Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Belligerent Reaper Spreads The Carnage

  • Injuries aren't as concentrated in 2010:

Like the second born son of a Royal Family----one who knows he's never going to have the opportunity to wear the crown as the rightful heir to the throne----the Grip Reaper's younger brother, the Belligerent Reaper, chooses to spread chaos and anarchy through injury rather than death; and what better way to draw attention to himself than through sports?

In 2009, he spent the majority of his time sabotaging the once-promising seasons of the New York Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks (racking up frequent flyer miles along the way). While the endless spate of sometimes ludicrous maladies that afflicted both of those clubs continued to the point where they were the butt of derision, the rest of baseball was largely unscathed from such unfortunate happenstance.

Early in the 2010 calendar year, it appeared as if the Belligerent Reaper, such as he is, again decided to maintain his focus and ply his nefarious trade on the Mets and Diamondbacks. The Mets' Carlos Beltran required knee surgery that now appears destined to keep him out of the Mets lineup until the All Star break, where he'll be a pretty good mid-season acquisition if he's healthy; Jose Reyes had his thyroid imbalance; and Brandon Webb of the Diamondbacks is still recovering from shoulder surgery with an uncertain date of return.

Then when the season started, his version of havoc-infused joy floated around like an airborne infection afflicting everyone in its path and it's taking its toll. Just as the Mets were a laughingstock in 2009, 2010 has proven that regardless of the perceived intelligence of an organization; the lusty praise they receive from a starstruck media for their success, there's no escape from injuries. It runs in cycles and it's rampaging through baseball like a tsunami.

Let's take a look at the injuries/issues that have affected various teams and their immediate and long-term aftermath.

New York Yankees

The Yankees are trapped between a rock and a hard place if Andy Pettitte's left elbow injury is anything that will keep him out for more than a bare minimum of time. The days of simply going out and buying a languishing team's starter by giving up a moderate prospect and taking the contract are over. Nor are they going to trade any of their top prospects for an average starting pitcher to replace Pettitte. Javier Vazquez's burgeoning train wreck makes the problem and sudden shortness in the starting rotation even more pronounced.

This is new territory for the Yankees.

GM Brian Cashman had to request permission to raise the payroll to add Chan Ho Park's $1.2 million guarantee for 2010, so you can forget about an Aaron Harang; Kevin Millwood; Roy Oswalt; or Carlos Zambrano. (I think they'd be willing to go hard after Oswalt with prospects and taking on the money.)

It looks like they'll need pitching.

They'll survive without Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson; they'd even navigate the regular season without Mariano Rivera for awhile----Joba Chamberlain can rack up the saves well enough; it's in the playoffs that Rivera's legend has been crafted and that's when the Yankees need him.

The lack of innings and depth in the rotation is an issue without Pettitte.

Boston Red Sox

Am I the only one who gets the idea that the Red Sox wouldn't mind if Daisuke Matsuzaka simply stayed on the disabled list and didn't come back?

Mike Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury were two of the main components of the switch from power to defense and both are hurt. Jeremy Hermida is about as useful as the overrated Ellsbury----more so in fact because he has some pop; but without Cameron, they're playing Jonathan Van Every and Darnell McDonald in center, and that's not cutting it. Regardless of what Cameron is and isn't, the Red Sox need him.

A flawed construction and lack of power is the culprit in the Red Sox struggles. Don't blame injuries for those errors in judgment and, more importantly, on the field with their faulty decision to focus on defense.

Oakland Athletics

Both Justin Duchscherer and Brett Anderson are hurt and Ben Sheets is a catastrophic injury waiting to happen.

It's not a matter of if when things fall apart for the Athletics, but when.

Seattle Mariners

The Stone Cold Killer, Cliff Lee, is back from his abdominal injury and has been everything advertised in his first two starts despite a misleading line of 4 runs and 10 hits in 8 innings vs the Rays last night. The Mariners lack of firepower is going to be a season-long issue; injuries have nothing to do with that.

While it's not an injury, Milton Bradley asked the Mariners organization for help in dealing with his personal issues----ESPN Story. I'm of the mind that this is an important step in Bradley overcoming them. While in the past, he's simply acted out in misanthropic ways and gotten himself into even more trouble, I'm sure the Mariners would rather help him psychologically (if they can) than clean up whatever mess he made due to an incident.

Even with a productive Bradley, the Mariners need a bat. Badly.

Philadelphia Phillies

On a scale of ridiculousness, Ryan Madson's broken toe and subsequent surgery surpass other stupid and memorable off-field occurrences in recent years.

To me, this is far worse than Carlos Zambrano's carpal tunnel from too much web surfing (no, I do not want to know what sites he was surfing); and Joel Zumaya's strained wrist and forearm from playing too much Guitar Hero in 2006. Self-serving and idiotic, Madson's injury, sustained from kicking a chair after his poor performance against the Giants last week, hurts the Phillies more than anyone realizes. Madson is a vital component to the Phillies' shaky bullpen; and it happened just as Brad Lidge was returning from elbow problems.

I would've fined Madson for this. Heavily. He's out until at least the All Star break; the games they lose because of his absence could have playoff consequences.

Jimmy Rollins's presence in the Phillies lineup is more of a catalyst to what they do than I thought; he's heading for extended spring training, but calf injuries are tricky; and Rollins relies on his quick burst to play defense and run the bases. They need him back. Soon.

