Dotel not doing what the doctors ordered

You know how players say, "It's not about the money?" You know how almost every one of them is lying through their faces when they say it? Well, ladies and gentlemen, we present to you Octavio Dotel – The Man Four Doctors Couldn't Beat.

Dotel is – well, was, in all practical terms – the Oakland Athletics closer whose right elbow has been annoying him for months now. The A's trainers said he could pitch if he could cope with the pain. So did the A's team doctor.

Dotel, though, wanted to be sure, so he sought a third opinion, and then a fourth. They all said the same thing.

So he sought one more opinion just be sure. He went to the man he could well call, "Dr. Me," and Dr. Me said, "Who you gonna trust, four medical people or me?"

And it was done. Dotel is going to have Tommy John surgery based on his own medical opinion that the other four medical opinions are whacked.

Even better, he is having the surgery performed by one of the doctors who told him not to have surgery.

And best of all, he is doing it in his walk year, assured only that he will sit out the 2006 season with no contract at all.

Now if that's not, "It's not about the money," then you better show me some Division III fencer.

Dotel's condition, which is called "tendon calcification" and sounds just as painful as it seems to be, is compounded by the fact that he also does not possess a functioning ulnar collateral ligament. It is not unusual for athletes to injure ligaments but function well because the adjoining structures compensate for the lazy hunk of gristle.

Still, the four medical opinions that recommended rest and rehab were ignored by Doc Oc (with apologies to the creators of the Spider-Man universe) because a) it hurt too much, b) he wasn't convinced rest and rehab would fix this sleeved bag of Cheetos, and c) his backup slider had reversed itself so well it had become a batting practice fastball.

True, the decision to have surgery now means that it comes while he is on the A's medical plan (which, like all other major-league teams, is "We pay everything, including your $20 deductible"), but Dotel is making $2.8 million this year and could have paid for the surgery out of his own pocket.

The risk here is obvious. He is spending 2006 without any money coming in at all, unless he has his sights on one of those Wal-Mart greeter's jobs, and will re-enter the market at age 33 with a new elbow and an old résumé. Plus, because he is right-handed, he will get no Terry Mulholland points for being left-handed and persistent.

In other words, he is laying his career in the hands of Dr. James Andrews, America's Arm Guy, a man who will perform what, in his own medical thinking, is unnecessary surgery.

That's risk, times 3.3 or so.

Not that Andrews wouldn't give it his all, as always. His track record is such that calling him America's Arm Man is no exaggeration. His work on Dotel should be typically exemplary.

Still, there's something deeply and satisfyingly whacked about a guy who knows better than four board-certified, no-kidding, know-their-onions medical people, and is willing to bet his career on it.

So maybe "It isn't about the money" after all. Maybe it's more, "I've watched ER, and I know it hurts like hell when I feel it. Now are you going to fix this, or do I go to Costco and get that 'DIY Surgical Kit' they have on special?"

Either way, Dotel is swimming against several different currents here. He wants the most radical surgery available for his condition, and there isn't a thing the A's or conventional medical thinking can do to change his mind.

I mean, a guy who pushes his career and his paydays into the middle of the pot and says, "I'm a better doctor than you are" has hole cards of great power and import.

Or he's reached the end of his own personal rope.

Or he's just a whack job.

Either way, it's not about the money, and at least this one time, it really isn't.

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com