weekend start and then on Tuesday-May 27 passes the ImPact test and awaits clearance. His third concussion.in his life that he recalls. Perhaps the medical clearance was too hasty.

  3. Steve Kusheloff

    March 13, 2015 09:24 AM

    -
    -14

    Ruben Amaro’s pluses (are there any?) and minuses have been well documented. As for Jesse Biddle, though, he’s been around the Phillies’ minor league system for awhile and has yet to give the Phillies reason to bring him up. I’m tired of reading about his problems. He’s one base on balls from being labeled a bust.

    • Brad Engler

      March 13, 2015 09:33 AM

      He’s 23 years old and has had two consecutive seasons ruined by non-baseball medical issues. You wanna cut bait?

      • Steve

        March 13, 2015 03:21 PM

        Its really amazing that hes only 23. It feels like weve been watching him forever waiting for him to “break out” a ’17 rotation with Nola Biddle Eflin and a FA signing holds some hope.

      • Brad Engler

        March 13, 2015 04:25 PM

        @Steve – Nola, Biddle, Eflin, plus anyone who emerges from the group of Windle, Lively, Imhof, Mecias et al. Could be a very fun young rotation. Add to that the 1-3 overall pick next year, depending on how they go.

        I doubt they take a college arm this year with how stocked the upper minors is with quality options, but if they are as bad as we think they will be this year, with a very high pick in 2016, a college arm that’s basically ready is possible. We’ll have to see who emerges from that draft class. There may not be a college arm worthy of picks 1-3. Can’t wait for draft season this year and next (and 2017, since they’re probably going to be bad in 2016, also).

    • Romus

      March 13, 2015 10:06 AM

      Steve K……Biddle needs another chance at least.
      He now is in great shape and looks to rebound.
      Hopefully freak issues will now be a thing of the past. I mean how many people come down with whooping cough at 21-years old and get clobbered by hail at 22-years old! The last three seasons for him, could be a TV series in the making

  4. GWB

    March 13, 2015 02:47 PM

    Bravo Bill….Amaro should have been fired a long time ago and the organization continues to tread water under Gillick/Middleton….they loudly announce they are rebuilding, make some moves and then have been frozen in place ever since….nice that Ruin Tomorrow, Jr. gets his rocks off by bashing young players who are doing their best to succeed. I’m sure Dallas Green and Larry Bowa agree….Really sad…

      • GWB

        March 14, 2015 04:59 PM

        Sorry Brad! Bravo!

    • glovesdroppa

      March 13, 2015 10:05 PM

      I really liked this article, because what Amaro did was really stupid. Even if Biddle didn’t actually have a concussion, why would you go out of your way to express how you shut him down for “mental reasons”? Why not just say he has a concussion and leave it at that? He’s killing Biddle’s trade value and/or airing his dirty laundry for all to see.

  5. visitor

    March 13, 2015 05:24 PM

    I dunno – Amaro sounds like he talked to the trainers – that’s how trainers talk about this technical issue. Being diagnosed with a concussion severe enough to kill off a season does not exactly increase trade value, either – see Jason Bay. Seems like more mole hills into Amaron to me.

  6. Norcalvol

    March 14, 2015 01:56 AM

    Great article.

    “Full-blown concussion” = “Full-blown pregnant”

    A lot of baseball people are boobs. Too bad the Phils have one at such an important position.

    • Romus

      March 14, 2015 08:19 AM

      Agree….I guess Ruben may believe a woman can be a little pregnant!
      Nevertheless, his one statement ….’concussion-like symptoms’ should have sufficed for what his intentions were and the Phillies position on the matter To keep on speaking and trying to clarify, just elaborates their initial poor judgment last May/June.

  7. RAJ-a-Holic

    March 15, 2015 01:45 PM

    Guess a simple response along the lines of “I’m no doctor so I can’t really comment on concussions, but obviously something wasn’t right with him so we decided to shut things down as a precaution and we’re still very optimistic that he can be a part of our next contender and hope he has a great year in Reading” is too much for RAJ.

    Better instead to take a “hope springs eternal” pre-season puff piece and use it to devalue and sow the seeds of doubt and discord around one of your previous top draft picks.

    That’s not a guy who is uncomfortable with the media, that’s an idiot douche.

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