Written by Jeff Stotts with Will Carroll
The player falls to the turf, grabbing his knee or his shoulder or his hamstring. All heads turn as the man comes out of the dugout, a pack around his hips. Armed with nothing more than some tape and years of knowledge, the Athletic Trainer is there to help that athlete go from the trauma of that moment to another moment in that same spot, days or weeks apart. The treatment and hard work is seldom seen but when the player steps back on the field, ready to help his team again, it is a win for the medical staff.
Since 2003, the Dick Martin Award has been given to the medical staff - physicians, Athletic Trainers, physical therapists, and other associated health professionals - that contributed most to their team. Using a series of measures such as days lost, injury cost, and multi-year averages, we have sought to find an objective "best" in a very subjective and oft-misunderstood profession. This season, we are adding the name of Gene Monahan to the award to recognize his long and distinguished career with the New York Yankees. Monahan retired after a 39-year run with the Yankees and while we cannot give him the monument he so richly deserves, we believe putting his name alongside longtime Twins Athletic Trainer Dick Martin is an appropriate honor for the medical professionals that follow his example.
This season, we are proud to present the award to the medical staff of the Cincinnati Reds. Led by Head Athletic Trainer Paul Lessard and Dr. Tim Kremchek, this staff has not only reduced injuries over a period of years, returned athletes ahead of schedule, and exceeded expectations for injuries, they have done so in a year where the pressure was increased by contention.
The Reds medical staff excelled at maintaining the health of a team evenly balanced with veteran and young players. Even when injuries did occur they showed an impressive ability to properly manage the player, providing ample time for recovery while ensuring the team remained competitive.
It wasn't always easy, especially in the beginning when Ryan Madson, acquired in the offseason to be the new closer, suffered a torn ligament in his elbow that ultimately needed Tommy John surgery. Aroldis Chapman took over in the ninth and recorded 38 saves for the year despite missing time with "dead arm". It was the careful handling of Chapman's shoulder injury by Lessard and his staff that insured the young fireballer would be able to finish the season and be available for the postseason. Pitchers Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto also benefited from Lessard's expertise putting together career years after injury-riddled 2011 campaigns.
Position players also reaped the rewards of Lessard and company as several often injured players avoided the disabled list and helped the Reds win their second division title in the past three years. After playing in just 65 games in 2011 veteran Scott Rolen was able to play 92 games as the Reds medical staff carefully and methodically handled his shoulder and back issues to maximize his playing time. The other half of the left side of the infield was also an injury concern entering the season as Zack Cozart was still recovering from offseason elbow and ankle surgery. However, Cozart pieced together an impressive rookie season playing in 138 games and providing stability at a position once considered a weakness in Cincinnati.
Another test for Lessard would come in late July when reigning MVP Joey Votto would suffer a torn medial meniscus in his left knee. Almost one month after Dr. Kremcheck performed surgery to repair the meniscus, Votto would need a second procedure to remove a piece of floating cartilage in the same knee. Despite pressure to rush the three-time All-Star back, Lessard exhibited patient and provided Votto the appropriate amount of time to get healthy. After missing 48 games, Votto returned to the lineup and hit .343 for the month of September.
The work of Lessard, Kremcheck and the rest of the staff contributed to the Reds 97-win season and their ascension to the playoffs.
This was a tough year across the board in the majors as the teams combined to lose the highest number of days to the disabled list since 2004 at 29,388 days. On average, teams lost just shy of 980 days to players on the disabled list, again the highest such mark since 2004. Perhaps the most surprising fact to come out of this year's data was that even some of the traditionally stingy staffs like the Rays, Diamondbacks, and Tigers found themselves with full training rooms in stark contrast to previous seasons, which is part of what makes the Reds' success this season so remarkable.
Cincinnati finished the previous decade missing nearly 1,000 games per season in DL time, which seldom put them at the very bottom of the league, but as decidedly below average. Recently, however, they have rounded nicely into form over the last three seasons, as the number of days lost on the DL has dropped below 700 days per season, which is a substantial improvement. It should come as no surprise that this change for the better coincides with Lessard's arrival to the club. This year, the Reds lost 680 days to players on the disabled list, but it didn't prevent them from running away with the NL Central.
We would to like to congratulate Lessard and the entire Cincinnati medical staff and look forward to presenting them with 2013 Martin-Monahan Trophy at the upcoming Winter Meetings.
Previous Dick Martin Award Winners
2004 Tampa Bay Rays
2005: Milwaukee Brewers
2006: Chicago White Sox
2007: Cleveland Indians
2008: Pittsburgh Pirates
2009: Philadelphia Phillies.
2010: Chicago White Sox
2011: Kansas City Royals