Too Many Injuries, Too Early
If you're a fan of the following teams, the past couple weeks has been a little rough: The Cubs, Red Sox, Phillies, Marlins Brewers, Dodgers ... or forget it. If you're a baseball fan, your team probably has a big gun who's nursing an injury right now.
I'm not exaggerating here, spring training injuries really have been that bad this year. Just check out the roster of walking wounded from the past week, and you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about:
- Dustin Pedroia leaves the World Baseball Classic with a minor abdominal injury
- Manny Ramirez strains his hamstring during the first game in which he plays in the outfield
- Cole Hamels heads back to Philadelphia from spring training to have his elbow scanned
- Ryan Braun bites the WBC dust with "tightness in his right side"
- Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom is diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff ... before the season even starts
- Robinson Cano returned from the ignominy of the Dominican Republic's elimination at the hands of the Netherlands with a sore right shoulder
- And, of course, near perma-injured Chipper Jones becomes the first player to hurt his way out of the WBC, leaving with another of the near ubiquitous oblique injuries
Of course, those seven are just a start. There are plenty more -- Joe Mauer's back, A-Rod's hip,etc. etc. -- but I figured we'd focus just on new injuries. If we included all ailments, we'd be here all day.
But injuries happen every year in spring training, right? Well, they do, but it's hard to remember a campaign where such a swell of significant players all bit the dust in a short window. When glancing over the list, it's awful hard to discount the effect of the World Baseball Classic. Five of the seven notable injuries came during the World Baseball Classic itself, and while some may have come just as easily in spring training games (the Lindstrom rotator cuff injury in particular), most would likely have been avoided with additional rest.
As if that wasn't sufficient proof, now U.S. Manager Davey Johnson is openly considering pulling his team out of the competition if it suffers any more injuries at key positions, like, well, any positions.
Could this be a big blow to future WBCs? Absolutely. Think about the sheer number of players who already turned down invitations to the event -- many, like Vladimir Guerrero at the behest of their current teams -- and add in future requests that will be summarily denied because two Yankees returned injured (Cano and reliever Damaso Marte) and a number of other stars slowed their preseason development by pushing to compete for longer innings in more competitive situations earlier.
Will this kill the next WBC? Surely not. But it may cast a shadow on the start of the forthcoming season if some stars don't return to form as quickly as they anticipate. That, in truth, would be the one thing that could kill the WBC just as it breeds a tournament finally captivating enough to steal a touch of the March magic usually reserved for college basketball.
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