Maybe We Should Call Geico

In the midst of last season the Arizona Diamondbacks reached an agreement with Dan Haren on a contract extension that would keep him in Sedona Red for the foreseeable future. This was of course great news since Haren had become such an important part of Arizona’s success in the 2008 season. Almost immediately everyone wondered when the Diamondbacks would reach a similar agreement with staff ace Brandon Webb. Word quickly spread that Arizona was negotiating with their star pitcher and progress was being made. Then as quickly as that the good news of an extension was replaced with word that negotiations had broke down and no deal would be announced.

The fans I spoke to were extremely confused and the rumor mill began to crank up. It was of course the work of a greedy player and agent who were trying to squeeze the last dollar out of a team by holding them hostage until demands were met. The local radio talk shows were filled with commentators and fans pouring out their disdain for Brandon Webb and his agent. Soon word got back to Webb and he came out publically and insisted that he was willing to sign and that an agreement had been reached in principle with the team but that the Diamondbacks had pulled the offer. This left everyone extremely confused especially given the dominating way Brandon Webb was pitching. What could possibly be stopping Arizona from locking up their best pitcher to an extension beyond 2010?

This topic would not go away and dogged Webb as well as General Manager Josh Byrnes throughout the remainder of the 2008 season and through the off-season as well. When Webb came to came one of the first things reporters wanted to talk about was the contract extension. Clearly this was going to be a long year for Brandon if he was going to have to field these questions through the course of the season. Neither Webb nor the Diamondbacks would comment publicly about the situation and everyone was left wondering what was going on between these two parties.

Word was leaked this week and reported by ESPN that the reason the offer was pulled was because of concerns over Brandon Webb’s shoulder. This news came at the heels of Webb being taken out of the rotation and missing his next scheduled start due to shoulder stiffness. Over the past few seasons no one has pitched more innings than Brandon Webb and perhaps that is beginning to take its toll on the right hander.

Webb granted an interview with where he talked about his shoulder and about the contract offer. He confirmed that it was indeed pulled due to concerns over his long term health. He further went on to reveal that he had met with an arm specialist and that this was not the first time he had done so.

It should be noted here that none of this information has come from the Diamondbacks who continue to decline comment. They have taken the stance of not wanting to discuss a player’s medical condition for privacy reasons. I have to respect that in the organization. If I were a player I would not want that revealed either. Fans who feel they are owed this information should stop and consider how they would feel if the results of their last physical were broadcast on national television.

I played organized baseball for over 30 years at various levels and have gone through similar discussions with coaches, family and close friends. I too developed shoulder problems as a result of playing and have dealt with three surgeries and learned firsthand what it takes to recover from an arm injury. I can respect the Diamondbacks concerns especially in light of the fact that their insurance companies were balking (no pun intended) at covering Brandon Webb’s contract given his potential for arm problems. In the end this is a business and as cold and callous as it sounds Brandon Webb is an asset of the business and must be valued as such. Hopefully though this early bought with stiffness is nothing and the visits with Dr. Andrews will eliminate some of the fears that the team and more importantly their insurance partners have with Brandon Webb and the two sides can reach an agreement that will keep Webb an Arizona Diamondback his whole career.

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