MLB’s lockout will have a negative impact long after it’s over
There are so many things to hate about the MLB lockout: no shocking free-agent signings, juicy rumors, offseason player content, the list of things we’re missing goes on, and on, and on.
But even when the lockout ends (it has to end sometime, right?), its impact will be felt in an important, and problematic way.
Because of the lockout, players are not able to be in contact with their teams. For players rehabbing from injury, this presents a unique and serious issue: they cannot work with the medical staff and trainers who would typically be helping them recover and get back to baseball.
Yankees pitcher Jameson Taillon tweeted about this problem on Day 1 of the lockout:
Will Zach Eflin be ready to pitch when the Phillies’ season begins?
He made 18 starts to the tune of a 4.17 ERA before knee surgery ended his season in mid-July. By September, he was having knee surgery.
When Eflin went under the knife, his recovery timetable was 6-8 months, putting him back on the mound as early as March 2022. However, the strict rules of the lockout prevent the Phillies from asking Eflin how he is feeling, and he cannot ask them for help.
However, without the help he’d receive with his rehab process during a normal offseason and spring training, that’s no longer guaranteed.
Nick Madrigal, who was traded from the White Sox to the Cubs at the trade deadline, spoke to The Athletic about how the lockout has interrupted his own injury recovery:
“At first when the lockout happened, it was pretty tough.
I was following the rehab process to a tee over when I was at the Cubs’ complex. They would print out new sheets every week. I would ask what the game plan was moving forward, if I’m able to run, do (certain) activities.”
Clearly, the lockout has interrupted so much more than the transactional customs of the offseason.
While a player’s offseason training facility could act as a go-between during this time, the separation of players from the staff could hurt both the players’ individual careers and the collective success of their teams.
Madrigal touched on that, too, as his own physical therapist keeps in contact with the Cubs’ staff on his behalf:
“I trusted them to relay the information, but it’s kind of a scary feeling. You want to do the Cubs’ exercises to make sure you’re on the same page with them. It feels like I should be able to just call the team and ask a question. But I know that’s against the rules. It definitely took some time to get used to that.”
The Phillies’ current offseason plans – as much as they are willing to disclose to the public – are to upgrade the bullpen and outfield, ideally with players who can really slug. On a laundry list of Phillies problems, these are the top priorities.
However, the starting rotation was a struggle-filled sore spot, too; Zack Wheeler aside, obviously. Eflin and Aaron Nola were less than helpful in their starts, forcing the front office to trade for Kyle Gibson, whose ERA nearly doubled when he arrived from the Rangers. Vince Velasquez’s abysmal pitching finally ran him out of town, and Ranger Suárez had to be moved to the rotation from the bullpen, one of the only things that went right for the 2021 squad.
The Phillies need Eflin in 2022, and not being allowed to work with him is a roadblock they don’t need right now.