Mr. BARRETT: There was an awkward silence for about 10 seconds. Then he told me to come in in about two or three weeks to start rehab.
Not surprisingly, Pappas's ownership role in the Red Sox was a red flag to Barrett's lawyer, Donald Shapiro. The relationship gave Shapiro something to sink his teeth into, a way to explain the inexplicable to a jury. In a fundamental way, it gave him his case. "If a doctor has a financial interest that is opposed to the patient's interest," Shapiro said before the verdict, "then there's an obvious problem. Here, there was no question that Boston's short-term interest was to get Marty Barrett playing again."
This was the scenario Shapiro laid out for the jury: The Red Sox, who had won their division the year before—and would win it again in 1990—believed strongly that they had a reasonable shot at a division title in '89. In fact, for most of the season they were within seven or eight games of first place. But this was not a team blessed with depth; it needed its veteran starters, players like Barrett, to stay healthy if it had any hope of making it to the American League Championship Series.
And that, Shapiro and Barrett contend, is why Pappas never told Barrett how badly he had been hurt. The team needed him back in the lineup as quickly as possible—and Pappas knew it. A tear in the anterior cruciate ligament is among the most serious of sports injuries. Since the mid-1980s, the standard treatment for professional athletes with a torn ACL has been to reconstruct it surgically, but that operation requires a rehabilitation that can last as long as a year. Clearly, if Barrett had had to undergo such an operation he would have been lost for the remainder of the '89 season and quite possibly for the early part of the '90 season as well.
What's more, Shapiro strongly suggested, because Barrett was not a superstar the Red Sox viewed him as expendable in the longer run—which was also something team owner Pappas was likely to know. Team executives testified during the trial that even before Barrett's injury they had planned eventually to move shortstop Jody Reed over to second base (this, in fact, did happen) and that they knew Barrett's three-year contract would probably be his last with Boston. That deal included a buyout clause for $300,000 for the final year, meaning the Red Sox could jettison Barrett by paying him that amount during the off-season instead of the full $1.25 million the contract called for if Barrett started the third season in a Boston uniform. After Barrett's injury, Shapiro argued, the Red Sox would have been happy to get another year or two out of him, until Reed could take over.
Pappas's defense was that he did inform Barrett of the ACL tear but that the knee was stable enough, even after losing most of the ACL, to rule out the need for reconstructive surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation. Instead, Pappas testified, he counseled a more conservative course of treatment, one that would rely primarily on a brace to stabilize the knee if necessary and prevent further injury. Under Shapiro's withering cross-examination, however, Pappas said he had no notes of any conversation along those lines. In fact, he could not even recall the specific conversation in which he told Barrett about the extent of his injury.
After his surgery Barrett did come back to play the final two months of the 1989 season. But in a meaningless late-September game, with Boston out of the race, he slid hard into second base, trying to break up a double play. Again, he felt pain in his knee. This time, however, when Barrett visited Pappas, the physician told him he wouldn't be able to do another arthroscopic procedure for several weeks; his schedule was too tight. "You probably tore some more cartilage," Barrett testified that Pappas told him. So instead, Barrett sought out John Richard Steadman, a well-known sports orthopedic surgeon, who quickly diagnosed the injury as an ACL tear. When he operated, in October 1989, Steadman discovered that Barrett, as Steadman later stated in his deposition, "had no functional ACL." It had been removed by Pappas. Barrett was stunned.
But the most damning testimony at the trial came from neither doctors nor principals. It came from former Red Sox manager Joe Morgan, who was on the stand for no more than an hour on the trial's third day. Morgan testified that Pappas came into his office in late July 1989—after Barrett had been sent to the club's minor league team in Pawtucket for rehab—and said, "Marty says he's ready to play." Then, added Morgan, "Dr. Pappas said to me that by the condition of his knee, he would not have a long career."
After Morgan's testimony, there wasn't much doubt as to how this trial was going to turn out. Over the course of the next few days, Pappas and his wife, Martha, who sat by her husband's side throughout the trial, became increasingly close-mouthed and stoic, while Barrett grew increasingly upbeat and animated.
Pappas's attorney spent just 2½ days presenting a somewhat desultory defense—a defense that largely consisted of downplaying Barrett's abilities as a ballplayer, the implicit point being that Barrett's career had already begun to go downhill even before his injury.