New York Mets

After Carlos Beltran's surgery and Jose Reyes's thyroid problem, the Mets have been relatively healthy. They're missing Ryota Igarashi (or, as Mike Francesa calls him, "The Japanese Guy") terribly. He was developing into a reliable arm with swing and miss stuff; his hamstring will keep him out for awhile.

It's not just the loss of Igarashi that causes a problem for the Mets (and for other teams with similar experiences), but that it affects everything and everyone. Fernando Nieve has had to work harder and more often; and Jenrry Mejia is being pressed into duty as a set-up man sooner than the Mets planned.

Atlanta Braves

Yunel Escobar and Jason Heyward are both hurt with sore groins----Escobar is on the disabled list----and the Braves cannot withstand an even further decline in a suspect offense. Escobar's trip to the disabled list probably happened just in time to keep Bobby Cox from caving in to the temptation and strangling him for his frequent vapor locking and making mental mistakes.

Chipper Jones and Troy Glaus are always one misstep away from extended trips to the disabled list themselves. The Braves may end up having to expedite Freddie Freeman's promotion to play first base and jumpstart the offense if this continues.

Colorado Rockies

Jeff Francis is still rehabbing from shoulder surgery and when he returns: A) who knows what his stuff is going to look like? And, B) he'll be treated very gingerly, putting stress on the bullpen.

Jorge De La Rosa and Jason Hammel are both out as well, sending an already questionable starting rotation into crisis mode. De La Rosa has a torn flexor band in the middle finger of his pitching hand and will be out until at least mid-June. Hammel has a strained groin.

Both Aaron Cook and Greg Smith have been getting assaulted. Cook will be okay; but Smith is a journeyman.

Jim Tracy is a great manager, but I don't know anyone who could navigate their way through all of this and maintain the status of contender.

Arizona Diamondbacks

When are they getting Brandon Webb back? What's he going to be able to contribute when he does return? No one seems to know and he's the key to the Diamondbacks entire season if they have any hope of vying for a playoff spot in a bunched together National League.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers weren't playing well before they were ravaged by the Belligerent Reaper.

Vicente Padilla is out with a forearm strain; Rafael Furcal with a hamstring strain; Manny Ramirez with a calf strain; Jeff Weaver with back tightness; Brad Ausmus with back surgery; and they've lost Cory Wade to shoulder surgery.

The Dodgers lost a great deal of depth from last season to this one----they could use Juan Pierre now----and the byproduct of the McCourts' divorce and lack of off-season movement has left them reliant on their veterans staying on the field.

They haven't.

The starting rotation is woefully short and both Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley have been atrocious. Manager Joe Torre burns out his relievers anyway, but now he's got no choice but to use the likes of Ramon Troncoso to the point of exhaustion to try to win games.

They're lucky in the respect that the playoff race will likely be wide open until they get healthy.

  • Baseball's toughest man:

There's an interesting story in the Mey 17th edition of ESPN The Magazine about Kyle Farnsworth (it's Insider content, dunno if you'll be able to read the link).

Farnsworth is cited as the most physically feared player in baseball. One snippet was particularly entertaining:

Back in 2005, during a bench-clearing brawl, then-Royals lefty Jeremy Affeldt caught the eye of Farnsworth, who was with the Tigers. After the game, Affeldt offered his version of what happened next: "He said, 'Do you want to fight?' I said, 'No, I don't want to fight. What are you thinking, dude?'" Witnesses remember Farnsworth's reaction like it was yesterday. "Affeldt looked at him wrong, or looked in his direction," says John Buck, a catcher with the Royals at the time who's since moved to the Blue Jays. "Whatever he did, it made Kyle mad." Farnsworth ran at Affeldt, picked him up and threw him down. "He suplexed him," Buck says, shaking his head.

Jeremy Affeldt is 6'5", 225.

Whatever you think of Kyle Farnsworth as a pitcher, this is kinda cool. Wasted mound ability notwithstanding, it's nice to have some aspect of one's life that you're the "best" at, even if it's kicking ass.

I was thinking about what I'd do if I were in Affeldt's situation in all my 5'11", 170 pound glory. My guess is if Farnsworth were to challenge me, I'd say, "screw it, let's go" then get my face beaten beyond all recognition.

Worst case scenario, it'd be a great story.

If I lived.

  • The Prince on the Podcast:

Listen to my Podcast appearance with Sal at SportsFanBuzz from Friday----Prince on the Podcast link. You think my writing and my image are hot? Dig my voice. 2010BaseballGuideCover.gif

Also, my book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here.

It's a blast of Force Lightning you'll never forget.


Jeff said...

Tell the Belligerent Reaper to stay out of the 'Lou.

And you are right. That Farnsworth story is pretty cool. Makes me second-guess myself in bashing the guy, in case I ever meet him someday.

Oh well. I'll just take off my glasses and swing away.

She-Fan said...

He suplexed him? Love that word, although I have no idea what it means. Wow, when you put all those injuries together in a post, they're pretty impressive. Which only goes to prove that the team that stays healthy is the team with a chance to win it all.

the Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

I have an instant man-crush on Belligerent Reaper! Brilliant.
I know you've been concerned with Nieve.. and my worry has been Mejia. Ideally I'd like to have Mejia down starting. We've all panicked to some degree so I'll just ask this - Is it realistic All Five starters will be giving us 7 innings by mid-June? They've been able to give us a decent 6 with a few hiccups so far.

Gabriel said...

Isn't it a problem for the game when the team with the less injuries wins it all? I'd prefer then to pack a deep, deep roster rather than a good roster, and win the injuries' game.