Through most of the first quarter of the baseball season, Joe Girardi has experienced this strangest of paradoxes — the exhiliration of being a first-place manager and the dread of going to the ballpark every day.
In his immortal “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” the legendary Chicago and New York newspaper columnist Franklin P. Adams wrote: “These are the saddest of possible words, Tinker to Evers to Chance,” in reference to the Cubs’ immortal turn-of-the-century double-play combination. But as Girardi and any of the other 29 managers will attest, the saddest of possible words in today’s baseball are quad, oblique, intercostal, lat, hamstring, groin and lumbar. Why? Because they come out of nowhere, most times for seemingly no reason, and blindside managers as they as they arrive at the clubhouse each day and begin making out their lineup cards.
As of Friday, there were 154 players on the disabled list in baseball, the vast majority of them pitchers with blown-out elbows or shoulders or other arm-related injuries like a forearm or triceps strain. Those are part of the game and largely dependent on a given pitcher’s mechanics, just as broken hands or wrists the result of being hit by a pitch are unpreventable. But as for those other injuries — the strained obliques and quads, the hamstring pulls, the back spasms — that crop up with out any advance notice and sideline players for weeks on end, oy vey! Of the 154 injuries, 40 were of the latter muscle strain variety.
According to MLB, there were 203 disabled list stints as of May 9, the second most (to 205 in 2008) in the last 10 years. So what gives? Why are so many more players going down every year with injuries?
According to Lou Piniella, who was on the disabled list just twice in 18 seasons, once for an inner ear condition and once for a broken thumb, if baseball wants to cut down on the muscle pulls and back soreness, it should do away with the weight rooms and put a limit on how much time hitters can spend in the batting cages.